Thinking about starting a business and have no idea where to begin? Unless you know some people with past experience when it comes to starting a business and writing business plans the journey may take much longer than it needs to. Would-be entrepreneurs and small business owners in South Africa now have the free assistance of the SEDA Small Business Stars Business plan competition to assist you on your “how to write a business plan” journey. They are also throwing in R4-million worth of prizes for the best business plans. You have until the 29 February 2012 to enter.
How SEDA Small Business Stars Works
Firstly, the competition is designed to encourage and assist you in taking your business idea, or existing business, to the next level and support the development of your business concept. It’s open to any South African citizen over 18 who has a business idea or an existing small business and they provide free workshops/training to assist you in entering the onlien competition. You do not have to have a registered business to enter. To register click here.
The SEDA Small Business Stars Business Plan Template is broken down into the following 9 sections that have come all too familiar as I’ve written my first business plan in 2005. Herewith those 9 sections of the business plan and some tips based on past experience.
Tips to Writing a Business Plan
- Product – when it comes to the product or service your new or existing business offer remember the following… You should be able to describe your business to a potential customer/partner/investor in 30 seconds or less highlighting the value your business adds to the intended audience. This is usually referred to as the Elevator Speech. When it comes to determining the market need don’t just thumb-suck numbers based on what you see around you. Try and substantiate market research based on White Papers published by various organizations, you could go as far and wide stats released by the United Nations depending on your business. Ensure you are able to back up any estimation you do during market research with facts and figures from reputable sources. Substitutes and Main competitors do not have to offer the exact same product/service you do to be a direct competitor. In many cases certain elements of a product or service that may be unrelated to what you offer clients can be a direct competitor. Just because a particular product or service doen’t say it ‘does the same as your business offering’ doesn’t mean it can be used to do the same thing as your business. When it comes to determining market need, once again, the research you’ve done the better. There is never too much market research in a business plan.
- Marketing – This is the second most important part of your business plan, once again going into excruciating detail about your marketing plan is vital. Your marketing plan should be follow similar principles to writing a business proposal. As an added bonus I’d mention the marketing plan throughout the various other element of the business plan. A good marketing plan will be either make or break your business.
- Sales – Instead of thinking of Sales being the responsibility of one particular person in your company think about this… Every person that interacts with your company, website or product/service is a potential sales person. Keep your customers happy, be sure they are aware of the value your business provides to them, and you cannot go wrong. There is immense value in word-of-mouth, Word-of-Mouse too. Your customers are online, make sure you are listening to the various online channels your customers are using and respond in a timely manner too. When it comes to sales tools please focus on the web and mobile. Flyers lead to dead trees and a waste of your cash flow. Watch this video for more about the right way to market your small business.
- Management Team – This is the most important element of any business plan in my opinion. No matter how innovative your business plan is, without a team that can successfully execute, your business plan is futile.
- Operational Issues – When it comes to operational issues, less is NOT more. Be as excruciatingly detailed as you possibly can. This will show you have considered everything. I mean everything. It’s your business, so you know exactly all relevant operational issues that are critical to your business success.
- Vision and Mission – The only advice I can give is… ensure your vision and mission changes the wwworld 🙂
- Financial Information – Enter the projected income for the next three years. You can use your past performance as a guideline. It is better to use conservative estimates. Being conservative doesn’t really cut it here. Whatever your projected expenses is, double it! When projecting income for the next year, imagine you won the SEDA Small Business Stars prize money (which you’ll use for sales, right :)), factor this in when predicting (not projecting) income. Do not fib with your historical expenses.
- Job Creation – Quick Tip: If your business really adds value to your customers, the products or service your small business offers, will not only create new job opportunities within your business but should create new employment opportunities within the business you service too. Add that into your submission. Here I’d add some customer references too for good measure.
- Special Awards – Does your business support the achievements and aspirations of people with disabilities, supported the achievements and aspirations of young people or has your business created jobs in your community? If you can answer yes to any of these be sure to inlude it in your SEDA Small Business Stars application.
These are a few aspects of writing a successful business plan I’ve found to be important since writing my first award-winning business plan in 2005. If you have any questions or would like to give advice to those starting out writing a business plan which I may have omitted above, please leave a comment below.