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Tips, Tricks and Tools for Your Business Plan

September 10 2012

Business PlanIf the thought of business planning strikes fear into your heart (or just plain turns your stomach), you're not alone. Most entrepreneurs dread building a business plan. At the same time, it's an invaluable tool that can take your enterprise to the next level. We're going to provide a few tips, tricks, and tools to make the process less daunting.

Tips and Tricks

These are just a few tidbits about business plans that you should keep in mind when you're getting started.

Do I Need a Business Plan?
Yes.

Large or small, new or established, you can benefit from a business plan. The mere act of sitting down as a leadership team, discussing your goals, and putting down in black-and-white your goals can be incredibly valuable.

Be Prepared
If you're building a detailed business plan, there will probably be some financial and other information that you'll need to reference. The process of writing your plan will go much more smoothly if you have this information at your fingertips. So, open up your accounting software, pull your insurance records, and know where to find other key financial data.

Tell the "Story" of Your Business
Did you ever take a journalism class in high school or college? If so, you're familiar with those essential elements of a good story: who, what, where, when, how and why. These are the questions that your business plan should answer.

  • Who is responsible for what?
  • What are your goals and the action items you'll need to complete in order to accomplish them? Sometimes this is where entrepreneurs get stuck. You want to take your business to the next level, but you're not sure what that next level should look like – do I double revenues, triple revenues, quadruple revenues? What will it take to accomplish each of those growth levels? Am I willing to do what it takes to accomplish these aggressive levels or growth or am I looking just to grow slightly, or even stay just slightly ahead of last year?
  • What are the costs/trade-offs of my business plan?
  • Who needs to review it? How will I hold myself accountable for the goals outlined in the business plan?
  • What is the timeline for each of the steps in accomplishing your goals?
  • How will you accomplish your goals?
  • Why are these your objectives? The world has changed – and so have our industry and your customers. It's time for you to look closely (and honestly) at the strengths and weaknesses of your business.

Find a Format That Works for You
Your business plan is a roadmap for the future. As such, it can be as unique as you are. One business plan may only consist of only a few pages of loosely-sketched info. However, a more traditional business plan will probably be about 20 pages long and contain a variety of elements, which will be along the lines of an:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Business Description
  3. Market Strategies
  4. Competitive Analysis
  5. Design and Development Plan
  6. Operations and Management Plan
  7. Financial Factors

Rather than getting too in-depth with each of these here, we're going to recommend a resource from Entrepreneur.com: Elements of a Business PlanElements of a Business Plan. Each resource will suggest different basic business plan elements, although they'll largely cover the same information – for instance, Inc.comInc.com recommends these elements: Executive Summary, Company Overview, Business Offering, Marketing Plan & Analysis, Strategy & Implementation, Management Team, and Financial Projections.

We also really liked the Business Plan Template from the U.S. Small Business AdministrationBusiness Plan Template from the U.S. Small Business Administration. It is a great resource if you need some extra hand-holding, but don't want to reach out to a consultant.

 


 

Focus on Function, Not Form
Your business plan should be professional-looking and neat so that anyone reviewing it can easily grasp the information. However, don't get so caught up on the aesthetics of the document that the purpose and substance of it take a backseat.

The Plan is Just the Beginning
Once you've written your business plan, your work is just beginning. You'll need to follow-through with all the action items in order to meet your goals. Make sure you know who is responsible for what, and check in regularly to track progress. Hold your team accountable! But also be prepared to roll with the punches – in the real world, things rarely work out the way they do on paper.

Finally, be sure to update your plan regularly to reflect changes in the market and in your business.

Tools

There are a variety of tools available to help you build your business plan.

Consultants
There are many excellent consultants in the real estate industry that can help you build a business plan. WAV Group is one example of a consulting firm with significant experience in working with real estate professionals. You can view a full list of consultants in our product directory.

Products
Some companies have created products specifically for real estate professionals looking to build a business plan. One example is the Annual Strategic Plan™ for Agents from Coffee with Krisstina (built by Krisstina Wise of the GoodLife Team). You can view a full list in our product directory.

Other Resources
Here's some recommended reading if you're interested in looking into this topic: