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20 Practical Tips For A Great Business Plan

20 Practical Tips For A Great Business Plan

Have you started a new business, or are you contemplating finally launching that venture that has been on your mind for a long time?  If you want to succeed you’ll need a plan.

You don’t need a fancy business degree to be successful, but you do need vision, determination, organization and hard work.  A functional business plan is a good place to start.  This article will give you 20 “practical tips” that will start your business off on the right path.

1. A business plan isn’t a school assignment.

Some people approach a business plan like a school assignment: i.e. there are 20+ “sections” that I need to do in order to complete it.  This is a mistake.  Your business plan is not a school assignment.  There is much more at stake than just “filling in the blanks.”  You have to be thinking survival from day one.  How are you going to realistically get this business off the ground?  How are you going to realistically make money?

2. Think substance over form.

Don’t worry as much about the form.  The substance is what really matters.  If you spend more than about half an hour looking for templates on the Internet then you’ve wasted time.  Form isn’t what is important.  You don’t need a fancy program or template.  A simple word document will suffice.  What is most important is that your plan has substance–it defines a marketable product, a logical and effective plan for growing revenue, and a sound understanding of the potential expenses, competitive pressures and risks involved in getting this venture off the ground.

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3. Don’t overcomplicate it.

Think of the “pitch.”  If you had to explain what you do, and whom you do it for, in one minute, what would you say?  If you had to condense your business plan to one page, what would be the most important things to include on that page?  These are very important questions to ask yourself from the outset.  Pages and pages of market analysis sometimes doesn’t do anything to clarify your strategy, and it only serves as a distraction to the most important issue:  how are you going to create a cash flow before you run out of money?

4. What do you sell, how much do you sell it for, and who buys it?

This is a critical piece that is fundamental to a good business plan.  What is your menu of products or services?  What do you sell?  How much do you sell it for?  Who buys it?  Are there any other people, or companies that may want to buy it?  How do you make money now, and how will you make money in the future?  If you can’t answer these questions, then you shouldn’t be in business at all.

5. Be realistic.

I don’t doubt your ability to change the world.  I don’t doubt your ability to be the next tech billionaire, as long as you can answer this question:  specifically, how are you going to do it?  What idea gets you there?  How does it get you there?  There is nothing wrong with audacious goals (in fact you should set them) but you need a realistic plan to achieve them.  If you set a wild goal in your business plan then you need a very technical action plan that gets you there.  Wild, unrealistic financial projections without a reasonable action plan are a waste of time.  If you can’t produce a specific, and logical, action plan then you’ve set an unrealistic goal.

6. Cover the important stuff, and only the important stuff.

Cut the fluff.  Keep it simple.  Keep it crystal clear.  What is the important stuff?  The stuff that makes you money and keeps your business alive: understanding what you sell, how you produce it, who you sell it to and for how much, what your process is for making it all come together (including who is going to do what), what your expenses are (and whether you have undershot them), who or what your competition is, and what the material risks are in starting this venture.

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7. Do the research and digest it.

Find out what you’re dealing with.  Take some time to research the market that you are entering. Find out who the major players are.  Find out what the international competition is like.  You don’t want to get bogged down in a research abyss, but you also don’t want to shoot from the hip either.

8. Who is your competition?

Understanding who your competition is shows savvy and maturity.   Sometimes your competition isn’t another business; it’s a completely new technology that may render what you do obsolete.  Also, with the Internet, you have to look internationally these days.  There is no other choice.  You are playing in a global world now, whether you like it or not.

9. List your assumptions.

This will be most important when you get to the financial forecasting part of your business plan.  Those numbers (as fun as they are to put down on paper) are based on a set of assumptions.  List what the assumptions are and then incorporate them into your action plan as target goals.  That way, if the assumptions manifest, then your financial projections will as well.  By listing your assumptions you are brining reality to focus.

10. Develop a laser focus.

Yes you may have the confidence to succeed in any industry, however if your business doesn’t have a laser-like focus, it will likely fail.  What does your business do particularly well?  What is the product or service that you can be a market leader in?  What is it that people will talk about?  Narrow it down–before you launch.

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11. Set specific, time-based, goals for the business.

Being a “millionaire” and “financially free” isn’t good enough.  You need to set very specific goals for the business–quarterly, annual and bi-annual goals, with specific action benchmarks that you can track.  Setting out defined goals crystalizes your focus and gives you a way of tracking your progress

12. Be specific in your action plan.

What specific actions are you going to take place in the first month, the first quarter, the first year?  What are your priorities?  Where are you directing your focus initially?  Don’t leave it to chance. Have a specific action plan that you can track.  You’ve heard it over and over:  many businesses fail within the first year.  Time is against you; you need to be as strategic and organized as possible.  Set time-based “action targets.”

13. Chunk it down.

Break down your action plan into chunks.  For instance, you have a marketing objective of penetrating a particular segment, then chunk it down and define how that is going to be accomplished.  Chunking is powerful because it clarifies focus, sets definable targets that you can measure, and serves as a form of accountability (either you’ve accomplished the chunks or you haven’t).

14. Highlight your progress.

The business plan is not meant to be a project that sits in the file for the rest of your life.  It isn’t just a school assignment (see point #1).  It is the foundation of your business.  It is meant to be a living document.  Keep it with you.  Literally keep it in your briefcase (or whatever else you carry around). Refer to it often, possibly even daily.  If you’ve done a good job, your plan will serve as a compass.  It will direct what you are going to invest your time in every single day.

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15. Include all essential parts.

Remember to include the important stuff (see point 6).  Just make sure that you don’t leave any of those important parts out.  If you can’t explain to me what you sell, how much you sell it for, how you are going sell it (and what is involved in that progress), how much it costs to produce, distribute and market your product or service, who your competition is, and what the risks are in your undertaking, then you’ve probably left some stuff out.  Also, if you don’t have definable goals, targets and a specific action plan then you probably have some work to do.

16. Where are you weak?

This is closely related to the principles of being realistic, knowing your competition, and stating your assumptions.  How well do you know your business?  How well do you know what is really involved in making this a success? If you are able to state where you are weak then you know your business well.  Also, when you know where you are weak you can make a plan to correct your weaknesses.

17. Update the plan as you go.

Things change. You’re not going to be able to predict everything on day one.  Some of the products you think are going to take off may fall flat, and from out of nowhere a new revenue opportunity may present itself.  Expenses are often higher than you anticipate, and your financial projections will probably come in lower than anticipated.  All of that is OK.  Remember, this is a living document.  Adjust as needed; make new goals, new plans.  The important thing is that you are moving forward in an organized and effective way.

18. Learn from experience.

Use what happens to your business to inform the ongoing drafting process.  There is only one way to get experience.  You can’t get real entrepreneurial experience in school.  You have to learn it the hard way.  So as things happen, treat it as education and adapt your ongoing business plan taking into consideration the lessons you learned through experience.

19. The plan should reflect your thinking and personality.

Don’t feel like you need to duplicate someone else’s methods.  If you aren’t comfortable using a certain style, then get rid of it.  There is no right method.  Your plan should reflect how you think, and how you work.  If it doesn’t, then it will just sit in a drawer.  It becomes just a school assignment, and is a waste of time.  It has to resonate with you.  Put your own personal touch on it.

20. Gloss is nice, but results are better.

Gloss and polish look nice, but a glossed up business plan full of fluff, without actionable steps, and a reasonable strategy to actually make money, are useless.  Remember substance always rules over form.

More by this author

Ryan Clements

A lawyer turned marketing professional, entrepreneur and writer who writes about entrepreneurship, career and personal development.

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Last Updated on February 25, 2020

15 Personal Goals for Work to Help You Succeed

15 Personal Goals for Work to Help You Succeed

It’s easy to blend into the crowd at work. The majority of workers choose to settle for mediocrity and anonymity; especially if they work in a large or virtual work environment. It’s much easier to go to work every day and contribute just enough to meet your job’s requirements than it is to leave a lasting impression on your coworkers.

What isn’t easy is standing out.

By setting personal goals for work, you can intentionally work towards getting noticed which will propel you towards getting your dream job.

Do not settle for mediocrity and do not settle for anonymity. Dream big and stand out from the crowd. Here are 15 examples of personal goals for work to help you stand out from your coworkers and lead a successful career.

1. Self-Mastery

Self-Mastery is all about deepening your awareness of your skills, strengths and weaknesses. Once you identify what makes you unique and what you’re most passionate about, use that awareness to develop your skills even further.

Use your awareness of your weaknesses to identify areas of improvement. By practising your self-awareness in these areas, you will demonstrate an ability to self regulate your development and growth.

2. Being Grateful for Where You Are

Take a moment and reflect on how hard you worked to get where you are today.

How many times did you apply to your job? How many interviews did you go through? How many hours have you put in?

You’ve worked hard to get to where you are today. Be grateful of all of the hard work you’ve put in to get you where you are today.

By practising gratitude, you open yourself up to receive what’s next.

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3. Staying Excited for What’s Next

The perfect vibrational stance to be in to be actively working towards your goals is to practice gratitude for your current situation and to feel excitement for what’s coming next.

Expect better things to come. Anticipate that you will accomplish your goal and that you’re working towards your dream job. Be open to receiving what’s coming your way next.

4. Celebrating Each Others’ Differences

As coworkers, we all bring different strengths to a team environment. Introverts bring deep thought to current issues and extroverts do well in busy meetings and discussions. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is an excellent measurement of personality differences and brings an interesting review of your team’s personalities interact with each other.

If possible, request to have an MBTI done with your coworkers so that you can learn more about your similarities and differences; or recognize the differences in your team’s personalities and appreciate that they each contribute different values to the group.

5. Using Your Team’s Differences to Your Advantage

Once you learn more about the different personalities on your team, you can work more strategically with your coworkers. Some coworkers may present as introverts who prefer to take time away to review information before making decisions. Other coworkers may present as extroverts who excel in group discussions and facilitating presentations.

Once you identify the different strengths of your coworkers, you can plan projects and group work according to each other’s personality strengths.

6. Managing Conflicts Effectively

If conflict arises between yourself and another coworker, take time to assess how you’d like to work through the situation rather than reacting in the heat of the moment.

Request a private meeting with the other coworker and present the facts in an objective manner. Initiate a practical conversation to discuss the issue of conflict and then find a mutually-beneficial solution together.

Doing so will show your coworkers and your boss you’re capable of dealing with emotionally-sensitive discussions while keeping a cool head.

7. Becoming a ‘Yes’ Person

Volunteer for new projects and special assignments. Be the first person to put up your hand.

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If your boss is looking for someone to step up, be the first to volunteer. It shows you’re engaged and gives you the opportunity to learn new skills.

8. Saying ‘No’ When Necessary

This may seem contradictory to the previous point, but this is not!

If you’re close to burnout or have a lot going on in your personal life, choose to say no to additional work if you must.

Be aware of your own mental state of wellness. If you’re incapable of taking on more, say no rather than saying yes and being unable to submit impeccable work.

If necessary, share with your boss privately that you’re not in the right place to take on work but you intend to get back on track and as soon as possible.

9. Showing Humility

It’s not possible to be perfect at everything all the time. If you make a mistake, own up to it.

Let your boss know or coworker know that you made a mistake and you want to correct it. Tell them that you have learned from this experience and you will do things differently going forward.

Practice humility so that you may demonstrate a willingness to do better.

10. Modeling Work Life Balance

Make your own self care a priority so that you’re allocating time out of the office to your exercise, health and nutrition goals.

Carve out time before or after work to taking care of you. Propose walking meetings during the day or try organizing a group fitness classes at lunch. Invite your coworkers to join you in trying a new yoga class.

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Show your coworkers that you’re committed to work life balance so that you can show up as your best self while at work.

11. Under Promise, Over Deliver

If you commit to finishing a project by a certain time, be certain that you will do what you said you’re going to do when you said you’re going to do it.

Do not commit to completing a project using an unrealistic time frame. If you’re unable to deliver, you will inevitably harm your reputation and will negatively affect others’ expectations of your abilities.

Rather than committing to more than you can accomplish, commit to what you’re capable of or slightly less so that you can over deliver on your promises.

12. Finding Your Own Answers

Rather than quickly turning to your coworkers or your boss when you have questions, do your best to find your own answers.

Review company policies, best practices and previous situations. Use critical thinking to determine how to best handle a situation and demonstrate that you’re able to make sound decisions when it’s required.

After doing your research, present the situation to your boss and share how you would handle the situation. Ask for guidance to see if you’re on the right track. By doing so you’ll demonstrate drive and ambition.

13. Asking for Help

If a situation arises that is above your pay-grade and you must ask for help or guidance, do so with humility.

Respectfully ask your boss or coworkers for their help. Let them know that you are grateful for their assistance and that they’re willing to share their knowledge. Offer to be of assistance to them if it’s needed in the future and repay the favor.

Here’re some tips for you: How to Ask for Help When You Feel Silly to Do So

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14. Offering Help

If you can see a fellow coworker is struggling, offer to help them out. Offering your help will demonstrate your ability to work as a team player.

If your workplace has hired a new employee, offer to take them under your wing and show them the ropes. Let your boss know that you’d be happy to show them around.

It will demonstrate your seniority in the workplace and your interest in fostering teamwork and morale.

15. Taking a Brain Break Regularly

Take a few moments whenever you can for a mini meditation. In the bathroom, the coffee room, or on the subway on your way to work, take a few deep breaths and center your mind.

Slow down your heart rate and tune in to your inner self. Remind yourself that work can be stressful but we don’t need to let the stress affect us. Return to this grounded and centered state whenever you feel out of alignment.

The Bottom Line

Use this list of personal goals to skyrocket your career path at work. Let your actions speak louder than words.

Demonstrate to your boss and your coworkers that you don’t intend to settle for mediocrity; you intend to stand out from the crowd and will do so by implementing personal goals and actively working towards your dream job.

More Tips About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

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