5 Tips for Writing a Solid Business Plan
There’s never a “perfect” time to make a career switch or become a small biz owner. But hey, that also means there’s never a wrong time to do it, right? If you’ve been thinking about starting your own side hustle or full-time hustle, there’s no time like now. Since this kind of leap definitely requires a solid business plan, we reached out to Lauren McGoodwin, the founder and CEO of Career Contessa, a super smart platform that offers women one-on-one career counseling sessions with experts in various fields, many of whom run their own businesses. Read on for McGoodwin’s bright answers to our toughest Q’s, along with her go-to resources for drafting a plan that’ll impress and set you up for success.
1.Set super clear goals for yourself. “When I first launched Career Contessa, I was still working full-time, and it was very much a side project,” McGoodwin tells us. “That period was an experimental phase for me, so carving out a real business plan for the next phase was key. If you take anything away from my advice, let it be this: To write a killer plan, you need to get more specific than you’re probably expecting.”
When we asked her exactly how specific you should think about being, McGoodwin told us that not only should you know your goals before you even start writing the plan itself, “but also outline the clear, actionable ways you plan to accomplish them.” She says that these goals are probably different from the ones that you had when starting your side project, because what you’re about to do isn’t the same thing. “I’m a big believer in setting SMART goals for yourself and your business before you even hit the business-plan phase. You should schedule regular periods to check back in on those goals and adapt them,” she wisely advises.
2.Connect with people who have been there and done that. “I recommend taking one more step to prepare yourself before you ever start writing your plan: an informational interview and research phase,” McGoodwin says. “There are plenty of people out there who have turned their side hustles into full-time businesses, and most of them love sharing how they did it. Chances are your network, friends, and family know someone who launched their own business.”
Not sure how to go about connecting in a genuine way? McGoodwin dishes the deets: “Reach out to them for a coffee date or phone call. Next, do some research on your competition, and know who your direct competitors will be. What other companies are doing what you’re doing or something similar? Can you talk to someone working there?” She let us know you should set as many meetings as you can. “It may sound time-consuming, but hey, if you aren’t ready to put some serious work in, you shouldn’t be launching your own business, right?” Totally true.
3.Don’t reinvent the wheel. McGoodwin shared some pretty awesome insights with us. “When it comes to actually writing a business plan, you should know that *millions* of people have done it before you. The great thing about that (and the digital age) is that you can read sample business plans and download templates online for free. Why start from scratch when experts are there to help you?”
McGoodwin gave us a great list of sites to scope out too, telling us that she loves this comprehensive business plan guide from Entrepreneur and Strategyzer’s Business Model Canvas, which you can use in your planning phase. Boom!
4.You’ve got to talk money to make money. It’s no secret that chatting about money can be a bit awkward, and McGoodwin agrees. “Probably the hardest part of creating a successful business plan is dealing with your finances realistically — we’re all raised to never talk about money with strangers. But when you decide to make the leap and start your own business, you’re going to have to give up that rule of etiquette.” She tells us that a successful business plan means “knowing exactly how much money you need and, more importantly, where that money is going to come from.” She says to ask yourself: “Will I offer services or products? Both? How will I market my business and make sales? What’s my overall budget, and how about those fixed versus variable costs each month?”
Number crunching is also ultra-critical if you’re going to the bank for a loan or trying to raise investment dollars. McGoodwin says you should be ready to easily talk about why your business is worth investing in and how you’re going to make money. “Practice writing your financial plan and present it to your family or friends,” she offers. “Make them ask the hard questions. That way, when you get ready to write those portions of your business plan, you’ll know exactly how to explain yourself.”
5.Work smarter, not harder. McGoodwin explains that staying healthy and maintaining balance is a key part in thinking about your business and should be top of mind when writing your plan. “When writing your business plan, you really need to assess what’s working and what isn’t,” she notes. “It’s easy when you’re side hustling to get too close to your work. But emotion can’t play a part in this. If something you love doing is a flop in terms of growing your business, you have to be prepared to let it go. It’ll save you time, money, and, ultimately, heartache.”
She also reminds us that the 80/20 rule, or Pareto Principle, should stay top of mind. “Study after study shows that when you work all the time you’re not necessarily producing quality work. It sounds complicated, but actually, it’s pretty simple: 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of the work you put in (and vice versa).” McGoodwin’s advice? Learn how to recognize what makes up your 20 percent and own it.
Are you hoping to turn your side hustle into a bona fide biz in 2017? Tweet us the deets @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)
It can be intimidating to step out on your own and build a business from the ground up. As part of our collaboration with Office Depot, we're talking with Selfmade alum and solopreneur Colette Lawrence, the faith-based motivator and relationship builder behind The M.E.E. Movement, about ways in which women in business can find success.
B + C: How did you know M.E.E. Movement was your business to start?
The M.E.E Movement represents motivation, empowerment, and encouragement for women. It is what represents me. I did not know at first that it was my business to start, but then the thought of monetizing what I loved came to me. It scared me, however. I registered the business in July 2020 and have been slowly building my wings since.
B + C: What's one strategy that's helped you start your business?
Thinking through and researching what the requirements are to start my business, and then asking questions of people who are in the business. Not all advice worked; however, it helped me to figure out what I needed to do and not to do.
B + C: Did you always know life coaching would be your entrepreneurial path?
(Smiles) No, I did not. I 'stumbled" on it. I knew that people were always coming to me for advice and I found that I loved having conversations with them, especially with women, young and old.
B + C: What was your most valuable takeaway from Selfmade?
My most valuable takeaway was the first day of training: Get out of your own way. There were a lot of great moments and important takeaways from every presenter. However, getting out of my own way, pushing past doubts, was for me my most valuable takeaway. Doing something that I had never done before took courage. If I do not focus on what is happening with me mentally then I cannot deliver to my clients successfully.
B + C: What's one piece of advice you would give to female entrepreneurs on the brink of starting?
Get out of your head. You have something to offer. You have what you need to succeed so go ahead and do it.
B + C: How do you stay motivated?
I stay motivated by listening to music and listening to motivational speakers, and sometimes someone will just reach out and talk about the impact that I made in their life. That adds the extra juice or sauce I need to pummel through the day.
B + C: What's your best organizational tip?
Keep a diary and journal. It's the best way for me to keep organized and it also provides a source motivation as I record not only my "losses" but my wins as well.
B + C: Who inspires you in the entrepreneurial space?
Shirley Toliver – She motivates and empowers and makes me always want to show up.
B + C: What has receiving the Office Depot scholarship to Selfmade done to help you start or grow your business?
The scholarship was a blessing in that all the areas that were covered offered valuable information that I needed, from social media to HR. As a new business owner, I needed to know this to increase my own personal awareness in what it takes to run a successful business. The candidness of the presenters made it easy to see myself in their shoes and helped me to realize that I can also get there.
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Head to Office Depot's Selfmade page to check out even more amazing business resources (and discounts!) to help you accomplish more on your entrepreneurial journey. These offers are available for a limited time only, so be sure to take advantage of all this goodness while supplies last. Want to join the next Selfmade cohort this summer? Check out all of the scholarship details right here.