A few months ago I heard a holistic practitioner arguing that a business plan is a waste of time. If you don’t need to make money from your business, that’s probably true. But, if you need to earn a living, business planning is one of the most essential ingredients for your success. A business plan outlines what clients and customers want, and how your business will meet those needs in a way that enables you to earn a living. If you can’t answer those questions for yourself, your business is far more likely to fail.
Most holistic businesses are small shops – you’re either a sole proprietorship or working with just a few staff members. Such small operations don’t need 100-age business plans, but they do need a plan that covers the basics. This article distills the essential ingredients that you’ll need to answer for your holistic business plan. Depending on the nature of your business, you should be able to answer the following questions in 2-5 pages.
Holistic Business Plan Outline
This is a several paragraph summary of all of the elements of your business plan. This may be first in a presentation of a business plan, but it will be the last part of the plan you write. Finish all of the other sections, then summarize the most important points from each in the executive summary. It will give you a chance to crystalize your plan in your mind into its most essential elements.
In this section, you will explore who your customers are, and what needs they have. In order for a business to be successful, it must provide something customers need or want. Who are your customers? How do you know what they want/need? What aspect of that need do your services/products satisfy? We’ve been working on this section together in chapters 1 and 2 of our Adventure, here is where you’ll analyze your customers (your target market) and identify your personal market niche.
Products and Services
For most small business owners, this is the easiest section to fill out: what products and services does your business provide? The most important part of the description is how your products and services meet the needs of your customers you identified in the previous section.
Now it’s time to look at what other businesses in your service area provide products/services that address the same customer need. Competitors can be other people, or even other ways of addressing the customer need/want. You need to understand what your competition is, and why your business provides the better solution for the members of your personal market niche. You need to be convinced yourself that you have what those in your market niche are seeking, if you expect them to believe the same thing about you.
Your marketing strategy outlines how you will reach out to the members of your market niche and tell them about your products/services. Holistic businesses often seem to have the hardest time with this area; we don’t want to appear to “pushy” or “money grubbing.” But we are all in a helping profession. If your customers can’t find you, you can’t help them! Not only are you not fulfilling your personal mission, your business can’t grow. This section is continually evolving and changing as we learn new ways to reach out to our market niche, and measure the effectiveness of our efforts. We’ll also spend most of our 52-week adventure exploring marketing strategies for holistic businesses – we’ll be sharing ideas with you and you can share ideas with each other.
Company Structure & Operations Procedures
Imagine you had to hire someone to take over your business while you took a leave of absence. What would they need to know about how it works? In this section you’ll outline how your business is structured. Just a few of the questions you’ll want to look at include:
- Who owns your business?
- What are your qualifications?
- Do you have employees?
- What are their qualifications?
- Do you have an office?
- What supplies do you need?
- Do you have physical or online products for sale? How do your track your inventory?
- What are your hours?
- How to you schedule clients/customers?
- How to you track your clients’ history?
- What kind of follow-up do you have in place to keep your clients/customers engaged?
- How do you do keep track of bookkeeping?
- Who’s responsible for marketing efforts?
Another critical piece of the puzzle for business success or failure, you must have a budget forecast that outlines how much your business needs to make in order for you to be able to operate it successfully. As a small business owner, you should not only be making enough to pay yourself a salary, but making a profit that you can use to invest in growing your business or in other future endeavors. Your financial plan needs to include in detail:
- How much do you charge for products/services?
- How much does it cost you to produce products/services
- How much do you need to spend on operations (Office space? Marketing? Bookkeeping? Taxes? etc.)
- Based on how much you charge for services vs. how much they cost to produce, how much do you need to sell in order to break even? To make a profit?
- If you aren’t selling that much now, how long will it take for you to reach that amount of sales? How much extra would you need to spending on marketing, etc. to reach your goals?
- If you aren’t reaching your goals, what will you do?
If you can answer these questions for your own business, your chances for success increase exponentially. Depending on where you are in your process and how much information you need to gather, writing a business plan can take a few hours, a weekend or a month. You may want to go back to the previous weeks of our adventure and review information about your target market and market niche, or spent some time getting your office processes in order. If you would like additional information, the Internet also provides a wealth of other (often free) resources to help you get started.
Even better, recruit some friends and colleges to serve as a sounding board for your plan. It always helps to have a mastermind of people to help you clarify and strengthen your plan. The clearer your intention, the more likely you will be successful. Perhaps you could trade business plans with a friend and keep each other motivated through the process.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Have you written a business plan for your holistic business. Why or why not?
- Looking over these elements of a business plan, what do you think are the most challenge sections for you? Why? What could you do to make it easier?
- Who do you know who would discussion your business plan with you? Who do you know who needs to write one of their own?