Saturday, March 22, 2008

After the S.W.O.T...

Start Figuring Out Your Business Plan!

The best thing to do before you sit down and start writing of course, is to have a look at a few ideas online. The most important page to consider at this stage is the Contents Page.

To be honest, the most practical templates are the least complicated ones. As you go through your own plan, you will find that you need to add in relevant chapters and subchapter headings; then all you need do is check back with those listed below. Many of the online tools (found on websites like AIB) are helpful in the short term but the number of subheadings can look confusing (just a bit too academic!) for some entrepreneurs...

Some really helpful sources for a good, decent business plan template:
County & City Enterprise Boards - in Ireland, each county has its own local Enterprise Board - a support and development agency, run by small dedicated teams of business advisors. You can find your local agency online and just click the Downloads tab for a copy of their recommended business plan template.

I would recommend getting in contact with your local Enterprise Board anyway, for real, practical, genuine advice on how to start up a new business idea.

Enterprise Ireland - businesses who consider themselves having the potential to do huge international trade - millions of turnover in just a few short years (wouldn't that be nice for all of us!!) - can contact Enterprise Ireland. Their business plan template is reasonably straight forward, and the rest of their inforamation can be found on their extensive website.

High Potential Start Up businesses (H.P.S.U. for short) are the core target for Enterprise Ireland, a much larger organisation than a 4 or 5 person team at your local Enterprise Board. This can have advantages and disadvantages of course. It takes a long time to develop a good relationship with your "Development Advisor" which is assigned to you if you are HPSU material. When you do, they can open a lot of doors for you.

If you are hoping to start a local, service based business, then the team at Enterprise Ireland will probably direct you toward your local County Enterprise Board.

Of course, no Irish based Business Start Up advice column would be complete without mentioning Brian O'Kane - source of much knowledge on the subject and author of - amongst other things - Starting Your Own Business: A Workbook, published by Oak Tree Press. Brian has uploaded another template for writing a business plan, which isn't bad at all!

There are others out there, all you have to do is pop a search into Google. Dublin Institute of Technology have one, for example.

If I can share any advice with you it's this: writing a business plan is not rocket science! Anyone can do it, believe me. The super-dooper free software out there which you have to download for it to write it for all gets a bit much.

The truth is, all you have to do is:
  • Open a Word document.
  • Write 9 or 10 bullet points on your own Contents page.
  • Page Break.
  • On the first page, write Introduction.
  • Page Break (I mean it! Write no content the first time you sit down at your computer).
  • Next heading: Executive Summary (leave this until last to write, since it's the "best bits" from the rest of the plan!).
  • Page Break.
  • Company Description...
  • Page break....
You get the idea! Like I said, pick the best bits from all the templates you peruse, the most suitable ones for your business, then just open up the Word Doc! It really is that easy to start. Then save, close, go make lunch/supper, whatever tickles your fancy. The worst thing you could do is get bogged down and go stale on good ideas too quickly! Just come back to it when you're ready.

Good luck!

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