What Makes A Good Business Plan And Why Do I Need One?

A strong business plan is essential for anyone looking to set up a business. A working business plan will prove your most used tool when it comes to building up your business, therefore it is essential to get it right from the word go. A business plan is a written document that clearly explains to the reader what the business is, what its objectives are, the strategy behind the business, the market it is involved in and its financial forecasts. A good plan can have many different functions from securing external funding to monitoring success or failure within the business. In general the most common function of the business plan is to act as a guide for a new business owner to follow when just starting out.

A business plan is essential for all businesses regardless of size, and once one has been written it is also important to maintain and update said plan. That being said, it is important to realize that whilst writing a detailed plan is useful and a good foundation for any successful business, it will not necessarily make the business a success or guard you from all disasters. If you keep up to date with business plan it will prove a really useful tool throughout the lifespan of your business. However, if you grossly over exaggerate profit margins or your budget then your business plan could also lead to failure. Stick to the figures and be realistic and your plan should hold you in good stead in the turbulent business market.

A lot of resources nowadays provide ready-made plans for specific businesses and whilst this is handy, most business owners will recommend that you write the plan yourself. This is because writing a plan for your business actually forces you to focus on what you want from your business and how to achieve your goals. When looking back on your initial plan for reference, you shouldn’t necessarily assume that your initial assumptions and predictions will be correct, they are just that: predictions. You should be able to go back to your plan on a regular basis and view it and change it to relate to the actual current situation.

It may seem like a daunting and laborious task to write an entire plan from scratch, but in actual fact once done it can be incredibly useful. In the beginning stages of your business, your plan will help to define and focus your objective by using accurate figures and details. Once established and looking to expand, you can then use your business plan as a selling tool to get more funding from external sources such as investors and the bank. As you are developing your business, your plan will help to highlight any gaps or weaknesses in the planning process. You can then address these issues and hopefully avoid any disasters. Finally, you can also use your plan to get advice from other experts within your field. By having a detailed business plan to hand you look professional and can present the information in an organized and clear manner.

In order to create a strong working business plan you need to place reasonable limits on long-term projections. For the time being, focus on short-term objectives and change and modify the plan as you go along. Too many long-term plans become pointless as they extend too far into the future. Don’t be too optimistic, instead stick to being realistic. Over optimism will be your downfall in the end and is only setting you up for a fall. When dealing with timelines, sales and profits err on the side of conservatism as this will protect your business in the long-run. Make sure your business plan is written in simple, clear language that can be understood by all in a bid to appeal to a wider audience and keep things clear.

Catering Company Business Plans – Why You Need One for Your Catering Startup

Are you wondering if you really need a business plan for your catering business? Perhaps you are thinking that as you only plan on starting a relatively small business it won’t really be necessary. Many people think like this and, of course, many people end up failing in their first year of business.

We highly recommend that you avoid becoming yet another business that underestimated costs or found that the market wasn’t ready for what they had to offer. Below we have outlined ten reasons why you must prepare a catering company business plan. We explain how if you do take the time to prepare a plan you will be increasing your chances of being successful with your catering startup.

1) Start in the Right Direction

Many entrepreneurs think that they can start out without doing a lot of planning and research. They feel that they can always pick up a feel for the business as they go. However, some of the early decisions that you make in the life of your business can be difficult to reverse at a later date. You need to have a clear path set out ahead of you so that you can make the right decisions about how to set up the business right from the start.

2) Reinforce Your Ideas

As you slowly get ideas about the catering company that you want to start you will find that these thoughts start floating around in your head. What you imagine yourself doing is often very different from what you are able to do realistically. Nothing is impossible but you just need to work out how to get there.

By putting your ideas down on paper you will be clarifying them in your mind. As you write you will find that you do additional brainstorming. You may get new ideas about what you want to do with your business and you may decide that some of the ideas that you had initially are not really feasible.

3) Figure Out How to Do It

Every entrepreneur has a very idealistic image in their mind of the kind of business that they want. Getting to that point is a process though and you need to work out a path to get there.

One great way to figure out how you will proceed is to first write down what you want to do. Next, write down as many questions as you can about how you are actually going to do it. These will include questions like ‘Will I do on-site or off-site catering?’, ‘How will I get access to kitchen facilities?’ or ‘How many catering jobs will I need to land each month to break even?’. As you slowly work out the answers to the problems that you come across you can write them down in the appropriate sections of your business plan.

4) Know Your Startup Requirements

When you prepare a business plan you will get an accurate idea of exactly what is needed before you launch the company. You will need to consider all of the things that you will need to pay for prior to opening such as catering equipment, initial advertising and so on. When you have calculated the total cost you will then know exactly how much money you need and can look at where this funding will come from.

5) Increase Personal Productivity

You have to be organized when you start a business. Rather than writing things down on loose scraps of paper and hoping for the best you need to have somewhere to compile all of the important data that you collect. A business plan is ideal for this purpose. If you store the business plan as a document on your PC you can simply add new information as you come across it. If you have done your research and have all of you information stored in one convenient location you will be more organized throughout your business launch and you will avoid a lot of unnecessary headaches.

6) Prove the Viability of Your Idea to Others

A business plan is a great way to prove to yourself that your ideas are viable and that the catering company that you are proposing can thrive and make a profit. You will also need a plan in order to prove to other people that the business model that you have in mind is financially sound. Think of your business plan as being like a resume that you can hand out to people who need information about your business. You can always leave out sections that are not relevant to the reader in question.

There are many people who may wish to view your business plan and you should keep them in mind as you put it together. If you are seeking funding then you may have to show the plan to prospective lenders or equity investors. As a caterer you will certainly have to comply with local health and hygiene requirements and these local authorities may expect to see a section in your plan relating to these areas. You may even need to show your business plan to the owner of any kitchen premises that you hope to lease before they agree to sign an agreement with you.

7) Set Goals and Objectives

A business plan is like a road map to success. Your goals are the destinations that you are aiming to get to. They should be fairly realistic and achievable but should also push you to work hard to reach them. You may set financial goals that set out what kind of gross or net monthly income you intend to be earning after your first year. Other goals could also refer to other metrics such as average food cost percentages on catering jobs for example.

8) Identify Weaknesses and Strengths

It is important to assess your strengths and weaknesses and how they will affect you when it comes to competing with the established players in your local catering industry. You may bring competitive advantages to the business such as catering experience or local food and hospitality industry connections. You may also identify personal weaknesses that you can work on improving or weaknesses that your company will face when compared to your better established competitors.

9) Track Your Progress

A business plan should not be forgotten about once the catering business has launched. Refer to the plan regularly to see if you are on track to hit the goals that you set out. Make changes to the plan as you go so that you always have a plan in place for your business going forward at least two or three years.

10) Make Selling Out a Breeze

Many caterers end up selling their businesses if they retire or move on to other projects. A business plan that is up to date can really help when it comes to valuing your business for a potential sale. If your business offers a buyer a blueprint for managing the business and it offers solid proof that the business is making a profit then it could really help you to seal a deal at a favorable price.

Top 5 Ingredients of Successful Business Plans

Everyone has prepared a business plan. Well, should that read, everyone should have prepared a business plan? My thinking is that these tend only to be prepared when they are needed, rather than as a useful business tool for all senior management. My top five ingredients are:

1. Understand what a business plan is;

2. Understand what you intend to use it for;

3. Identify and implement the critical steps to achieving a successful business plan;

4. Understand what needs to be included in the plan;

5. Be aware of gaps or weaknesses in your plan.

What is a business plan?

A business plan sets out the method for running a specific activity over a specific future period.

Why are business plans needed?

Business plans are needed essentially for the four following reasons:

1. A formal, explicit document of the planning process;

2. A request for finances;

3. A framework for approval;

4. A tool for operational business management.

What are the critical steps needed to achieve a successful business plan?

This may come as a surprise to my fellow business consultants, but producing a successful business plan is not as difficult as people often think, so long as they follow a logical sequence. Here is my considered view as to the critical steps.

1. Understand what you are planning and why;

2. Define the activities of your organisation;

3. Outline the current position of the business;

4. Review and discuss the external market conditions, undertake and understand a competitive analysis, and define your market positioning;

5. Define your core objectives;

6. Prepare and articulate the strategy to attain and meet the objectives;

7. Identify and review risks and opportunities;

8. Prepare a strategy to deal with risks and exploit opportunities;

9. Refine the strategies into operational plans;

10. Prepare financial forecasts including revenues, costs, cash-flow, capital expenditure and assumptions adopted;

11. Finalise the plan;

12. Get it approved;

13. Use it;

14. Review it regularly and update as appropriate.

What should be included in the business plan?

Without being too prescriptive, there are certain necessary elements which need to be included. Such elements are:

· Preliminaries – such as contents, contacts and definitions;

· An executive summary;

· A description of the business;

· A review of the market, the competition and market positioning;

· The vision, mission and objectives;

· The corporate strategy;

· The plan for developing the products and services;

· Financial projections;

· An outline of the risks and opportunities;

· A conclusion.

Understand gaps and weaknesses within the plan.

Any casual viewer of the BBC programme, Dragons Den will be aware of how easy it is for weaknesses or gaps to be identified. Depending upon the purpose of the plan, this may, or may not, prove to be critical. It is often easier to recognise such weaknesses and gaps, and be prepared to deal with them, either by noting them in the plan itself, or having appropriate answers available should the need arise.

Who should prepare the plan?

As a business consultant, this may sound like heresy, but I believe that any plan should be produced by the senior management of the organisation. That is not to say that the consultant does not have a role to play in its preparation. He does. Senior management should prepare the plan as they will then be able to present and discuss it, demonstrating to their audience that they fully understand their business and market. I believe that the consultant’s role is to help facilitate the preparation of the plan, the consultant can help undertake the necessary research, and can cast a critical and impartial eye over the plan.