If you’re just planning on picking up some freelance work to supplement your income, you can skip the business plan. But, if you’re embarking on a more significant endeavor that’s likely to consume a significant amount of time, money, and resources, then you need a business plan.
If you’re serious about business, taking planning seriously is critical to your success.
The most classic business planning scenario is for a startup, for which the plan helps the founders break uncertainty down into meaningful pieces, like the sales projection, expense budget, milestones and tasks. The need becomes obvious as soon as you recognize that you don’t know how much money you need, and when you need it, without laying out projected sales, costs, expenses, and timing of payments. And that’s for all startups, whether or not they need to convince investors, banks, or friends and family to part with their money and fund the new venture. In this case, the business plan is focused on explaining what the new company is going to do, how it is going to accomplish its goals, and—most importantly—why the founders are the right people to do the job. A startup business plan also details the amount of money needed to get the business off the ground, and through the initial growth phases that will lead (hopefully!) to profitability.
Not all business plans are for startups that are launching the next big thing. Existing businesses use business plans to manage and steer the business, not just to address changes in their markets and to take advantage of new opportunities. They use a plan to reinforce strategy, establish metrics, manage responsibilities and goals, track results, and manage and plan resources including critical cash flow. And of course they use a plan to sets the schedule for regular review and revision.
Business plans can be a critical driver of growth for existing businesses. Did you know that businesses that write plans and use them to manage their business grow 30 percent faster than businesses that take a “seat of the pants” approach? A recent study by Professor Andrew Burke, the founding Director of the Bettany Centre for Entrepreneurial Performance and Economics at Cranfield School of Management, discovered exactly this.
For existing businesses, a robust business planning process can be a competitive advantage that drives faster growth and greater innovation. Instead of a static document, business plans in existing businesses become dynamic tools that are used to track growth and spot potential problems before they derail the business.