Business Planning


Creating a business plan is the most important aspect of starting a business. It is defined as a document that establishes the mission, goals and objectives of your enterprise. In detail, it explains how you intend to accomplish your goals and objectives. Essentially, the plan will become your road map to success. We want to thank Steve Windhaus for helping us with this chapter. His expertise is sure to guide you in the right direction in preparing your plan.

Anyone that has visited Kelly Poelker’s weekly VA chat knows that one of the first questions she asks VAs at any level (i.e., aspiring, new, or veteran) is, “Have you done a business plan ?” It amazes me the number of times the answer is, “No, do I need one?” You most certainly do! You wouldn’t start out on a family trip across the country without a map of how to get there, would you? Your business is no different. How can you know how you’re going to achieve your business goals and objectives if you haven’t established them? How can you know how to reach potential clients, what your operation truly requires and how much cash is required if you haven’t established who those potential clients are? To be successful in any business you have to know what you want to do, how you’re going to do it, and how you’re going to get there. It is not a secret that more than half the businesses today fail due to the lack of a business plan —don’t become a statistic! Remember, poor planning produces poor results.

There seems to be a common misconception that because it’s a “small business,” and you’re not looking for financing, that you don’t need a business plan. We talk to VAs regularly who are struggling to get clients, are trying to figure out what services to offer, and who are trying to figure out how to market to clients. These VAs have been in business for several months (sometimes years), they have their name, their website, a vision, and a huge desire to succeed—all key components of a business, but all missing one important factor—a solid business plan. We get carried away with getting that first client when it only takes a short time to put a plan together that will save you a great deal of time down the road. The amount of time required to develop the plan depends on the depth of research you want to invest in it. Regardless of the time required, put a plan together that is sure to get you good results. When you do, it will be much easier to find clients, keep them, and continually grow your business.

The lack of a plan can leave you feeling unorganized and unsettled. We highly recommend taking this step. Some may choose just to write a very informal plan, which includes just the basics, while others will be more elaborate. Either one is fine. Just be sure to do one, including the marketing, operations and financial elements of your business. You will see how motivating it is to write down all your hopes and dreams for your business. When we keep them in our heads, we have a hard time trying to keep track. On paper they have substance, and become better to evaluate.

Visit your plan often. We must regularly account for changes in the economy, competition, strategies, and market conditions while adjusting current strategies.

What goes into the plan?

The following information is provided to help you get started. Hopefully, it should provide you with the basics that should be developed and found in any business plan . The main components of a business plan are:

1. Cover Sheet

This is the first page of the plan and should contain the following:

  • Company name, address, phone number, fax number, and web address.
  • Company logo, if available.
  • Your name and title.
  • Date the document was drafted or revised.

2. Table of Contents

Every business plan should have a table of contents, especially when reviewing a hard copy, or when submitting it for review by another individual.

3. Company Overview

Write three or four paragraphs briefly describing the nature of your company and services. Include the legal business structure, location, general geographic area served, a general description of services offered, and something outstanding about your business – what makes it stand out from the competition.

4. Mission Statement

The mission statement describes the nature and philosophy of your business. It summarizes what you want your business to become. Keep the statement short and concise to 50 words or less.

5. Goals

Goals expand on your mission statement. I think it’s extremely important to write down the goals for your business – where you want to be six months from now, two years from now, etc. Expand on the mission statement to better define the marketing, operational and financial goals of your company. Some examples include:

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