A Business Plan
A business plan is essential to the start of a new business venture. In fact, businesses often fail because of inadequate planning. A good business plan helps those in the organization, especially management, clarify their goals and focus on projects and potential projects. In addition, it provides a framework by which management makes decisions and therefore [s]erves as a basis for discussion with third parties such as shareholders, agencies, banks, [and] investors. Lastly, a good plan provides benchmarks by which all of the stakeholders may measure how well the company is meeting or failing to meet its goals (http://www.planware.org/bizplan.htm). Before writing a business plan, one must have a business strategy that typically includes the following: A Mission Statement A Vision Statement Objectives Specific departmental strategies Goals Implementation of prescribed action steps or a program (Goodale, 2001, p. 74). Mission and Vision Statements. Even though a mission statement is generally brief, it incorporates the companys assessment of itself and its environment and expresses the primary purpose(s) for which the entity has been established. All other components of a business plan must be consistent with the mission statement. Because the mission statement is essentially the starting point for all of the companys subsequent activities, the process for developing it should be thorough and multi-faceted. In order to define its mission, a company must survey its prospective vendors, community members, and customers, as well as its own employees and administration. An effective mission statement must clearly describe the entitys role in the community and align the companys capabilities and the needs of the community. In addition, a mission statement is meaningless if the company lacks the resources to fulfill its stated objectives. It is also irrelevant if the stated mission does not serve the needs of a defined constituency. For example, Chadwick Dental Arts, Inc.s mission statement, Established to provide cosmetic dental surgery to the indigent of Blank County, would be nonsensical if Chadwicks dentists lacked the capability to perform cosmetic dental surgery, if the indigent of Blank County did not highly value cosmetic dental surgery, or if the indigent of Blank County could not afford such services in the first place. The mission statement, therefore, encapsulates what the company is and how it adds value. Even though the mission statement is physically located in the beginning of a business plan, it is really the end product of a detailed self-analysis by all the stakeholders in an organization. In order for an entitys mission statement to have resonance and credibility, the organization it describes must be true to itself and to its constituency. While the mission statement incorporates an organizations present objectives, a vision statement sets forth its image as envisioned at some future point and answers the following questions: What type of company will this be? What markets will it serve? What will be the geographic scope? Who will be the target customers? What will be the key products and services? How big will the company be? What will revenues be? How many employees will there be? (http://www.onepagebusinessplan.com/vision_statements.html.) As Goodale indicates, an entity must usually envision some sustainable growth in its future to compete effectively in its given marketplace. It should be noted that some entities may strive to achieve a monopoly in a market niche (i.e., serve the interests of a particular market, without major competitors, where growth may not be as great a concern). Objectives and Strategies. Stating what a business wants to achieve in the near term, objectives are connected to the expectations and requirements of the major stakeholders, including the employees, the managers, and the shareholders. Objectives are distinguished from goals, which are usually quantitative expressions of the companys expectations. Objectives parallel the purposes for which the company or division was established in the first place. A description of objectives would include statements of expected company growth, profitability, markets, and technology. Strongly tied to its objectives, a companys values reflect its philosophy or approach to its relationships with its customers, competitors, community, and society. Corporate responsibility, integrity, compassion and honesty are core values that a company will attempt to align with its mission statement, objectives, goals, and strategies. Strategies are the plans by which a company can remain true to its mission, achieve its objectives, and maintain its values. The specific strategies developed by the company are based on its own assessments of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, also known as a SWOT analysis. Whereas strengths and weaknesses are part of the companys internal structure, opportunities and threats represent circumstances external to the company. Stated in general terms, a company wants to build upon or develop its strengths, to minimize its weaknesses, to exploit its opportunities, and to avoid or diminish threats. Logically then, a companys assessment of its strengths and weaknesses shapes its conclusions about whether external circumstances are a threat or an opportunity. Because strategies are based upon a companys assessment of its resources and of the marketplace in which it is participating, financial projections are an important part of strategic planning. Finally, we should note that strategies can be created for the entity as a whole or for specific departments or projects. Goals and Their Implementation. Having identified its product or service; having assessed its strengths, weaknesses, and resources; and having evaluated its competition and the environment in which it is competing, an entity then develops goals. It is important that goal setting be realistic, in view of the companys resources, its competition, and the marketplace in which it is competing, and it must be consistent with the companys mission statement. Like the budgeting process, goal setting may also provide quantitative expectations for overall company performance and achievement (note that goals are generally set at twelve-month intervals). After a company has developed a strategy meeting its goals and objectives, it establishes a plan of action or devises a series of steps or tactics, so that such goals and strategies can be reached. These are also referred to as implementation plans. While the mission statement, corporate goals and objectives, and corporate values are often described in general terms, an action program is specific. The plan of action should describe in detail the whos, whats, whens, and hows of executing company strategy. Drafting business plans is an art. Therefore, before beginning the draft, you should follow these steps: Clearly define the target audience Determine its requirements in relation to the contents and levels of detail Map out the plans structure (contents page) Decide on the likely length of the plan Identify all the main issues to be addressed (http://www.planware.org/bizplan.htm) Keep in mind that business plans are the basis for subsequent management action. They often act as the blueprint for market research, product development, and team-building. Lecture and Research Update Bibliography About.com (2004). How to Draft a Mission Statement. Retrieved on October 1, 2004, from http://management.about.com/library/howto/ht_stmt.htm Goodale, M. (2001). Developing a Solid Business Plan. Civil Engineering, 71(11), 74-75. Invest-Tech Limited (1999-2003). Insights into Business Planning. Retrieved on October 2, 2004, from http://www.planware.org/insights.htm Invest-Tech Limited (1999-2003). Writing a Business Plan. Retrieved on October 2, 2004, from http://www.planware.org/bizplan.htm Invest-Tech Limited (1999-2003). Writing a Great Vision Statement. Retrieved October 1, 2004, from http://www.onepagebusinessplan.com/vision_statements.html Penner, S. (2004). Introduction to Health Care Economics & Financial Management: Fundamental Concepts with Practical Applications. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkens. Ch. 12, pp. 227-233.