By Kelly Robertson—Once you decide to start a new business, you'll find it's a lot easier to stay on track with the "blueprint" you create. Originally, I called my plan, "The Working Plan" which basically answered the Who, What, Where, When and Why of my business. Start with something simple to make planning easy — a "guide" to help you process your thoughts and organize your research efforts.
Here are the main topics that I used to set my own personal outline in motion for LoanSigner101 over three years ago. P.S. I didn't have a business name yet — that came to fruition after I wrote my working plan.
- Mission Statement: You have to start with a Mission Statement to keep you on track. Ask yourself, What is the goal of my business and what purpose does it serve?
- Objective: What's the outcome of your business as a result of your Mission Statement? My MS was: My new business will gross enough money its first year to cover every cost outgoing. I'll at least break even and I'll make a positive difference in our industry.
- Management: Who will run the business... just me? Who else can assist me (other notary mentors for example). Will I need subject-matter experts?
- Service: What Service or Services will I offer? Note: For me, this changed eventually to Service/Products. Once I added products, I had to decide how much I needed in my inventory plus, how much it was going to cost me, i.e., capital, to purchase the product, etc. So you may find another category you need to consider in your plan.
- Customer: Who are my customers and where are they?
- Competition: Who are my competitors and where are they located? What are their prices and how can I do better?
- Marketing: How will I market my business and how much money will I need for advertising? How much money should I budget for marketing? Will I need items beyond business cards, such as brochures, stationary, fliers, etc.?
- Office Set-Up: What will my daily tasks be that will result in the sale of my Services (and later I added Product) and what supplies or equipment will I need to accomplish this? What bookkeeping system will be best? Can I use what came on my computer or come up with something on my own by making a custom Excel spread sheet? Where will I work from — home office or outside office?
- Finances: How much money will I need for:
- My Income!
- Banking Fees
- Business Permits/Licenses
- Business Insurance
- Office Supplies
- Office Equipment
- Office Furniture
- Printing/Marketing Materials
- Telephone/Cell Phone
- Networking: Who needs to know about my business and why? Will the contacts I already know help me or do they know anyone that can help me with my new venture? Should I purchase a contact management system like MS Office or Outlook or is what's already installed on my computer going to be enough?
- Sales: How many clients do I need to support myself? How many do I want and what number can I manage? Note: I suggest you start by evaluating where you want to be in your "sales" by giving yourself goals at the 3 month mark, then in 6 months and so on. This way, you can determine if your marketing plan is working.
- Start Date: Set a start date goal and Go For It!
When it comes to projects and decisions, I stick with what works for me: Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS). When you first develop your plan, don't worry about what you may perceive as "imaginary figures and statistics" — they will soon become real. I consider my business plan "a living document" and review and edit it at least quarterly. This helps me determine what's working, what's not working and what I need to try next.
For example, when I first started up LoanSigner101, I really didn't think I needed a formal accounting software since I didn't project much money going out or coming in my first year. Once I did my tax return for the first year of business, I realized that investing in a good software system geared to small business would not only assist me in keeping track of my Account Receivable / Accounts Payable, but it would definitely help make tax time a lot easier. The software also helped me get my expenses right in front of my face and as a result, I've reconsidered my spending habits and how much I charge for Services and Products. It would have been much better to purchase professional accounting software in the beginning!
So don't panic, but get your business plan outline going. It will be the only way for you to truly build a solid foundation under your home-based business. For assistance in writing your business plan, check out all these great free resources available on line at these sites:
California specific sites: