Business Planning for Women

An increasing number of women are starting small businesses.

The number of small businesses that are starting up with women at the helm is growing and 30% of business owners in the UK are women (Labour Force Survey 2003). The reasons women decide to start their own business vary, with most reporting that they want to be their own boss, choose their working hours and enjoy better work life balance.

However for many of these women the reality of running a small business does not live up to their expectations; it is difficult to fulfill their dreams for their business and they become disillusioned and overwhelmed with the ongoing struggle of running a small business alongside their other roles in life – mother, partner, friend, daughter, chef, chauffeur, socialite – the list goes on!

One area that has been identified as a significant factor limiting the success of women in business is a lack of business planning.

Many women entrepreneurs and small business owners fail to set aside the time to develop (and regularly re-visit) their business vision and strategy. As the old quote goes, ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’. It is generally agreed that if you want your small business to succeed, you have a much greater chance if you have a clear vision and an action plan for bringing that vision about.

So what stops women who are starting a small business from developing an inspired and effective business plan?

After all, we know that we should have a business plan but despite the best of intentions to succeed in our business, many of us don’t! Why is this? What is it that stops us sitting down and writing a clear plan and strategy for our business, especially when we know that we are more likely to succeed if we do it?

We believe it is partly because writing a business plan is boring! Let’s face it, it feels like a chore so we don’t do it. We may get the resources together that we need, we may even get part of the way through writing it, but it is the rare few that actually complete a comprehensive business plan outlining a clear vision, strategy and action plan for their business. Often, we are chomping at the bit to get our product or service out into the world and figure we can simply skip the boring planning bit altogether right? We can certainly relate to this feeling because we struggled with business planning in the early days – we gave it a try but never seemed to get further than a few pages in!

It is our view that traditional models of business planning do not cater for women in business!

We believe that traditional models of business planning and strategizing don’t recognise that women in business have a life outside of work – that they have a partner, friends and family to think about and are not prepared to compromise on health and relationships to have a successful and profitable business. Women today want the best of both worlds; we think it is possible and that they deserve to have it!

Conventional business planning and management approaches are grounded in the belief that work and personal life should be kept separate, a task impossible for most women today. This makes it very difficult for them to create and sustain a business that acknowledges their business ambition AND empowers them to bring about great relationships and a healthy and balanced lifestyle for themselves and their loved ones.

So how can business planning be tailored to meet the needs of women in business?

Whether you are starting out in business or you are well-established, we encourage you to prioritise business planning in order to ensure a strategic approach to business growth and success.

  • Set aside the time and space to make this happen in your business now.
  • Acknowledge that traditional models of business planning may be a great starting point, but that they may not address your needs as a business woman who also values health, relationships and having a life outside of work.
  • Think outside the square and discover ways to plan your business that relieve stress rather than increase it. Look for tools that empower you to bring all aspects of yourself to the planning process – personal and professional – because the reality is that for women in business the two are intertwined and to be successful in one you must pay attention and care for the other!
  • Get creative in your approach – both to the process of business planning and also to the way you can incorporate the other aspects of your life into your successful business strategy.
  • Take action to implement your strategy so that it comes to life for you.
  • Commit to re-visiting with your business plan on an ongoing basis to ensure.

Business planning is vital to the success of your business, and can also encompass all the aspects of your life.

You do not have to sacrifice your health and relationships to be a successful business owner and entrepreneur. Take action now and plan for your success in business and in life.

When You Need Business Plan Help

Writing a plan for your business is often a challenging experience, and finding business plan help isn’t very easy either. There are many more employees than there are entrepreneurs in the market place, and very few people with the skill and experience to write entrepreneurial plans which produce results. It’s no wonder people looking to start or grow a business have a tough time finding help in this area.

Don’t fret though – help does exist – you just need to do a little digging to find it. Of course everything depends on your needs and budget, so with those in mind, let’s look at the choices you have…

Enroll in a Entrepreneurial Planning Course

Now some of you may be rolling your eyes at this suggestion because you’d rather have someone else write the plan for you. In my opinion though – and it is a strong opinion – no other option can compare with creating your own plan. Even if you do end up hiring someone else to help you write your plan, consider taking a course in company planning so that you understand and can follow what that person is doing. More importantly, you can challenge them.

Several community colleges offer such courses, and you can find some online as well. I would stick to the college programs though, as they are typically taught by people with real-life experience in planning a business. Plus, you get the benefit of studying the process with classmates, and by taking an accredited course, are “forced” to complete assignments which get reviewed by your instructor. I’m not saying that the online courses aren’t great – some of them are. But if you lack knowledge and experience in company planning, you’ll be much more motivated in a class environment.

Visit your Local SBA Office

If you’re in the USA, you have a great resource in Small Business Administration (SBA). This is a non-profit agency with the aim of providing assistance and guidance to entrepreneurs seeking to start new business. Aside from having useful guides and resources on writing an entrepreneurial plan on the SBA site (sba.gov), you can also seek business plan help from a mentor or counselor through your local SBA office. You’ll find detailed instructions on how to find a mentor or counselor, and if you belong to a minority group or are a female entrepreneur, SBA has several programs specifically designed for minorities.

Beyond the help you’ll get for planning your business, know that SBA is also a great resource for learning about various government loan programs available to small businesses.

If you’re not in the USA (e.g., UK, Canada or Australia), there are similar government agencies and programs designed to encourage small business owners. A little bit of research into these will take you a long way to getting smart about planning your business.

Buy Books on How to Write an Entrepreneurs Plan

OK. This is easy to do, but not as easy as it sounds. Thing is, there are so many books available on the subject, but so many of them give “template” sounding advice. One book I will recommend buying and reading is Bankable Business Plans by Edward G. Rogoff. This is one book I can confidently endorse because the author is no-nonsense about the realities of planning for a company and the truth about getting a small business funded. I’m sure there are other fantastic books out there. If you trust me, I would suggest starting with this one. You’ll get smart real fast.

Hire a Consultant or Writer

If you are clear about your business goals, or at least you are sure you will take charge in establishing them, then hiring a consultant or writer is an option to consider. This option is really recommended if what you need is someone who has the talent to put your thoughts onto paper more elegantly than you could, or someone who can challenge your ideas to get you thinking outside the box.

Having said that, it is a more expensive option, and can be really expensive down the road, not merely because of the fees you pay this person. Many individuals would prefer to “buy” a company plan that someone has written for them. Truth is, no one can really understand your business as intimately as you do, unless they are a part of your organization and play a key role in it.ad

So consider this option only if you have the knowledge to create a plan for your company but actually need business plan help to get your plan organized and written persuasively. And only consider it if you can afford it.

A search on the web for writers or consultants specialized in entrepreneurial plan writing will find you some options. You can also find help on freelance sites like elance.com. Make sure you do your research and selection carefully.