Article written by Suzy Wraines
Every business needs a roadmap of some kind to stay on track no matter how big or small.
A business plan makes the perfect map: keeping you on track with your vision and goals, making everyday decisions easier and positioning even the smallest companies for growth. You may be thinking, but writing a business plan is overwhelming. I agree it’s a big task to write out the specifics of your business. The benefit of taking the time upfront will save you from stress, decision fatigue, and overwhelm with running your business later.
This article will show you real life examples of how having a business plan will reduce overwhelm and ultimately lead you to a successful sustainable business.
The traditional business plan isn’t used as frequently with entrepreneurs these days and some don’t use any business plan tool at all. In my research I have found there are many large corporations, even billion dollar companies that didn’t start with a traditional business plan. They did however, have lists, ideas on paper, project deadlines, and goals they wanted to achieve.
In my opinion no matter the size of the business, they will be successful utilizing a well written business plan. These are the reasons I feel a business plan sets you up for success.
- You get serious about your business.
- Shows you how much money you need.
- You will set milestones.
- It allows you to stay on track with your business.
- It gives you insight to where you need help.
- You will be able to measure progress.
- Business success will be obvious as it is happening.
Now that you know the reasons to have a business plan I’m going to ask you some hard questions.
- Do you know how much money you need to start your business?
- Do you know who will be responsible for the following now and in the future?
- Sales & marketing
- Product development
- Customer satisfaction
- Technology within your business.
- Do you know how much income your business will earn in the next month, quarter, or year?
- Do you know how your products and services will be created and sold?
- How serious are you about your business?
Those are not easy questions to answer. For some of you they might be easier because you are the only person in your business right now and need to have all the answers. But, what happens when your business starts to grow? Will you be able to keep up on your own?
Keep these questions in mind as I walk you through real life stories of two women entrepreneurs with similar businesses, one who started with a business plan and one who didn’t. Their names have been changed for this article.
Kathy’s Story (no business plan):
Kathy is a stay at home mom with adult children and a loving supportive husband. She decided to start a business now since she has time. Before kids she earned a degree in Human Services. Her passion for helping others is what motivated her to become a life coach.
After graduating from coaching school she jumped right in without a business plan and started taking clients. Most of her clients came to her through referral or people who she met networking. Her coaching practice took off and she was making more money than she ever thought she would. Even though the income was there her focus remained on coaching. She would deal with the business side of things later. When it came to business income she didn’t have a plan on what to do with the income to benefit the business.
On paper this looked like a successful business. What was happening for Kathy in reality was very stressful. She never knew when or if she would have any new clients. This created a sense of fear around how she would keep the business going.
Things started to change when her client load was growing and she was becoming physically and mentally exhausted from coaching, marketing, and running all aspects of her business. If only, she could just coach that was what she enjoyed the most. This is when emotions took over. Maybe if she hired a coach to help her automate some of her marketing that would free up some of her time.
Keep in mind, Kathy doesn’t have a business plan or timeline to follow. She is making these decisions based on the feelings of stress and overwhelm. When she hired a 1:1 marketing coach for $10,000 she knew this had to solve her problem. Halfway through the coaching program she realized this wasn’t what she needed at this moment. They were coaching her on how to purchase ads. Kathy didn’t want to pay for advertising. She wanted her coaching business to be smaller word of mouth and referral based. The business decision she made didn’t line up with the vision (in her mind) of the business she wanted.
How could she create a business model that allowed her to have more time while still making the income she was used to having with her 1:1 clients?
She went back to working the way she did before with referral clients and struggling with time, stress, and having sleepless nights because she didn’t know how to create her business the way she was envisioning it to be.
While still struggling she came across a book that would change everything. It promised if she followed the steps she could have the business she was dreaming of. Small boutique, referral only coaching practice. Because this spoke directly to the emotions tied to her business she jumped without research and joined the training program to become a licensed professional for the organization that supported the book.
Being a licensed professional would allow Kathy to use the tools provided for her coaching program. It included workbooks and training materials that all she had to do was put her logo on them. This seemed to be the answer she was looking for.
Of course this comes at a price. It was a steep cost without a guarantee of return on investment. She ended up signing a contract to pay licensing fees for twelve months without a way to cancel before the contract ended. All of these business decisions were not from a plan but rather emotional decisions made based on the “promise” they would fix the problem.
Within the first six months of being a licensed professional with this organization she finished working with all her current clients with no new clients in her pipeline. No new income coming in. She was trying to incorporate the new training she received from the license she held but didn’t have a plan created to follow how she would implement this into her current coaching practice. She was quickly realizing being licensed with this organization wasn’t inline with the vision she had for her business either. Now she felt hopeless.
Sally’s Story (started with a business plan):
Sally is a working mom and wife. She works full time but longs to have more time for her family. She has seen working mom’s successfully start coaching practices and leave their day job. This is what she wants to do. Her passion is writing so naturally she has decided being a writing coach is how she wants to start.
Since she has never started a business before Sally researches business plan writing. She finds a business plan workbook and dives in. With each page she turns Sally quickly realizes all the moving parts involved in creating a business. Remember all the questions at the beginning of the article? Sally was finding the answers as she built her business vision through the help of the business plan workbook.
By writing down the ideas she had for her business and seeing how they all fit together she was able to feel confident that her business coaching idea will work. Like a puzzle she was putting the pieces together as she filled out her plan. She was getting excited about all the possibilities for her business as she filled out her plan.
At one point, the overwhelm started setting in. Sally was seeing how much went into creating a business and it’s not easy. She was approached by a marketing company during this stressful time. She had a discovery call with them that sounded like a good fit. She knew her business needed marketing. Before she made the business decision to hire the marketing company she went back to the marketing plan section of the workbook.
Seeing her plan before her in writing made it crystal clear her business wasn’t ready for the type of marketing that was offered. Yes, at some point down the road Sally wanted to invest in paid ads not right now. Had she made the decision to hire the marketing professional without a plan that would have been money gone prematurely. This was a wake up call to her to stick to the plan.
Sally is still in the very early stages of building her business. Taking time to complete her business plan before making major business decisions she is off to a great start. As she worked through each business category she started feeling more and more confident her business will be successful. Having a business plan gives her a roadmap to the steps necessary to build and grow a business. Sally’s business decisions are not made with emotions. They are well thought out and the risks are weighed against the investments.
Having a business plan created the perfect map for Sally to stay on track with her vision and goals. While not having a business plan stifled growth for Kathy due to emotional decisions that ultimately stunted success.
The common thread between these two business owners is stress and overwhelm. Creating and running a business is not easy. There will be stress and overwhelm. How you handle these situations can be traced back to having a business plan as a guide. Having a business plan allows you to know exactly where your business should be at any given time. It gives you the power to make changes as needed ultimately leading to success.
I understand how overwhelming starting a business really is. My experience as an entrepreneur I know first hand how difficult it is to create a business out of an idea. When I researched the business plan templates and books that were out there. I realized there wasn’t one, at least that I could find that walked through the steps giving room for brainstorming and developing ideas. I had to share my process of creating a plan step by step. This is how the Simple Steps Business Plan workbook was born.
No matter what your process is, I encourage you to seriously consider writing a business plan to have your own roadmap to success.
Hi, I’m Suzy Wraines!
I’m a business development specialist with over 20 years’ experience helping businesses succeed. I have worked with every kind of company, from startups to large corporations, and have boots-on-the-ground experience launching small businesses of my own. I’m passionate about sharing what I’ve learned!