Is There a One-Size-Fits-All Business Plan?

Build the Right Business Plan for You

 
Anyone who has ever bought a new baseball cap understands that finding the right fit can be a process. There are a ton of different sizes to choose from with incremental differences in each size, not to mention wondering if the hat will shrink or your head will grow. An easy solution to the situation is to buy a one-size-fits-all hat or even a possibly
less stylish snap-back hat.
 
Many entrepreneurs may feel the same way the first time they begin trying to write a business plan. The internet is flooded with business plan pointers and templates. Most have recurring themes that match but quite a few differ in their opinion of business plan structure or even necessity. So, are business plans necessary? And if so, does a one-size-fits-all business plan exist?
 

Are Business Plans Necessary?

 
To answer this question in short, absolutely, but maybe not for the reasons that are obvious. A business plan is often written because “it’s what successful businesses do” and “you need it to get funding.” While these statements are not false they are not the ultimate reasons why the business plan is absolutely essential. Your business plan should be a personal learning tool to learn about your business, your industry, and how you fit in the landscape. Going through the process of creating a business plan teaches you valuable information regarding your start-up which can lead to greater success down the road.
 

What Should My Business Plan Contain?

 
While there are templates, coaches, and software (such as eBusinessPlan) to help you answer this question, the answer is ultimately up to you. Your business plan should paint a picture of your business and draw readers into your idea, convincing them that you will be a successful venture. This goal is achieved by providing relevant details, numbers, statistics, and analysis. Common sections of a business to cover these items are;

• The Executive Summary
• Financial Statements
• Market Analysis
• Management & Company Structure
• Product & Services
• Marketing Plan
 
Within these sections you must decide what sets your business apart from others.
 

Create a Personality through Your Business Plan

 
At the end of the day, people don’t buy into new businesses because of a document, but instead because of the people behind the document. Your business plan should be professional, but also portray the kind of person you are and why you will be successful. Be conscience of the voice you use in your business plan and be sure it appeals to your intended audience.
 
Because the business plan is a document that reflects you, it should not be identical to any other business plan out there. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all business plan. Templates and software are very beneficial tools to building a business plan but their contents should be determined by you, the entrepreneur. Templates and software are flexible tools to help you get started but they will not be the deciding factor in your business plan’s success. You are. And as said before, people are buying you, show them who you are through your business plan.

Find Your Next Business Idea by Narrowing Your Sights

The Struggle for New Ideas

 
It seems people, whether full-time entrepreneurs or not, are always looking for a new business idea. Friends and family are often bouncing ideas off one another for there “next big thing.” In my own experience having these conversations with others, the ideas never seem to develop. More specifically, the ideas don’t develop because most the conversation involves hearing, “What could we do?” followed by a long silence.
 
This type of brainstorming does not mean the person lacks intelligence to create a developed business idea but instead is setting their sights to wide. The brainstorming involves a generalization of “let’s start a business” without any kind of idea about specifically what kind of business that would be.
 

“Creativity Loves Constraints”

 
In 2006 Marissa Mayer, a Stanford grad and Product Development VP for Google, introduced a lecture titled, “Creativity Loves Constraints.” She told a story of a clock maker who said he loved making clocks specifically because by working only on clocks he had limitations. The limitations spurred his creativity by giving him something to work with. He also told that in art school he loved to start drawing on a piece of paper with a line already on it. The line was less intimidating then a blank piece of paper and his mind was able to turn the line into something else.
Marissa now applies this principle at Google in Product Development. They always start by knowing what their parameters are. They are not shackling their creativity but instead channeling it.
 

Brainstorm with a Line on Your Paper

 
Many aspiring entrepreneurs start brainstorming with the blank piece of paper and can never decide what to draw on it. As the clock maker started with a line already drawn; entrepreneurs can channel their creativity by setting parameters to their brainstorming. Options can include industries, revenue models, products, or personal areas of expertise.
 
Narrowing your sights through brainstorming constraints allows you to focus on changes, innovations, and current pain-points the market currently faces. It is daunting to start with nothing and the lack of parameters diminishes creativity. As you strive to find your next business idea, find focused creativity through constraints.

Why America Needs Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs, Big and Small, Have Shaped America

 
America has been founded and established from its infancy upon a foundational idea that people there can pursue and accomplish their dreams. Because so many have done exactly that America has been an exemplar of growth, progress, and accomplishment. All these people who have made this progress possible have possessed the entrepreneurial spirit and have been entrepreneurs in their own right. History is filled with people like Eli Whitney, the Wright brothers, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Nikola Tesla, and Thomas Edison. Each was innovative and made major contributions to creating the world as we now know it. These men were entrepreneurs, not too mention all those who have started their own small businesses bringing life to their own communities. America needs entrepreneurs more than ever.
Entrepreneurs have been the men and women who have created real change in the world; introducing each of us to new ways of doing things more efficiently. As the past has shown us, entrepreneurs will be the people who bring growth to the dwindling economy as their work spur new ideas, new jobs, and increased creativity.
 

Entrepreneurs Are Problem Solvers

 
One of the biggest assets entrepreneurs bring to the world is their ability to recognize and solve problems that others do not necessarily see. They solve the world’s problems regarding anything from medicine to farming or transportation to sharing information electronically. Entrepreneurs find solutions to everyday problems.
 

Entrepreneurs Create Growth

 
Several examples could be used to demonstrate this point but let’s use a simple example with tons of relevance to today’s economy. In recent history we have seen the invention of the computer which led to the invention of the internet. Those two inventions alone have created new industries which are absolutely essential to the structure of the modern world’s economy. Millions of jobs no doubt exist today because of computers and the internet. Huge economic booms have been attributed to the growth of these industries. Without entrepreneurs these would not exist at all or would never have grown to what they are today.
 

Entrepreneurs Are Dreamers

 
As children the Wright brothers received a toy “helicopter” from their father and played with it until it eventually broke then built their own. Reports state that the Wrights said the toy sparked their interest in flying. They dreamed of one day being able to build a craft upon which they could fly. Their dreams and imagination led them to create a machine that changed modern transportation, warfare, and economics by connecting the world in ways never seen before.
 
It would be amazing to see the bright, young people of the world start working in small businesses and local settings helping create growth in new, innovative ways. Imagine the progress that could be made. Andrew Yang, the founder of Venture for America, argues this very point saying that smart people can bring more value to the world in jobs other than being lawyers, investment bankers, etc. He says that bright minds are limited because of tracks created for them by the current world environment. His hope is to encourage and build avenues for more smart, young people to reach out in entrepreneurial ways to create value to the country and world. In doing so, new roads could be paved for future improvements to our world.

Why Retaining Customers Is Important for Any Start-up

Customer Retention Creates Recurring Revenue

 
As a manager there are predominately two sources of business; new customers and returning customers. Both are needed to succeed and generate growth. New customers often require greater external efforts and tend to be more expensive than retaining new customers. Retaining customers is an important revenue source that can be controlled almost exclusively by internal forces. If a company is successful at retaining customers it can create a recurring revenue source month to month or year to year.
 
A recurring revenue source from retained customers will be a source of constant revenue, providing the backbone a business needs to begin planning new growth strategies for the future. The constant revenue source helps a business go from focusing on surviving to focusing on growth.
Thinking of retained customers in this sense provides a great incentive for businesses to focus on retaining customers. It will ultimately build a stronger foundation for future growth.
 

Plan for Retention

 
A vital inclusion to any business plan is a marketing plan. Unfortunately, an error commonly made by many entrepreneurs is to only plan how to obtain new customers but fail to plan on how to retain those customers.
A common assumption is that the only way to grow a new business is through new customers. While every business must start with new customers, truly growth cannot take place till at least some of those customers come back for future business or a constant pool of customers must be created. With this in mind, retention must be included in any solid marketing plan.
 
As stated before, retention can be controlled predominately by internal action. Within your marketing plan and in implementation, actions must be taken to heighten the customer experience within the purchasing or service process. This can be done through customer service, great products, great prices, speed, or by meeting any customer need specific to your industry. Remember than any interaction or engagement with the customer is a marketing opportunity. Within these interactions find the customer’s touch points for immediate and future reference. As these are better understood the marketing plan can be adjusted to meet these needs.
 
Retained customers provide the backbone and life every business needs to begin creating strong growth going forward. It provides a recurring revenue source which allows for deeper resources and enhanced strategies for generating new customer bases. Customer retention is not simply done without any effort though. Like anything else it must be planned for and carried out by constant action by management and employees. As you plan for growth within your own company, look at your own customer retention rates and ways in which you can improve them going forward.