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Perhaps the most important document for any company is a business plan – a written tool that acts as a road map to success. It is built around a clear statement of goals and a feasible plan for achieving those goals.

A working business plan should project 12 to 18 months into the future and analyze and develop how a company intends to grow revenues over that period of time.

Anyone with accountability at the company can be involved with its development.

Creating your business plan.

Below are a few of the main topics you should consider when writing your company’s plan. Although this list is by no means comprehensive, it will help you get started on covering the basics.

Company description.

This includes the nature, purpose and scope of your business, as well as any basic details about your company. Be sure to address the following:

  • Company details. Include the legal name of your business, the product or service that your company sells and where you sell.
  • Structure of the business. Is it an incorporated company, sole proprietorship, etc.?
  • Major participants. Include any clients, suppliers and distributors that play a role in your business operations
  • Business background. When did your company come into being? How has it progressed?
  • Mission and keys to success
The marketplace.

It is essential that you begin to analyze how your business will meet your customers’ needs, particularly in light of what your competitors offer. Look at:

  • Major demographic, economic, social and cultural factors
  • Industry trends. What is the state of the economy? What are your customers’ buying patterns?
  • Your competitors. Who are they? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • Your company’s competitive advantages
  • Target customers
Sales.

How will you appeal to your target audience and turn each buyer into a repeat customer? Think about the following:

  • The types of customers (retail, homeowners, contractors) that make up your customer base
  • Location
  • The people involved in sales
  • Your company’s customer service policy (pre-sale and post-sale) – What are your customer service values? How do you plan on seeing these through over the years?
  • Policies. What are your policies regarding credit, guarantees, rain checks and refunds?
  • Suppliers
  • Pricing and distribution
  • Sales forecasting and targeting
Marketing.

How will you persuade your customers to buy your product or service? Be sure to consider:

  • Market needs, trends and growth
  • Marketing strategies
  • Pricing strategies
Business operations.

This section relates to your business’s day-to-day operations, including physical location, job responsibilities and contingency plans. Analyze the following:

  • Key employees – What positions need to be filled to make the business fully functional?
  • Employee responsibilities
  • Company policies and procedures
  • Business insurance/employee insurance
Budgeting.

A budget will enable you to control your finances, fund your operations and manage your money more effectively. A budget may include any of the components listed below:

  • Balance sheet – what your business owns versus what it owes (assets, liabilities, and equity)
  • Income statement – a summary of your company’s performance over a specific time period (profits and losses)
  • Cash flow projections – all the cash you expect to come in and out of the business

Whether you own a mom and pop shop or a multinational company, business planning will go a long way in helping you achieve long-term, sustainable success. Be sure to review your plan regularly to gauge your progress. Your business (and your employees) will thank you.

Jen Lemcke is chief operating officer of Turf Holdings/Weed Man USA.