Amid all the excitement of starting a business, first-time entrepreneurs sometimes inadvertently overlook key elements of their business plan as they prepare to launch their company. Unwittingly sidestepping seemingly minor yet critical components of a business plan can majorly impact a new company’s trajectory. So, as founders craft their visions into actionable strategies, there are some important things that should not be neglected.
Here, Forbes Coaches Council members share ways entrepreneurs can ensure they don’t ignore pivotal aspects they should be integrating into their business plans. Check out the insights below to learn how to create a business plan that leads to sustained growth for a new venture.
1. The Route To Money
You have a marketable product—great! You have key people in place. That’s wonderful. But how are you going to survive the first 12 months without cash flow? Make sure your business plan proves how you will get customers to “put money on the table.” Unless people are going to pay for what you’re selling, your business plan isn’t a plan for business, and you’re dead in the water. – Mark Hayes, SalesCoachr
2. Customer Touch Points
It’s not that first-time entrepreneurs forget to include customer touch points; it’s more that they’re rarely aware of how necessary it is for mapping a comprehensive customer journey. Understanding your customer touch points—the areas where your customers will go from awareness to advocacy—is how you will come to implicitly understand your customer’s needs and values and how to create a trusted brand. – Aileen Day, Aileen Day Advisory
First-time founders often overlook the significance of their leadership in the business plan. Prioritize regular reflection and intentional planning around self-leadership, influencing others and overall mindset. Neglecting these crucial elements limits the business’s potential, even with the best business plans. – Brian Houp, ReZone Coaching
4. Market Analysis
Don’t overlook market analysis in your business plan. It identifies your target audience, competition and market trends. Ignoring it risks product misalignment, inefficient resource use and lack of competitive strategy. This can lead to low sales and poor performance. Include it for strategic decision-making and competitive advantage. – Farshad Asl, Top Leaders, Inc.
First-time founders must prioritize scalability in their business plan. Neglecting this crucial aspect will hinder growth and inhibit their ability to succeed. Scalability provides founders with opportunities to leverage resources efficiently, meet growing demands, attract investors and stay competitive. When creating a company, founders must be bold in their vision and plan for expansion! – Julie Hruska, Powerful Leaders LLC.
6. A Business Continuity Plan
Including a comprehensive business continuity plan in their business plan is something new entrepreneurs often overlook. Without a solid plan to address potential disruptions, such as your inability to work, natural disasters, cyberattacks or economic downturns, you risk significant financial loss, operational setbacks and even the failure of your venture. – Cathy Lanzalaco, Inspire Careers LLC
7. Alignment And Buy-In
Entrepreneurs may start with their vision and move directly into executing it. Don’t overlook the importance of building alignment—communicating, providing a picture of how things will be and sharing the path you have for getting there. Get others’ perspectives on your plan and generate excitement around your vision. Without it, your plan may lack clarity and the buy-in you need to succeed. – Kathleen Shanley, Statice
8. Financial Projections
Cash flow is often a challenge for new businesses. First-time entrepreneurs often overlook the critical element of the financials in a business plan. The financial projections indicate how healthy and profitable a business is and will be. Failure to have a grasp on financial projections is egregious, as it may prevent you from getting funding in the form of grants, loans or investments from private lenders. – Lori A. Manns, Quality Media Consultant Group LLC
9. The Exit Strategy
Are you looking to build a legacy company for your kids and grandkids, or are you hoping to sell it for millions to a giant competitor? Knowing your end game will guide you in all of the small decisions that you make along the way. – Stacey Ackerman, NavigateAgile
10. The Long-Term Vision
Many founders leave their long-term vision for their business out of their plan. Thus, the plan is merely a one-time document that identifies the “what” of the business when it was written. Without a vision, there’s no gap between now and the future. Without a gap, there’s no plan to close the gap—basically, the plan isn’t actionable and does not help the founder grow the business. – John Knotts, Crosscutter Enterprises
11. Systems To Support Your Ideas
Visionaries typically don’t enjoy the mundanity of creating business systems to support their ideas. The “what” is easy. The “how” can be more challenging. The systems that cause the most pain to create are also key in getting clients to “know, like and trust” you. They want to know you have great ideas and won’t drop the ball. It’s key to consider what you want to learn, partner up on or outsource. – Brenda Niemeyer, WayPoint Coaching Inc.
12. Market Research
It’s so easy to say with energy, passion and certainty why the thing you just invented needs to exist—of course you believe in it; that’s why you’re here. But how do you really build confidence that there’s a customer out there who wants to buy what you’re offering? Kid yourself now, and you’ll regret it later. Do your research and get opinions from people who don’t feel compelled to be polite! – Gary Crotaz, Gary Crotaz Ltd
13. A Contingency Plan
First-time entrepreneurs often overlook including a contingency plan in their business plan. A contingency plan will provide advanced opportunities for entrepreneurs to put in place the next steps should an emergency arise. Without a contingency plan, decisions will need to be made in the midst of a crisis. Having a plan in place allows you to address “what’s now” and “what’s next” before it’s needed. – Dr. Sharon H. Porter, Vision & Purpose LifeStyle Magazine and Media
14. Scenario Planning
Entrepreneurs rely on a lot of “gut instinct.” Some may inadvertently overlook market analysis and the competition. First-time founders should spend most of their time on scenario planning before embarking on the “action plan.” By conducting a rigorous market analysis, they can identify the best opportunities, navigate potential obstacles and create a roadmap for long-term business growth. – Thomas Lim, Technicorum Holdings
15. A Comprehensive Marketing Plan
First-time founders must include a comprehensive marketing plan in their business plan to avoid low customer acquisition and retention rates. A well-crafted marketing plan outlines the target audience, unique selling proposition and promotional and advertising strategies. It helps create brand awareness, attract potential customers and retain existing ones, resulting in higher sales and profitability. – Carrie Anne Yu, Conscious Ignite
16. A Human Capital Management Strategy
A human capital management strategy is important to work through from the very beginning. As the business grows, it is beneficial to have scalable processes in place surrounding recruitment, onboarding, benefits, talent management, training, compliance and more. This allows entrepreneurs to concentrate on the business, knowing there is a people strategy. – Michael Timmes, Insperity
17. Defining Criteria For An Investor
Fledgling founders tend to forget that defining criteria for an investor is as important as getting an investment. When they neglect it, they grab the cheapest money and go for the highest valuation, while the winning strategy is exactly the opposite—focusing on investors who can help, mentor and advise the most. – Alla Adam, Alla Adam Coaching
18. A Definition Of The Target Market
One of the most important things first-time entrepreneurs should not forget to include in their business plan is a clear definition of their target market. Without understanding who to reach with their product or service, they risk spending marketing dollars inefficiently and hindering future growth. – Peter Boolkah, The Transition Guy
19. A Well-Defined Company Culture
First-time entrepreneurs shouldn’t forget to include a well-defined company culture in their business plan. Neglecting to establish a culture that aligns with your values, goals and mission will lead to a lack of direction, poor employee morale and high turnover rates. A healthy culture is the backbone of any organization and will attract and retain top talent while supporting long-term success. – Jonathan H. Westover, Ph.D, Human Capital Innovations, LLC
20. A Premortem Analysis
A premortem analysis is often overlooked in business plans. The exercise involves anticipating potential challenges and developing strategic responses in advance to better prepare the business for adverse situations. It’s a valuable tool that can dramatically increase a startup’s resilience and adaptability. Neglecting this could leave founders unprepared when the company’s survival is threatened. – Andre Shojaie, HumanLearn