What is one of the most frequently asked questions regarding starting a business? Go ahead – guess. That’s right – it is “Do I REALLY need a business plan?” And unfortunately, when the person hears the answer “yes, you really do need some form of business plan”, for most people it is the end of the dream.
Why? One would think that perhaps it is after the plan is started and information is gathered, the evidence points to a “no-go” decision because the concept is basically an idea and not really an opportunity. However, that is usually not the case. The truth is, some individuals just don’t want to put the effort into preparing a plan. But for the majority, the process appears to be completely overwhelming and they just give up.
The good news is, this does not have to be the case. Yes, you should start a business with a plan. When you started college, you put together a plan, didn’t you? What did you want to major in, how many and which classes did you need to take in order to graduate? Sure, you might change your major once or twice as you go along, but ultimately the aim is to graduate. The program plan is your roadmap to keep you focused and working toward your end goal. As the semesters roll by, you revisit the plan, examine what your status is, and register for classes based on what is remaining to take.
A business plan is very similar. There is an initial vision – a multinational corporation employing 300 people, a microenterprise which allows the freedom to travel, surf, or whatever you choose to do. So how are you going to build your business to get to that point? How are you going to address changes in the economy, your suppliers, demand for your product, government regulation? How are you going to grow or expand your business? How will you find and train good employees? All of these should be addressed in your plan. This is why you really NEED a business plan. Even if the plan is nothing more than a bulleted list of items or pictures that give you a clear image as to what you want to do and how you are going to get there, that is all that is necessary.
Having a business plan will keep you going in the right direction just as a program plan saves you from spending extra time taking classes which are not relevant to your degree. Having a well planned experience will turn out much more successfully than one which is not. A great resource is Tim Berry, business plan guru and author of Palo Alto’s software – Business Plan Pro. His new book, Plan as You Go along with its corresponding website is an amazing resource and will definitely take care of the fear. If you need a little help, there are plenty of resources available to you such as the network of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCS), SCORE, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the over 110 Women’s Business Center’s around the nation (including the Women’s Business Center at Florida Tech) to name a few. Take advantage of what’s out there. So stop whining and just do it!