What Makes A Good Business Plan

A strong business plan is essential for anyone looking to set up a business. A working business plan will prove your most used tool when it comes to building up your business, therefore it is essential to get it right from the word go. A business plan is a written document that clearly explains to the reader what the business is, what its objectives are, the strategy behind the business, the market it is involved in and its financial forecasts. A good plan can have many different functions from securing external funding to monitoring success or failure within the business. In general the most common function of the business plan is to act as a guide for a new business owner to follow when just starting out.

A business plan is essential for all businesses regardless of size, and once one has been written it is also important to maintain and update said plan. That being said, it is important to realize that whilst writing a detailed plan is useful and a good foundation for any successful business, it will not necessarily make the business a success or guard you from all disasters. If you keep up to date with business plan it will prove a really useful tool throughout the lifespan of your business. However, if you grossly over exaggerate profit margins or your budget then your business plan could also lead to failure. Stick to the figures and be realistic and your plan should hold you in good stead in the turbulent business market.

A lot of resources nowadays provide ready-made plans for specific businesses and whilst this is handy, most business owners will recommend that you write the plan yourself. This is because writing a plan for your business actually forces you to focus on what you want from your business and how to achieve your goals. When looking back on your initial plan for reference, you shouldn’t necessarily assume that your initial assumptions and predictions will be correct, they are just that: predictions. You should be able to go back to your plan on a regular basis and view it and change it to relate to the actual current situation.

It may seem like a daunting and laborious task to write an entire plan from scratch, but in actual fact once done it can be incredibly useful. In the beginning stages of your business, your plan will help to define and focus your objective by using accurate figures and details. Once established and looking to expand, you can then use your business plan as a selling tool to get more funding from external sources such as investors and the bank. As you are developing your business, your plan will help to highlight any gaps or weaknesses in the planning process. You can then address these issues and hopefully avoid any disasters. Finally, you can also use your plan to get advice from other experts within your field. By having a detailed business plan to hand you look professional and can present the information in an organized and clear manner.

In order to create a strong working business plan you need to place reasonable limits on long-term projections. For the time being, focus on short-term objectives and change and modify the plan as you go along. Too many long-term plans become pointless as they extend too far into the future. Don’t be too optimistic, instead stick to being realistic. Over optimism will be your downfall in the end and is only setting you up for a fall. When dealing with timelines, sales and profits err on the side of conservatism as this will protect your business in the long-run. Make sure your business plan is written in simple, clear language that can be understood by all in a bid to appeal to a wider audience and keep things clear.

Catering Company Business Plans

Are you wondering if you really need a business plan for your catering business? Perhaps you are thinking that as you only plan on starting a relatively small business it won’t really be necessary. Many people think like this and, of course, many people end up failing in their first year of business.

We highly recommend that you avoid becoming yet another business that underestimated costs or found that the market wasn’t ready for what they had to offer. Below we have outlined ten reasons why you must prepare a catering company business plan. We explain how if you do take the time to prepare a plan you will be increasing your chances of being successful with your catering startup.

1) Start in the Right Direction

Many entrepreneurs think that they can start out without doing a lot of planning and research. They feel that they can always pick up a feel for the business as they go. However, some of the early decisions that you make in the life of your business can be difficult to reverse at a later date. You need to have a clear path set out ahead of you so that you can make the right decisions about how to set up the business right from the start.

2) Reinforce Your Ideas

As you slowly get ideas about the catering company that you want to start you will find that these thoughts start floating around in your head. What you imagine yourself doing is often very different from what you are able to do realistically. Nothing is impossible but you just need to work out how to get there.

By putting your ideas down on paper you will be clarifying them in your mind. As you write you will find that you do additional brainstorming. You may get new ideas about what you want to do with your business and you may decide that some of the ideas that you had initially are not really feasible.

3) Figure Out How to Do It

Every entrepreneur has a very idealistic image in their mind of the kind of business that they want. Getting to that point is a process though and you need to work out a path to get there.

One great way to figure out how you will proceed is to first write down what you want to do. Next, write down as many questions as you can about how you are actually going to do it. These will include questions like ‘Will I do on-site or off-site catering?’, ‘How will I get access to kitchen facilities?’ or ‘How many catering jobs will I need to land each month to break even?’. As you slowly work out the answers to the problems that you come across you can write them down in the appropriate sections of your business plan.

4) Know Your Startup Requirements

When you prepare a business plan you will get an accurate idea of exactly what is needed before you launch the company. You will need to consider all of the things that you will need to pay for prior to opening such as catering equipment, initial advertising and so on. When you have calculated the total cost you will then know exactly how much money you need and can look at where this funding will come from.

5) Increase Personal Productivity

You have to be organized when you start a business. Rather than writing things down on loose scraps of paper and hoping for the best you need to have somewhere to compile all of the important data that you collect. A business plan is ideal for this purpose. If you store the business plan as a document on your PC you can simply add new information as you come across it. If you have done your research and have all of you information stored in one convenient location you will be more organized throughout your business launch and you will avoid a lot of unnecessary headaches.

6) Prove the Viability of Your Idea to Others

A business plan is a great way to prove to yourself that your ideas are viable and that the catering company that you are proposing can thrive and make a profit. You will also need a plan in order to prove to other people that the business model that you have in mind is financially sound. Think of your business plan as being like a resume that you can hand out to people who need information about your business. You can always leave out sections that are not relevant to the reader in question.

There are many people who may wish to view your business plan and you should keep them in mind as you put it together. If you are seeking funding then you may have to show the plan to prospective lenders or equity investors. As a caterer you will certainly have to comply with local health and hygiene requirements and these local authorities may expect to see a section in your plan relating to these areas. You may even need to show your business plan to the owner of any kitchen premises that you hope to lease before they agree to sign an agreement with you.

7) Set Goals and Objectives

A business plan is like a road map to success. Your goals are the destinations that you are aiming to get to. They should be fairly realistic and achievable but should also push you to work hard to reach them. You may set financial goals that set out what kind of gross or net monthly income you intend to be earning after your first year. Other goals could also refer to other metrics such as average food cost percentages on catering jobs for example.

8) Identify Weaknesses and Strengths

It is important to assess your strengths and weaknesses and how they will affect you when it comes to competing with the established players in your local catering industry. You may bring competitive advantages to the business such as catering experience or local food and hospitality industry connections. You may also identify personal weaknesses that you can work on improving or weaknesses that your company will face when compared to your better established competitors.

9) Track Your Progress

A business plan should not be forgotten about once the catering business has launched. Refer to the plan regularly to see if you are on track to hit the goals that you set out. Make changes to the plan as you go so that you always have a plan in place for your business going forward at least two or three years.

10) Make Selling Out a Breeze

Many caterers end up selling their businesses if they retire or move on to other projects. A business plan that is up to date can really help when it comes to valuing your business for a potential sale. If your business offers a buyer a blueprint for managing the business and it offers solid proof that the business is making a profit then it could really help you to seal a deal at a favorable price.

The Importance of a Business Plan

If you’re one of the many people thinking about starting a small business, having a business plan is one of the first things you should have on your list of things to do. It doesn’t matter if you’re starting a small business from home or away, having a plan for your business is considered a blue print for a successful small business. What is a business plan and why do you need one?

A Business Plan
A business plan is simply a plan of what your goals are for the business, and how you plan to go about accomplishing them. Some people refer to it as a vision for your business. I like to refer to it as a blue print or a road map to accomplishing your goals.

Your plan should be spelled out in clear and defining terms and be kept simple. It should be a written document and used as a tool in managing the business.

A plan should include but is not limited to the following:

1. A statement of your business purpose
2. A description of your company
3. The goals of your company
4. The structure of the company (sole-proprietorship, partnership or corporation)
5. The product or service that you are selling
6. A market analysis of your product or service
7. Resources spent (time and money)
8. A financial plan to include financial statements
9. Information about the managing principals in the company
10. How you plan to manage and operate the company

The Importance of a Business Plan
The success of a business starts with a business plan. The plan defines your business as to what it is and how you plan to achieve the goals of the business. It presents a clear picture of your business in terms of goals and objectives.

The plan reflects how you plan to operate your business. How you plan to market your product or services. It provides a financial picture of the company.

If you are looking for money to fund your business, you’re going to need a plan for your business. When you go to borrow money, lenders and investors are going to want to see written documentation in a business plan of your financial situation. Why do they want to see this information? Lenders and investors want to see this information because they are the ones taking the risk in lending your business money.

Once you have a plan in place, it’s important that you follow it. If you’re achieving your goals you should stick with the plan. If you are not achieving your goals then you will have go back, analyze your plan to find out what is working, what is not working and why it is not working.

A plan is not etched in stone. It is subject to change. As time goes on, things change in this world and businesses like everyone else are subject to change. A good plan will reflect changes that a company has to make to keep it competitive and successful.

Where can you find samples of a business plan for a small business? If you go into any of the search engines such as Google or Bing and type in “samples of a business plans for a small business” you will find websites with this information.

This is why it is important that a small business should have a business plan. If you look at those small businesses that are successful, you will find that most of them all started with and have a plan for their business.

Business Plans Are a Team Effort

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Business plans are mostly about organizing, formalizing, and committing to a specific plan-of-actions. Such a document generally presents the objectives, strategies, analysis, and a detailed roadmap for implementation. Underlying a plan-of-action is comprehensive analysis of historic, current and proposed results all supported with assumptions. If anyone doubts the interest in business plans, a Google search returns more than 62 million and Amazon list more than 77,700 titles concerning this subject.

They are like fingerprints; no two are alike, even within the same organization. One further point, opinions about what makes a good finished product are like noses-everybody has one. The ones that work and prove to be executable are the best. With this in mind, let me offer my views about business plans at a macro level having written a sizeable number of plans for internal and external applications. One other point, a business plan can build a team quicker than any formal team building activity.

I have written business plans for all manner of industries: a coin operated jukebox company, airlines, travel companies, new product launches, and anti-aging product companies. It is not necessary to have a passion for the product or the company to write or develop a business plan. What you must have is a passion for aggregating information, getting involved with and understanding the service or product, and understanding the financials of the product or service. By financials I am not referring to having a CPA before you undertake the task, but rather understanding the presentation of the information and analysis/ numbers to support the activity being planned. Financials are important because they are the score card in the world of commerce.

There are many reasons for utilizing such a document. Is the final document going to be about implementing a decision already having been reached or is it about analysis and recommendations for a newly proposed activity. As noted above, a finished document may be for internal or external purposes. Externally they are often used to solicit funding for a start-up or joint venture. Whatever the purpose, do not confuse effort with say, a marketing or a production plan.

I mentioned the financial aspect of a plan earlier, so let me add this. Another fact about financials to consider: not all business activities are about making money. Point being, in most enterprises financial considerations are centric to the document. But there are some other considerations. For example, a few years ago I wrote a plan for a new subsidiary that was focused on developing an inventory of patents. The potential financial returns were years into the future. Those patents may or may not ever have commercial value. Another example is a non-profit enterprise that has need for a complete roadmap for growing their profile in a market, of which a marketing plan would be the centerpiece.

If a document needs to be developed that requires input from other disciplines-Finance, HR, Property & Facilities, Marketing, Procurement/Supply Chain- then most likely you are looking at a team building effort to get the job done.

In any event, don’t look at the task as only as a roadmap that leads to a profitable product or enterprise. Business plans are a great way to build team buy-in, force a thorough review of options, define objectives, establish benchmarks to judge performance, and help arrive at a plan-of-action. Ultimately, it can lead to a Project Management approach to implementing a plan and that can be as involved and detailed as is necessary.

Another consideration. Should the business plan be a document that is focused on selling an idea for a product or service? For many years I worked in a company that did not want anything in a business plan that could be construed as showing a bias towards or against a project. The mantra was to only present facts in the business plan. The Operations Research Department was there to review the analysis as being unbiased. To handle the “what if” scenarios or sensitivity analysis we prepared a supplemental analysis documents which were mostly financial oriented. Personally, I like a factual approach and use the presentation of the final document to point out the conservative aspects of the content.

Here is a recap of where we are in this discussion:

  1. Business plans formalize an understanding of the task with appropriate analysis leading to a plan-of-action.
  2. Not all business plans are for profit motives.
  3. Business plans are for an enterprise effort and not focused on disciplines/departments, e.g. Marketing plan, sales plan, HR plan, supply chain plan, etc.
  4. Business plans are a great vehicle to build a team effort.
  5. Plans can be utilized for formalizing metrics relative to achieving goals and performance measurements.
  6. Some complex plans might include a Project Management professional.
  7. There are internal and external audiences for business plans. Most external focused plans are for outside funding of projects.
  8. Be mindful of the ‘tone’ the plan projects to the reader. Tone refers to the impression a person gets from reading the plan; a subliminal feeling about the plan.

Organization and content of the business plan will evolve as it is prepared. For example, if the driving force of the plan is marketing or sales then a preponderance of the analysis and plan-of-action section will be more up-front and sales oriented in tone. With business plan’s the world is your oyster; think from the center out to the edges and think outside of the box.