Having an effective business plan is critical to the success of any business. That is why I want us to examine this text entitled “Tips & Traps for Writing an Effective Business Plan.” It is written by Greg Balanko-Dickson, a third-generation entrepreneur, Licensed Professional Business Coach and founding member of the Professional Business Coaches Alliance.
Balanko-Dickson has clients throughout Canada, the United States, South Africa and the United Kingdom. According to the author, whether you want to start a business or grow one, buy or sell one, attract investors or obtain a loan, fine-tune your operation or restructure it, attempting to do it without a well-crafted plan is like going to the sea without a compass. He says this text arms you with the know-how and tools you need to write your own surefire business plan in a record time.
Balanko-Dickson educates that to be successful in business, you need to research and write your plan; tailor a plan for virtually any type or size of business; master the 10 key components of a successful plan; understand all your financing options; and streamline the process using worksheets, sample forms and ready-to-use templates.
This text is divided into five parts of 27 chapters. Part one is generically christened “Introduction” and contains two chapters. Chapter one borders on what a business plan is and why you need it. According to Balanko-Dickson, it is an instrument used to document the intent and plans of the owner regarding every aspect of the business. He adds that the document itself can be used to communicate plans, strategies and tactics to your managers, partners and investors.
It is also used when you are applying for credit, educates the author, explaining that the plan contains both strategic and tactical objectives, and it can be either informal or formal.
He adds that a plan has an equation structure of Goals + Research+ Strategy. Balanko-Dickson says a goal only reveals your intent or where you expect to end up, but a formal plan details the exact formula you feel you need to put together to attain your primary goals.
He explains that his definition of a business plan is “a formal document written to capture and communicate the planned direction and manoeuvres required for the business to accomplish its most important goal – profitability”. Balanko-Dickson adds that profit is no accident, and by writing and following your plan, you increase the chances of achieving profitability.
Balanko-Dickson educates that developing a detailed plan will provide you with an opportunity to shape a powerful business development strategy, whether your goal is to: get financing to start; get financing to expand; be more organised and increase your odds of success; identify the value of your business and prepare a plan for selling; create a plan to buy a business; create a management succession plan to facilitate your retirement, etc.
The author identifies ten sections of a business plan as industry analysis; market analysis; products and services; business description; marketing strategy; operations and management; financial plan; implementation plan; contingency plan; and executive summary.
Chapter two is based on the subject matter of understanding the process and getting prepared. Here, Balanko-Dickson discloses that the benefits of writing a plan are often misunderstood. A plan will help you get the money you need when you are starting a business and will also help you make an existing one more effective, educates this author.
In part two having a general thematic focus of the ten sections of a plan and containing ten chapters, that is, chapters three to 12, Balanko-Dickson discusses concepts such as industry analysis; market analysis; products and services; business development; marketing and sales strategy; operations and management; pro forma financial plan; implementation plan; contingency and emergency plan; and executive summary.
Part three is based on writing a plan in 30 days and covers three chapters, that is, chapters 13 to 15. Chapter 13, like the whole part, focuses on writing a plan in 30 days. According to this expert here, make no mistake, writing a plan can be a time-consuming task as you are planning your business for the next three years, and you want to give it the attention it deserves. He says his personal experience in writing plans is that it can take him between 50 and 300 hours to finish.
Balanko-Dickson expatiates that the more familiar he is with the industry and market, the faster he can get the plan finished. He adds that if you are writing a plan for the first time, have never been in business before, or are new to the industry, plan to spend more time writing your plan.
He says you can easily minimise distractions in writing your plan by devoting time to writing your plan. The author stresses that if you are unable to get away from the business, choose a quiet period of the day to work on your plan. In chapters 14 and 15, this author discusses common mistakes in writing a plan and working with professional advisers.
Part four is based on the broad subject matter of special considerations for specific businesses and covers ten chapters, that is, chapters 16 to 25. Here, Balanko-Dickson beams his intellectual searchlight on concepts such as business planning for investors; planning for a retail business; planning for a manufacturing business; planning for wholesale distributors; planning for a service business; planning for consultants and professionals; planning for large and public companies, etc.
Part five, the last part, is generically labelled “Getting the money you need” and contains two chapters, that is, chapters 26 and 27. Chapter 26 is based on applying for a loan. According to Balanko-Dickson here, small business loans can be used for a variety of purposes. He says for example, a loan can help you buy a business, start a new one and expand an existing one. The author educates that you will deal directly with the bank’s loan officers.
“Make no mistake however, major small business loans are reviewed by loan committees. Typically, loan officers are not part of a loan committee….Understanding your role and the role of the loan officer and the loan committee will help guide you through the approval process. It is a team game, and, as they say, there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’,” asserts Balanko-Dickson.
In chapter 27, this expert discusses the concept of getting funding from investors, family and friends.
Stylistically, the language of this text is simple, yet standard. The presentation is unique. The text is embroidered with graphics to reinforce readers’ understanding and achieve visual amplification. Balanko-Dickson includes a “Tip and Trap” section typified by graphical thumb/hand manipulation in every chapter, where he injects additional information and guides readers.
However, the whole of part three is already summarised in chapter one, meaning that chapter one could have been harmonised with part three. Probably this author deliberately uses this style of repetition to ensure long memory on readers’ part.
On the whole, this text easily passes for a masterpiece on business development. It is highly recommended to all existing and prospective entrepreneurs. It is simply fantastic.