Successfully finding an SBA business plan can take on several different forms. The SBA, short for Small Business Administration, is a federally funded government organization which assists entrepreneurs and small businesses to foster business growth (locally) which, in turn, creates economic stability nationwide. The Small Business Administration excels at providing resources to create and execute business planning regardless of industry focus. The only area we can, with integrity, level criticism toward the SBA is lack of support given to non-traditional business concerns such as those 100% Internet based businesses. However, this is outside, for the moment anyway, the scope of this post so we’ll stick with the topic at hand. To begin with, here are resources and areas of business plan mentoring the Small Business Administration currently offers (but not limited to);
mentoring and counseling partner of the SBA
Business plan templates and examples for immediate (free) download to desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile devices
MBDA (Minority Business Development Agency) mentoring and counseling service partner of the SBA
Best practices and tips presented on their website at sba.gov
So which of the above is best? Of course and not knowing your individual situation, we could hardly answer but will encourage readers to begin by using a practice which matters most with any online research process; keywords! Additionally, there is another option available through an SBA partnership but before presenting it, we’d encourage you to take advantage of our online classes which provide access and training on free online planning software. Bplans.com offers software for planning, electronically, and although sanctioned by the SBA, it is very expensive. Whichever route chosen, here are areas to immediately begin thinking through as it concerns your organization’s business plan;
; this is often considered the most important section of any business plan as it gives a brief overview of the service idea, in general, but should be short on specifics. It describes, for readers, where your company is (at present), vision for growth and why it will be successful in the marketplace. Whether seeking financing, partnerships or other areas of need, it must grab the reader’s attention and lead to a request for submission of the entire plan. More than anything, this should provide an irresistible ‘value proposition’ to the reader.
; this section provides more detailed elements of the business and/or expansion objectives. The value proposition (elevator pitch) should be contained in the Executive Summary while company description describes how your firm is uniquely positioned to execute ‘the proposition’. Example elements to include in this section are nature of the business, how you plan on meeting market need(s), list of targeted consumers and the chief competitive advantage your business has over others offering like services (competitors).
; market analysis should illustrate your industry and knowledge and should back up the value proposition. Quoting facts and figures is important but more crucial to hammering home value began in the Executive Summary and briefly mentioned in the company description, is locating a niche market which can be served immediately and concluding the market analysis with capture strategies. How will you get customers and parlay them into repeat buyers?
Organization & Management
; oh boy! This section is among the most controversial topics among business plan experts. We will avoid technical speak and simply state this – in this section, include ‘who does what’ in your organization and should a Board of Directors play a key role, what does each offer to further brand goals? Simple enough?
Service and/or Product Lines
; this section describes products and services in a clear and concise manner. An area most newbies struggle with is describing, not so much what the product is, but how it benefits end-users (customers). If current clients and customers exist, it is best to mention this along with any sales achieved to date and repeating it in the Marketing and Sales section (next). Having a great management team as well as outstanding product and service ideas is OK but existing sales is king! From hard won experience we say this; weak areas of any business plan may be over-looked by investors if earnings are in place.
Marketing and Sales
; primarily highlights all marketing and sales funnel strategies. Marketing is best described as ‘creating a customer base to achieve long-term business viability’. As with the business plan, marketing plans are ever evolving documents and should be re-evaluated often. What ‘often’ means for your business is industry specific but what is true, universally, is your business is either ‘racing towards the top or racing towards the bottom’. Nothing more drives that direction than marketing!
; financial projections are a direct result of an earlier part of your business plan – market analysis. Should income currently exist, base projections off of historical data and always build in future revenue growth. If there is one general rule of effective financial statements, it is this; more revenue and less expense. Most investors (creditors) will require historical data (back five years is best) or pro forma projections of the same length.
Financial Commitment Requests
(aka – request for funding); funding requests should include current requirements, five year projection of support need, use of fund details, current debt obligations as well as other key areas. Most importantly – this section should justify ever other area of your business plan. Even with current sales in place, submitted financials will be scrutinized more than any other area of the plan. It is a sure bet if rejected for funding, your financial statements created more questions than it answered so take your time preparing them!
Other sections could be added but the point is well made by now. Before submitting your business plan to anyone outside your organization, allow a third party to review, challenge and give honest feedback.