Business Planning-How to Love it: Guide for Entrepreneurs

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The first quarter of the year is almost upon us. Don’t you think it’s time you learnt about the stages, types, and key elements of business planning? Discover how to create a well-rounded business plan and leverage it for long-term success with our comprehensive guide. Then craft a robust business plan to propel your entrepreneurial journey.

Based on your business planning, how has your business performed during the first quarter? That is if you even have a business plan at all!

When it comes to business planning, my experience has been such that some have their business plans scribbled on the back of a napkin and some operate without one whatsoever!

Which are you?  

Well, I will let you know that with a business plan, you are building a business. Without one, you are just keeping busy.

In fact, with no business plan at all, it is hard to build a business. Subsequently, many entrepreneurs waste months, and even years with little to no progress.

All because of a lack of business planning.

But I run ahead of myself, and perhaps you.

First things first….

2. What Do You Mean by Business Planning?

Business planning is the strategic process of setting, defining, and documenting goals, and objectives. It is about outlining actions and strategies needed for a company to achieve long-term success. In cases where the business or company is already in existence, business planning involves analysing the current state of the business, identifying opportunities and challenges, and creating a roadmap to guide decision-making and operations.

The business planning process usually involves four to five distinct stages.

3. The 5 Stages of the Business Planning Process

a) Business Analysis

The first stage of business planning involves conducting a thorough analysis of the business’s current situation. During this initial stage, you evaluate the internal and external market environment your business finds itself.

Knowing and understanding market trends, customer needs, and competitive forces is crucial. It involves evaluating the market, competition, and internal strengths, weaknesses opportunities, and threats (SWOT analysis).

Key questions for you to ask are:

  • What are our core competencies?
  • Who are our competitors?
  • What market gaps can we fill?

By understanding the business’s current position, it becomes easier to identify areas for improvement and growth.

Once your business analysis is complete, the next stage is setting clear goals and objectives for your business.

b) Goal Setting

Setting goals helps provide direction and focus for your business. This stage involves creating a mission statement, setting objectives, and outlining action plans. Doing so enables you to identify and define strategies to achieve your business’ set goals.

Some key questions to consider here include:

  • What do we want to achieve?
  • How will we get there?

Goal setting is vital as business success hinges on setting clear, measurable goals that are aligned with its vision. Put simply, these goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

c) Strategy Development

Sometimes considered part and parcel of goal setting, at this stage, the onus is on you to formulate practical strategies that will achieve your business’s set goals. This includes identifying:

  • your target audience/market (understand your customers)
  • developing marketing plans
  • outlining product/service offerings
  • establishing operational processes.

Strategies should reflect what you have identified as your business’ market conditions and overall business objectives.

d) Implementation and Execution

The fourth stage entails putting the planned strategies into action. Here the resources you have allocated must be available for assignment. The personnel you had earlier identified must be assigned their responsibilities and undertake them.

More importantly, it is at this stage that any marketing, operational, and financial strategies earlier planned must be implemented and effectively executed. As such, a key question to ask is:

  • How to best implement and execute your plans effectively?

The effectiveness of your implementation and execution will only be evident through monitoring, evaluation, and adaptation.

e) Monitoring and Adaptation

Once implementation and execution have been instituted, it is advisable to regularly assess and evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation and execution phase.

Regularly monitoring progress is essential, whether business or personal is important. As a business, you should adopt a culture of tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) and adjusting strategies as needed.

At this stage, therefore, some key questions to ask are:

  • What milestones should we track?
  • Are we on track?
  • Do we need to pivot?
  • What adjustments are necessary?

Adaptability is crucial in a dynamic business environment. Thereafter, if necessary, adjustments should be made at regular periods to ensure that the business remains on track towards achieving its goals.

However, for stages 4 (implementation and execution) and 5 (monitoring and adaption) of the business planning process to be rolled out, the understanding is that the other business planning processes have been captured in a comprehensive business plan.

A business plan?!

4. What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a comprehensive document that summarises a business’s goals, strategies, and operational details. It serves as and provides you with a clear guide to where you want to take your business. Where it is heading, how it intends to get there and grow.

That’s because a well-crafted business plan not only helps you the business owner have direction and decision-making guidance, but it is also invaluable to secure funding from potential investors, lenders, and partners who need to understand the business’s potential and feasibility.

Typically, a well-structured business plan must contain the following:

  • Executive Summary – A summary of your entire plan. It should highlight your business’s mission, vision, and key objectives.
  • Company Description – Gives details about your business’s history and legal structure.
  • Product/Service Offering – This is a detailed description of the products or services offered by the business, highlighting their unique features, benefits, and your unique selling proposition.
  • Market Analysis – Refers to your thorough research and analyses of your industry, industry trends, target market, customer demographics and competitors.
  • Marketing and Sales Strategies – Deals with how your business will reach, attract, and retain its customers. It comprehensively spells out how you will promote and sell your products or services. It should include pricing strategies, distribution channels, and promotional activities.
  • Operations and Management – This relates to information on your business’s day-to-day operations as it pertains to its organizational structure, key personnel, operational processes, supply chain, and logistics.
  • Financial Projections – Reveal your revenue forecasts, such as income statements, cash flow projections, balance sheets, expense estimates and profitability. Then based on that, include your funding requirements and projected return on investment.
  • Risk Assessment Here you identify what you consider will be potential risks and mitigation strategies to them. It is, therefore, an evaluation of potential risks and challenges that could impact the business’s success, along with the strategies you will use to lessen them.
  • Implementation and Timeline: Lastly, you will need a detailed outline of how the business plan and its strategies will be implemented. Give timelines by which your business will have reached key milestones and goals.

While the above structure is the norm for a business plan, its structure will however, largely depend on the type of business plan it is for.

5. Types of Business Plans

There are different types of business plans, each tailored to specific needs and audiences. Some common types are:

a) Feasibility Study

When your business, product or service is still an idea, it is advisable to undertake a feasibility study. This is an assessment of the practicality and viability of your business idea or project. It examines market demand, cost analysis, and potential risks to determine if the business idea, product, or service is worth pursuing.

b) Startup Business Plan

Ideal for new ventures seeking funding or investment. You must include a detailed description of the business model, comprehensive market research, and financial projections.

b) Strategic Business Plan

Henry Mintzberg et.al (1994) observe that “strategic planning has evolved from a one-way process to a two-way process, with the former focusing on strategy development and implementation, and the latter on fostering a culture of continuous improvement.”

Largely for your business’s long-term vision and growth strategies, this plan focuses on your long-term goals and overall business direction. It considers market trends, competition, and growth opportunities.

c) Operational Business Plan

Sometimes called an internal business plan, an operational business plan focuses on the day-to-day operations, processes and resources required to run your business effectively. It is vital within your business for strategic purposes. Your operational business plan must include your business’s operational strategies, marketing plans, and financial goals.

Need help with business planning and drawing up your business plan? Look no further than…

Comecinc C & SSS Inc. or SaaS for Business Planning

J Brinkmann et al (2018) found that “Human capital types, education, and work experience significantly influence business planning behaviors among individuals leading SMEs.”  Whether or not this is you on your business journey, our team of business consultants will be more than happy to help you with your business planning.

CONTACT US TODAY! For a FREE 30-minute, no-obligation exploratory call.

However, should you be bootstrapping and think you have understood how to go about business planning, then do give it a try.

Fortunately for you, in our age of Software as a service (SaaS) and AI, sole business planning has become possible!

Nowadays, SaaS platforms simplify business planning. Currently, they are providing businesses with easy-to-use tools and templates to create and manage their business plans. Such platforms often include features like industry-specific templates, financial modelling, financial forecasting, collaboration tools, and data visualization. All of which makes business planning more efficient and accessible for entrepreneurs and business owners.

Examples of SaaS that you might which to try out include LivePlan and Enloop. Both come with FREE trials.

Check them out!

6. Using Your Business Plan into the Year

A word to the wise, once your business plan is in place, PLEASE ensure that you follow it. Use it as a guide for decision-making, resource allocation, and growth strategies.

And remember, business plans are not static; they evolve.  Your business plan should not be a static document but rather a dynamic roadmap that guides decision-making throughout the year.

By leveraging your business plan, you can stay focused, make informed decisions, adapt to market changes, and increase your chances of success.

To ensure success, regularly review revise and update your business plan to reflect changing market conditions, industry trends, and your business’s evolving needs.

Should you have any questions, see the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below for your convenience.

7. FAQ about Business Planning

  1. Q: Do I Need a Business Plan for a Small Business?

A: Yes! Even small businesses benefit from having a clear roadmap.

  1. Q: Can I Create My Own Business Plan?
  2. A: Absolutely! Use templates, and SaaS or seek professional assistance.
  1. Q: How often should I update my business plan?

A: It is recommended to review and update your business plan annually or whenever there are significant changes in the business or market conditions.

  • Q: Can I create a business plan without any prior business planning experience?

A: Yes, you can create a business plan with the help of online resources, templates, and guidance from business planning experts. It is essential to research and understand the key components of a business plan to ensure its effectiveness.

  • Q: How long should a business plan be?

A: The length of a business plan can vary depending on the complexity of the business and its intended audience. Generally, a business plan should be concise and focused, ideally no more than 20-30 pages.

  • Q: Do I need a business plan if I am not seeking funding?

A: Even if you are not seeking funding, having a business plan is still beneficial as it helps you define your goals, strategies, and actions for long-term success. It also provides a roadmap for decision-making and serves as a valuable communication tool for stakeholders.

Wrap Up

Business planning is the compass that steers your company. Therefore, it is a critical process that helps businesses set clear goals, develop effective strategies, and navigate the path to success.

By understanding the stages of business planning, the importance of a business plan, and the key components to include, as an entrepreneur, you can effectively plan and increase your chances of achieving your business objectives.

So, whether you’re a startup or an established business, a well-crafted plan is essential as it acts as a roadmap, guiding decision-making and providing clarity for the business owner and stakeholders.

Lastly, remember, that adaptability and continuous improvement are key to thriving in today’s competitive landscape.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. I may earn commissions if you appreciatively purchase the product mentioned in this post through one of them. Thank you!!

Otherwise, all the best! Keep in touch with us and hope to hear from you soon.

Till then!!

Corwin L. Mhlahlo is, among others, the Principal Communications and Strategic Solutions Consultant at Comecinc C & SSS Inc., – a business consulting firm in Johannesburg, South Africa. His qualifications include certifications in Business Administration, Sales Marketing Management and Digital Marketing. Corwin is passionate and excited about the future of Artificial Intelligence and Software as a Service (SaaS) to business processes, operations, and productivity.

6 thoughts on “Business Planning-How to Love it: Guide for Entrepreneurs”

    1. Happy you found the post helpful. Next, may we recommend this article: Lead Generation-How to Profit Your Business with 14+ Effective Strategies – Comecinc Communications and Strategic Solutions Services Incorporated. All the very best!!

    1. Which content in particular would you like us to be more specific about? Feel free to call or send us an email outlining your doubts and we do our best to help. Look forward to hearing from you!

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