Checklist: 7 Steps to Creating a Plan for Business Growth

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Jul 01, 2015
Joe Mullich  (Spark Contributor)

Roar Media opened its doors in 2008, a time when many other marketing communications firms in South Florida were shutting down. Despite the tough economic conditions, the digital PR firm saw sales grow 20 to 30 percent annually, reaching $3.7 million last year. One reason for the success was a well-thought-out business plan that focused on what industries to target, what services to offer and what work to turn down.

“Some small businesses think they don’t need a business plan,” says Jolie Balido, the agency’s president and co-founder. “But if you don’t have a plan it’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and lose your vision.”

According to the 2014 Spark Business® from Capital One® Growth Survey, two out of three small businesses created a business plan. And 80 percent of those businesses found the process valuable, providing them with important insights into their industry and customer priorities. The best business plans take input from a variety of sources. Two-thirds of small business owners have one-on-one discussions when forging their plans. More than six in 10 conduct group brainstorming. And almost half read and consult material online.

While that might seem like a lot of work, most business owners report their business plans were easy to create, and they were able to finish a one-year plan in less than a month. It’s important to approach the process methodically. If you want to create a business plan efficiently and quickly, follow this checklist of seven key items:

1. Prioritize Your Purpose

Keep the intended purpose of the plan front of mind. If you want to use the plan to woo investors and bankers, your approach must be more formal and detailed. An internal document to help guide your marketing efforts can be less structured.

2. Consider Your Customers

The first thing any business needs is customers. Your business plan should be heavily influenced by customers and prospects, taking into account their pain points, preferences and market demographics. For example, Balido analyzed the South Florida market and targeted specific niches, including healthcare and technology, in need of her services.

3. Contemplate the Competition

Your key competitors, indirect competitors and your own strengths and weaknesses should inform your plan.

4. Track Industry Trends

Market data like trends in regulations, supplies, technology and the environment will affect your industry, and it should influence your business plan.

5. Optimize Your Offer

A savvy marketer thinks in terms of the four Ps: product, price, place and promotion. By minding your Ps in your plan, you will bring a clearly-defined offering to the market and connect with customers.

6. Summarize Your Setup

After reading your plan, people inside and outside the company should know how it runs, including who’s in charge, what role you have, who the partners are, what tasks the staff handles and what goals your team is trying to achieve.

7. Focus on Finances

Get to the bottom line by summarizing expected finances and expenses, as well as the amount and intended use of any cash you want from lenders and investors.

While a sound business plan is invaluable, don’t make the common mistake of thinking it’s a one-and-done exercise that is set in stone. Balido consults her plan every quarter, revising as needed.

“Some businesses create a plan and let it sit on the shelf, gathering dust,” she says. “You need to look at it periodically to ensure you and your employees are are hitting the marks, and following the road map to accomplish your goals.”