Minority Business Assistance Center (MBAC) Program


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Getting on the Right Path with the Right Plan

 

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Success or failure. Which path will your business venture take? Having a solid business plan in place canput you on the right path. “Everyone has a dream,” says Stephen Niswander, business banking market managerfor Huntington Bank in Northwest Ohio. “The challenge is sitting down with paper and pencil and figuring out what it’s going to take to make that dream happen.”

Don’t underestimate the power of a business plan, adds Ray Graves, lender relations specialist for the U.S. Small Business Administration. Even the process of writing a business plan can help you focus your strategy and solveproblems.“Think of it as your guidebook,” he explains. “First and foremost, it’s a document meant to help you.”

Niswander and Graves share these tips for creating a business plan:

 

Make it your own. Many entrepreneurs try to follow a fancy on-line template, than get discouraged halfway through. Your business plan doesn’t have to be 100 pages with extensive charts and graphs, say Graves. “There is no one-size-fits-all business plan. It doesn’t need to be a lengthy document. Do what works for you.”

Keep it focused. A business plan should be “meat and potatoes,” says Niswander. In other words, it should include real information about your experience, competitors, target market, strategies, and projected expenses and revenues. “I’ve seen business plans with a lot of fluff to take up space. You can skip the fluff. Just keep it factual and detailed.”

Spend extra time on the financial section. If you are going to agonize over any part of your business plan, it should be the financial section. Banks an  d investors will scrutinize this section, so make sure it is thorough and well-researched. Include all the costs involved in getting your business up and running, don’t overlook utilities, insurance, employment taxes, salaries, legal and marketing costs abusiness plannd more. “Elaborate this section in excruciating detail,” says Graves.

Keep it flexible. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind and forget the big picture. Your business plan is the big picture, so revisit it often. Niswander suggests revisiting it every quarter your first year in business, than annually thereafter. A business plan isn’t meant to be set in stone. It’s meant to be flexible and to evolve as circumstances change. “There’s no shame in changing your plan,” says Graves. “In Silicon Valley they call it ‘pivoting’ but here in the Midwest we tend to see it as failure if we need to adjust our plan. Just update it and call it Version 2.0.”

Don’t hesitate to ask for help. There are several organizations, like the Northwest Ohio Minority Business Assistance Center, that will help you put together a business plan at no cost. Graves cautions against paying someone else to write your plan, however. “It’s a process you need to go through as an entrepreneur. It will be eye-opening.”

Last Updated: 6/30/19