The term “business plan” is casually bandied about like a hot potato in the studios of emerging fashion designers. Everyone knows you need one, but still, so few emerging design businesses take the time upfront to properly plan for their success. I use these words intentionally. Success is very rarely accidental. Sure, we all benefit from some good luck from time to time, but real success can only come through hard work and good planning. For this, a business plan is critical.
So, what is a business plan for? Many people think that the primary purpose is to secure funding – i.e. loans from banks or cash from investors. And while this is certainly one important objective, it is not the most important one.
The truth is, the business plan is, above all else, for you: the person or people who will drive the business forward. It is the document that lays out your vision and objectives. It is your roadmap for how you think it should evolve and grow to achieve this vision. It contains the budget and projections for how your business will manage is finances and fund growth. It is the document that helps you decide what to do, and just as importantly, what not to do. It is a living, breathing document that you should use to measure your progress, while still being willing to adapt it to reflect new insights, unexpected competitive threats, and changes in your business environment. In short it is like your company bible – except that this is a bible you can adapt as you go along.
You can also think about the business plan as a tool for communication. Anyone who has set up a new business knows that when you are looking for investors, employees, suppliers, office space, banking services, professional advisors and everything else that you need, you have to tell people about your business and its aims. When you have spent the necessary time in crafting a business plan, you will be able to more clearly articulate what your business is all about. This makes you seem more professional and organised and will enable you to attract the people, support and money that your business needs to succeed. Going through the business planning process will enable you to distill your business down into a short “elevator pitch” of concise points that together provide a good understanding of your business aims in a short period of time. When people understand your business, they will know better if it is something in which they would like to be involved.
Now, if that all makes sense, what then do you need to include in a business plan? Essentially, it should address all of the constituent parts of your business starting from the broadest vision of the business right down to the most minute operational issues of job descriptions and work plans. The first thing to do is create an outline for all of the topics that need to be covered, and then for each of those topics jot down all the ideas and thoughts you already have. If you don’t have a written plan already, then it’s likely that much of your business plan is in your head and so you need to start getting your current thoughts out on paper in a structured way so that you can then go and revisit each of the topics in more detail.