If you're starting a business, you're going to need a sound plan that outlines each aspect of your enterprise. First, you must consider who is going to create your plan. You have two basic options—you can hire an expert to write it or you can develop your own.

If you decide to write the plan yourself, you'll find numerous websites that provide free outlines and guidance. Taking on the job yourself can be intimidating, especially if you've never written a plan before. This document is, after all, the most important paper you'll possess when it comes to raising money for your new business, understanding all of the intricacies involved in creating and running your company and planning for its future growth.

Ask friends who already run successful businesses if you can see their plans or if they will take a look at yours. Also check with your local Chamber of Commerce for any information they may have relating to planning a new business. When hiring a company be sure to do your research. Ask for references, examples of prior work and check out the owners' credentials. Again, query friends and relatives to see if they have worked with a business planner who they can recommend.

Consider what a business plan is designed to do. It has numerous applications, with some of the most important being:

  • It's a personal document that clearly outlines the progression of the creation and implementation of your business.
  • It defines your goals for yourself, your employees and your suppliers.
  • It illustrates how you will achieve your goals.
  • It serves as an anchor, which is especially useful when times get chaotic and unanticipated problems arise.
  • It is a problem-solving document that you can continue to develop as concerns, challenges and changes evolve.
  • It defines your market, product and clientele.
  • It's your initial financial document that will show loan providers and investors that you are on solid economic footing, making you less of a money risk.

In order to achieve the above, your business plan should provide the following information:

  • Define and describe your business and your store's image.
  • Determine what you want and need in a storefront.
  • Describe the day-to-day operation and any weekly or monthly benchmarks or tasks.
  • Clearly define your marketplace and delineate marketing strategy.
  • Determine sales potential, including a typical customer profile.
  • Discuss how you will attract customers.
  • Indicate pricing and customer service policies.
  • Illustrate how you will advertise your business.
  • Determine how you will work with wholesalers/suppliers.
  • Spell out how much inventory you anticipate stocking and how quickly it will turn over.
  • Plan on how invoicing, accounting, ordering, display creation and other behind the scenes jobs will be done.
  • Define your budget including:
    • Start-up Costs.
    • Monthly Expenses.
    • Anticipated sales.
    • Accounting measures.
    • Stock control.
    • Receipts.
    • Sales.
    • Disbursements.
    • Break-Even point also known as your 'nut'.

Once you've created your plan and determined that it is sound, you're ready to begin implementing it. It will take time to perform the necessary research, write the document and successfully present your plan. You must also be prepared to rewrite your plan due to new information, developing trends and changes in the marketplace.

Remember that a business plan is as specific and grounded as it can be in a business world that is constantly changing. In Part II of this article, we'll provide more detail concerning what should be covered in your plan.