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Business Plans How To Prepare An Effective One

Business Plans: How To Prepare An Effective One

One of the major steps in starting a new business or getting financing is to prepare a business plan. This Financial Guide provides you with the basic information that you need to include in your business plan.

Table of Contents

  • If You’re Starting a New Business
  • What the Business Plan Should Include

A well thought out business plan is a valuable tool for any new company or one that is seeking financing. It also provides milestones to gauge your success and the process of developing a business plan helps you think through some important issues that you may not have considered yet.

Before you begin preparing your business plan, take the time to explore and evaluate your business (and personal) goals. You can then use this information to build a comprehensive and effective business plan that will help you reach these goals.

The purpose of this Financial Guide is to provide a basic introduction to preparing a business plan, rather than specific details to be incorporated into the plan since those depend on your specific goals and the nature of the specific business. Professional guidance is recommended when it comes to the actual preparation of the plan, particularly for the financial components.

If You’re Starting a New Business

If the reason for preparing the business plan is that you are starting a new business, you should first examine your reasons for wanting to go into business. Some of the most common reasons for starting a business are:

  • You want to be your own boss.
  • You want financial independence.
  • You want creative freedom.
  • You want to fully use your skills and knowledge.

Next, you need to determine is what business is “right for you.” Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I like to do with my time?
  • What technical skills have I learned or developed?
  • What do others say I am good at?
  • Will I have the support of my family?
  • How much time do I have to run a successful business?
  • Do I have any hobbies or interests that are marketable?

Then, you should identify the niche your business will fill. Start by conducting the research necessary to answer questions like these:

  • What business am I interested in starting?
  • What services or products will I sell?
  • Is my idea practical, and will it fill a need?
  • What is my competition?
  • What is my business’s advantage over exiting firms?
  • Can I deliver a better quality service?
  • Can I create a demand for my business?

You will also need to consider several options for getting your business off the ground:

  • Do you want to purchase an existing business or start one from scratch?
  • Are there franchises available for this type of business? If so, does a franchise make sense for you?

The final step before developing your plan is the pre-business checklist. You should answer these questions:

  • What skills and experience do I bring to the business?
  • What will be my legal structure?
  • How will my company’s business records be maintained?
  • What insurance coverage will be needed?
  • What equipment or supplies will I need?
  • How will I compensate myself?
  • What financing will I need?
  • Where will my business be located?
  • What will I name my business?
  • Your answers will help you create a focused, well-researched business plan, and that should serve as a blueprint. It should detail how the business will be operated, managed, and capitalized.

Based on your initial answers to the questions listed above, the next step is to formulate a business plan. A business plan sets forth the mission or purpose of the business venture, describes the product or services to be provided, presents an analysis of the market state, outlines goals that the business has and how it intends to achieve those goals, and last but not least, includes a formal financial plan.

In most cases, a business plan is necessary to obtain external capital for your business, but it also serves a number of other purposes. It forces you to critically evaluate the feasibility of your business and whether it will provide a return which is appropriate to the time and money you will invest in the business. The plan provides a benchmark against which you can evaluate the success of your business in later years.
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What the Business Plan Should Include

Whether you are starting a new business, seeking financing for an existing business, attempting to analyze a new market, or wanting to define and evaluate future growth, the following outline of a typical business plan can serve as a guide. However, you should adapt it to your specific business.

Introduction and Mission Statement

In the introductory section of your business plan, you should:

  • Give a detailed description of the business and its goals.
  • Discuss the ownership of the business and its goals.
  • List the skills and experience you bring to the business.
  • Discuss the advantages you and your business have over your competition.
Products, Services and Markets

In this section, you must describe your products and/or services and:

  • Identify the customer demand for your product/service.
  • Describe how your product/service is unique.
  • Identify your market, as well as its size and locations.
  • Explain how your product/service will be advertised and marketed.
  • Explain the pricing strategy.
Financial Management

In this section, you should:

  • Explain the source and amount of initial equity capital.
  • Develop a monthly operating budget for the first year.
  • Develop an expected (return on investment), or ROI, and a monthly cash flow for the first year.
  • Provide projected income statements and balance sheets for a two-year period.
  • Discuss your break-even point.
  • Explain your personal balance sheet and method of compensation.
  • Discuss who will maintain your accounting records and how they will be kept.
  • Provide “what if” statements that address alternative approaches to any problem that may develop.
Operations

In this section it is important to:

  • Explain how the business will be managed on a day-to-day basis.
  • Discuss hiring and personnel procedures.
  • Discuss insurance, lease or rent agreements, and issues pertinent to your business.
  • Account for the equipment necessary to produce your product or services.
  • Account for production and delivery of products and services.
Concluding Statement

In the ending statement, you summarize your business goals, objectives, and express your commitment to the success of your business.

Once you have completed your business plan, review it with a friend or business associate. When you feel comfortable with the content and structure, make an appointment to review and discuss it with your banker. The business plan is a flexible document that should change as your business grows.
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frequently asked questions

  • What Is A Virtual CFO & How Can It Transform My Business?
    • a. A Virtual CFO can be a much-needed sounding board, coach, and guide. Outsourced Virtual CFO is generally not just one person, but an experienced team of professionals providing a full-stack Accounting and Finance Department at a fraction of the cost that it would otherwise cost a business to hire even just one full-time CFO internally. The right virtual CFO service team, such as the one at Perpetual CPA, can deliver timely, detailed, comprehensive financial reporting, interpret the financial data, prioritize recommendations, give expert guidance on how to execute those recommendations, and ultimately give a better path to business success.
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    • a. A growing number of small businesses are opting to outsource services such as IT, human resources, or accounting. The benefit of a Virtual Accounting Department is that the company can reduce or increase services to accommodate current business needs. Because the service provider has multiple clients they can absorb fluctuations in workflow more easily than the average small/medium business can on its own.

      b. A Virtual Accounting Department can integrate with a company’s own accounting department to create a blended solution or provide a full-stack accounting department, including Accounting Staff, Manager, Controller, and Virtual CFO. By using a Virtual Accounting Department Small business owners don’t have to worry about hiring, training, figuring out compensation, and payroll compliance for the internal accounting team. Also as the business grows and new and more complex accounting and tax issues come up, the outsourced Virtual Accounting Department can provide all the needed expertise to facilitate continued business success.
  • What are the benefits of hiring a CPA firm?
    • a. Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) do a lot more than just crunch numbers and prepare taxes. They provide valuable expertise and strategies to help businesses and individuals achieve their business and financial goals. A CPA firm can help small businesses with management financial reporting, tax compliance, strategic business advice, and much more. Firms like Perpetual CPA, that specialize in helping small and medium-sized businesses achieve growth, can also provide Virtual CFO services, that help the business owners have the foresight into the short-term future cashflows and be able to more successfully navigate their business performance.
  • What are the best strategies for small business growth?
    • a. A business growth strategy is, simply, a plan of how a business gets from where it is today to where it wants to be in the future.

      b. Some of the questions to consider when coming up with a growth strategy are:
      i. Where will the business get new customers from?
      ii. How will the business expand into new markets?
      iii. What new products could the business offer?

      c. In reality, what happens with many small businesses, is that they generally achieve a specific level of business activity or sales and then the business growth trend flattens. In those cases, working with a firm like Perpetual CPA, which provides Virtual CFO services, can help small businesses avoid stagnation. Virtual CFO services, aside from providing timely accounting and tax reporting, can also provide valuable insight into the current performance of the business, as well as, foresight into the future cash flows for the business. Perpetual CPA Virtual CFO team helps small businesses interpret their financial information and come up with business strategies to help improve business performance and achieve growth.
  • What are the best strategies for small business risk management?
    • a. A risk management plan helps a business develop a detailed strategy to deal with certain risks that are particularly important for the businesses’ success.

      b. For many small and medium-sized businesses, the easiest way to develop and implement a business risk management plan is to work with a reputable CPA firm, such as Perpetual CPA. Large corporations invest a lot of resources and time into managing risk, which is a material factor that allows those large corporations to continue to generate billions of dollars in revenue every year. Small businesses, however, almost never manage any business risks, which is the major reason that over half of all the small businesses do not survive for more than 5 years. Generally, small business owners are not experienced corporate business professionals and lack the needed business knowledge, yet they often have to wear many hats while trying to get their businesses off the ground. In those situations, a CPA firm such as Perpetual CPA, can help small businesses better manage tax compliance risks, cash flow, internal controls, business administration, financial reporting, and much more.
  • What is Strategic Advisory and Virtual CFO? / How do Strategic Advisory and Virtual CFO services work?
    • a. When small businesses start spinning wheels, it is a good time to consider hiring a reputable CPA firm, such as Perpetual CPA, which can provide both Strategic Advice and Virtual CFO services.

      b. As a strategic advisor, the CPA firm will work with business management to improve the effectiveness and profitability of the business. They will look holistically at the business and find ways to operate the business more efficiently, increase customers through additional or improved marketing or improve customer touchpoints and service.

      c. As a Virtual CFO, the CPA firm is like a part-time version of a traditional CFO or Chief Financial Officer plus a full Accounting support team. They perform the tasks that in a larger organization would be performed by the CFO, Controller, and Accounting Staff such as preparing and overseeing the budget process, identifying and analyzing current and future trends, and developing strategies for the business growth.
  • How can timely financial visibility and management reporting help with better business decisions and growth?
    • a. A simple way to a successful business is to prioritize the timely financial visibility and management reporting as it means:
      i. Timely financial information and analysis are essential for making informed decisions, evaluating your company’s results, improving financial performance, and ensuring you are on the path to meet your strategic goals.
      ii. Management reporting is a source of business intelligence that helps business leaders make more accurate, data-driven decisions. But, these reports are most useful if they are available timely and the management receives proper interpretation of the business financial information.

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