Success, it’s all part of the plan

Writing a business plan sounds daunting.

You want to get on with your business, sell your goods or services and make a living. You don’t want to be bogged down writing some long-winded document that could end up gathering dust.

But the good news, according to the experts, is that you don’t have to write War and Peace.

Taking the time to draw up a business plan and revisit it at regular intervals will improve your productivity.

Micro business advocate Robert Gerrish says the business plan can be short but it needs to encapsulate your vision.

“If you have a vision, you need to outline the steps you need to take to get there,” he says.

Gerrish, the founder of online micro business community Flying Solo, says it can be “short, succinct and written in one page”.

He says your business plan needs to be an active document, setting out in brief what steps you need to take to get to where you want to be. You also need to set out targets and as you work towards them, or once you achieve them, reset them.

“All your staff, and the family and spouse, need to know what you are doing because only then can they help and support you to get there,” he says.

Gerrish says it is vital that your employees are on board so they know where the business is headed, how you plan to get there and, most importantly, what they can do to help.

Keep your business plan simple

Gerrish says when writing your plan, it’s important not to get bogged down with the minutiae of hours of operation, staff numbers and similar matters that don’t need to be included, and will only slow you down.

Retailer Richard Konarik had run a successful business before he decided to launch a small grocery store showcasing locally made and produced goods.

But Konarik bemoans the fact that he did not have a business plan for Fredericks Grocer in Richmond, in inner Melbourne.

“I thought, I’ve run a successful business before, so I can do this on the fly. I was wrong,” he says.

The passion project was triggered when a beef jerky stand at his bottle shop proved popular.

“It was all Australian made and it was really popular so I thought I would have a shop with all local produce,” he says.

Konarik says he over-capitalised on the fit-out, had to deal with the logistics of keeping perishables cold, staffing and grappling with the demands of social media.

It possibly did not help that his shop is in the middle of discount fashion strip Bridge Road, which is undergoing a transformation and apartments and cafes are replacing old shopfronts.

But Konarik says nearly three years on the business is finding its feet and its turnover is three times higher than the early days.

“We could do a bit better but we are happy with it,” he says. “We have loyal customers and a great range of goods.

“I thought I was bullet-proof, but the reality was that my other business was successful for a lot of reasons and some of that was luck,” he says.

 

Entrepreneur Margot Spalding says knowing the objectives of your business – size, growth plan and what you want to achieve at the outset can help steer your decision-making process.

Spaulding, who is a serial small business owner has years of experience building and maintaining a business.

Her latest operation, Mimi the Label, is a bespoke women’s fashion label she launched this year.

Spalding says, unlike her earlier business, Jimmy Possum Furniture, the idea is for Mimi to be deliberately small. “We really just want a business we can work in for five years,” she says.

The products are made in Bendigo from fabrics Spalding has collected on her work and holiday travels over years.

Richard Konarik from Fredericks Grocer

Writing it down can make it happen

Spalding says when she and husband, Alan, set up Jimmy Possum in the shed at the back of the house, they devised a business plan.

“You have to write it down because, when you do that, when it happens it happens correctly,” she says.

“If you go off without planning and writing it down you don’t stand a ghost of a chance.”

Spalding says one of her children is currently working up a new business idea.

“We’ve told her she has to write a business plan,” she says.

Spalding says when creating your plan, it’s important the document is divided into the relevant areas of the business. “In our case, it was divided into areas covering design, selling, marketing, finance and so on.

“In all, we ended up with seven areas. Between us we were good at three or four of them so our business plan covered how we would cover the areas we weren’t good at,” she says.

Small business coach Bruce Hall says he uses a working business plan template with his clients that is deliberately short but covers key areas.

He says each topic needs an opening paragraph and some bullet points to show how you are seeking to achieve the goals.

Hall says it is different to what he calls an “education business plan” that you may give to financiers and banks when seeking investment for your business, but is a good place to start when it comes to documenting your goals. 

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