What Goes Into A Business Plan: Outlining Your Goals vs. Crunching Numbers?

By Christine Syquia
18 Comments

Christine Syquia, having been through a journey starting and then managing a multi-million dollar accessories business, is about to share with us the entire story of how it all came together.

In this article she talks about business plans, what you need to put in them, and what parts she deliberately left out of hers…

For your average start-up, the thought of sitting down to write a business plan can be overwhelming. Business 101 books suggest writing a business plan before embarking on any business course. How are you going to get to your destination if you don’t know how to get there? I completely agree with this popular saying, but knew that when I wrote our business plan, I would not be following the traditional outlines.

No matter your approach, the act of writing a business plan takes discipline. As a consultant, if I had a nickel for every time somebody told me they wanted to start a new business and were working on a plan, only to find out six months later that nothing had happened, I would be a millionaire!

It is so easy to become overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. I saw this firsthand when a boyfriend was approached by a well-known athlete who wanted to fund his design business and requested that he write a business plan. My boyfriend would come every night and pull out his notebook. He would jot down a few notes and stare at the page… and stare at the page. Eventually, he would go and turn on the TV and zone out. He didn’t know where to start and would just give up!

I have written more than my share of business plans and I definitely have a strategy to completing them. However, although this has worked for me, your business consultant will probably not agree with my advice. So take it with a grain of salt.

My Business Plan

When we wrote our business plan for Charm and Luck, our accessory company, we did not delve as deeply into the financials as many plans do. We used our business plan as more of a roadmap and goal setting exercise versus a business document to submit to a bank. We set out our goals and they included getting into various magazines especially the very popular US Weekly, being selected for QVC or HSN, selling $5 million in sales, and going on Oprah. We achieved every goal we wanted except for Oprah.

I knew that if I were to labor over the financials, especially the projections for each year, I would be stuck. Instead I approached writing the plan and completing the financials as goals – merely an outline – and expected to change the plan as we went along.

Why would I base an entire plan off a target I might not achieve? What if I based my numbers assuming I would get into a major department store but they did not like our product? One of my good friends is working on her children’s product line, and she plans to grow her business to be in 1,000 stores next year, an ambitious goal. If she misses her target, she will have labored over her business plan and projections, and only have to recalculate them.

In my first blog post, I suggested course correcting when necessary. When writing a business plan with the financials included, you will likely have to switch gears.

What Goes Into A Business Plan?

A typical business plan often has these components:

Executive Summary: The background of the principles and their unique talents that they bring to the business.

Market Analysis: A review of the reason why this business has a chance, why there is a void in the market, and how this business will excel.

Company Description: The company name, mission, and identity. What kind of business entity will the company be, where will it be located, and what kind of services will it sell or offer.

Marketing and Sales Management: How the company will sell its product, and how will the product or services be marketed.

Funding Request: If requesting funding, then this section would list what type of financing you would like or what type of equity stake partnership would be agreeable to you.

Financial: The financial section is where you list the projections for Year 1-5, along with the monetary investment supplied by your partners.

As I stated earlier, in this section I outlined our financial goals – but I did not do the cash flow exercise of putting in our rent, utilities, press outreach, or marketing costs because I didn’t know when I would need to plan for that. At this point, we were working out of my home, so I did not need to account for rent and utilities. I handled all labor, press, and marketing outreach and I was not getting paid.

Another reason I did not want to labor over the financial goals was because I was so anxious to get our company going. My partner and I were both very clear about the company motto and what our company would stand for and who our competition was, so it was easy for us to start immediately.

I did not want to write up a thirty page proposal with market analysis over various companies if the plan was only going to serve as an internal document. Years later, when we inked a partnership with a finance company in New York, we were subjected to audit after audit and had to write up various papers and statements regarding our company. If I had tried to submit our original business plan, even if done exactly as the business textbooks advise, I would still have had to re-write it entirely. Our financials and product were so different than originally anticipated, that the initial business plan would have been useless to me.

What Comes Next?

So, as I embark on a year of writing for Entrepreneurs Journey, I will recount the beginning steps of starting our wholesale business, and share with you what worked for me and what didn’t.

Writing a business plan was a good exercise for me, but it was an abridged document, and not the detailed document many people labor over. If you are approaching investors or feel you need to research out the market or your partners, then absolutely do the full business plan, financials and all. But if you have a very clear view of where your company is going, as I did, then do this goal-setting exercise and get going!

Christine Syquia

About Christine Syquia

Christine Syquia is the owner of the Accessory Business 101. Get her free 30-page report which discusses how one can start a product based company with little to no experience. You can access the free report here. In addition to working with designers, Christine also enjoys working with local businesses as a business and expansion consultant in Santa Monica, California where she lives.

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18 Comments

  • Christine,
    What are your thoughts on creating a business plan for a blog? How important is a business plan to achieving online success? Are there modifications you can suggest so it’s more applicable to an online business?

    • Hi Steve,

      Thanks for your questions. Is your blog supplementing your business as a way to further communicate with your customers or is your blog/website selling a physical product or an information product?

  • I know exactly what you mean about how difficult it is about getting started. I’ve been in business for five years and have just started my business plan. No money to raise, so it’s more of an exercise on where we’ve been and were we’d like to go.

    Now that I’ve started writing though, I’m finding it very helpful.

  • This article is fortuitous for me, as I just met with a SCORE advisor and one of his recommendations is to write a business plan for my website/business. I’ve written one before and remember it being a lot of work, which is fine, but in this case, the financials really are secondary to how and what I want my product/products to be.

    Currently, my message is basic, free education about how to invest in the stock market with a plan to offer products and services around the free information as traffic increases. However, maybe I’d like to be on Oprah (better happen fast, right :-)) or at least be well-known in my industry for being the real deal.

    The foundation of a business plan that you’ve described puts a creative/imaginative beginning to a plan, and I will definitely use it as I move forward.

    Thank you Christine!

  • Christine, writing an abridged version of the plan is definitely the way to go. You have to be focused on objectives, but it’s naive to think that you’ll have the answer before you get out there and start iterating. It’s even worse to try to project sales numbers before actually making sales.

    Nice post!

  • I think every business startup should have the business plan to become closer to success instead of confusing situations that they will even get back their investment from the first close up. Christine made a step by step posting same to make the plan and this article can be forwarded to friends in the form of hard copy for better guidance before launching any different idea to make a business around.

  • Great advice on business planning. I don’t understand why so many “Business Consultants” get hung up on the idea of a business plan the size of the IRS Tax Code.

    I like to use a vision, strategies, and tactics plan which is more action oriented. Then I would suggest that entrepreneurs use ExecutivePlan’s free executive summary template and ebook to create a powerful business plan executive summary.

    That will probably be all you need. Forget the 100 page business plan!

  • Tim

    Hi Christine,

    I like posts that come from real world experiences as I tend to also share things based only on my real experience. Your posts including this one is like a bible to me, I’ll be printing this and take it with me wherever I go and read it until I can almost hear your voice echo into my mind!

  • Writing a business plan is the first step to taking action. Without written details it’s too easy to ‘build castles in the air’ and never actually get started on the real thing.

    John

  • From become a blogger student, I love how share information. I always check the title “What Comes Next?” because if we can not tell good about it. Something is missing on the first step and we have to check the business plan. Many fail to plan because they want to rush opening a business… Have a good start or solid rock foundation will stand your business strong and ready.

  • Hi There,

    Just finished a Business plan (reasonably extensive) and used the Business Plan Pro Software – This guides you through the process – giving you advice on each section and real-life examples of other every-day small business owners that used the software (you also get free business plan on-line books and members area where you can store your plan on-line).
    You can do brief ones all large plans and you can include or throw out sections that you don’t need.
    You will come away with a lot of ideas by doing a plan. Although a plan – which includes a lot of strategy and vision must also be joined with tactical action plans – so in the end – action is taken on the strategy so you can reach goals and objectives!

    It is about $160-180 and I got “up-selled” (new word!) on Marketing plan pro too (discount for about $90).

    PS I have no affiliation with this product or the Company – I just dig it and thought I would share.

    AP

  • Writing a business plan is and can be a really difficult thing to do. I am impressed with they way they went about it with really putting any limitations out. You don’t always know what you will run into, so I think their way of planning was very smart.

  • I put together a business plan years ago and I have made some changes to it over the years, but the main principles are still as effective today as they were back then. My personal feeling about business plans is that they are necessary. A good business plan helps you to stay focused and when you go off track sometimes, you can quickly go back to the plan and get back on track fast. Thanks for talking about such an important topic Christine!

  • Christine,
    What are your thoughts on creating a business plan for a blog? How important is a business plan to achieving online success? Are there modifications you can suggest so it’s more applicable to an online business?

  • [...] about how your business should be done in the real world. A business model is not the same as a business plan. A business plan is a strategic course of action. Meaning, it basically outlines several action [...]

  • A business plan will only take you so far… the rest is all up to you and the people behind the plan. Like you said, the business plan is the roadmap for sure, but no matter how greatly written a business plan is, there is always the risk involved, in going forward with that plan. That aspect of risk is where it sets apart the winners from the rest, those who have that great vision and can bear the risk involved in under taking that vision.

    Hope my view makes sense.

    Till then,

    Jean

  • It should be always under the guidence of the peoples who worked with the related productions and their achievements values for your success time limit.

  • A good business plans needs to cover all the aspect that can be beneficial to your business. You must take care of them before putting your plans in action. You must have some back up for future because it may possible that your plans back fire. Just a suggestion by me is think about all possible things before taking any action.

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