September 12, 2016

Brentwood Home Page
by Zach Harmuth

So you have a great idea.

You thought of something that no one else has, or see an opportunity for a niche product or service in the local economy.

What do you do next? Whether it is dog biscuits or beer or a homemade lemonade stand, starting a small business is exciting but complex. How do you take your idea and make it a reality? Not knowing, or missing an important part of the process, can be a huge barrier to starting a small business.

One of the very first things that should be done after the initial idea is creating a business plan.

Anthony Matula, who started and has now run a successful small business, graphic design and marketing firm Ma2la, with clients in Williamson and Davidson Counties, for years, offered the lessons he learned:

“It’s kind of like a planning a road trip.  The first part is to discover what is your destination.  For a small business that is determining your end goal of success.  The second part is getting a map and planning out your exact route, with potential stops and ‘check-ins’ along the way.  This part is important because having a goal is great, but knowing how to get there and accomplishing that goal is crucial.  You could have the best idea in the world, but without proper execution, it’s simply just the best idea in the world, that was never fully realized.  Some ‘rest stops’ along the way might be asking, are we still on the right track and do we actually still want to reach our final destination?  As a new small business, sometimes those end goals you had in the beginning evolve and change as your company grows.  It is crucial as a small business to develop a plan and to pay close attention to your surroundings as you pursue your plan.  When it starts to get really interesting, your business plan will start to include non-tangibles, such as ‘becoming a household name.’  This is when it starts to get really fun.  Assess your business, discover where you want to go, determine the best route to get there and the appropriate amount of time it will take you to get there.  Oh, and don’t forget to bring plenty of snacks.”

Resources and Procedures

Resources for writing a business plan can be found at the U.S. Small Business Administration, at sba.gov, and county-specific information at Williamson, Inc’s Web site, Williamsonchamber.com

A good business plan provides a three- to five-year outline of your company’s future goals and plans, and how it will carry them out. It will include:

  • An executive summary, that provides a snapshot of your business as a whole.
  • A company description, that provides what you will do, what sets you apart from like-businesses, and the market you plan to target
  • Market Analysis, results from research you do on your product or idea, the current market for that industry, who your competitors might be. There are consultants who provide market research, and can be found here http://market-research.regionaldirectory.us/tennessee.htm
  • Organization and Management, how will you structure your business? What is the ideal organization for the product or service you will provide?
  • Service/Product Line, what is your idea, what is its benefit, how long will it’s lifecycle be
  • Marketing and Sales, what is your marketing plan? How will you let people know about it? How will you sell it?
  • Funding Request, if you are going to seek investors or a loan, decide how much it will cost to get started. How much does your market research suggest you should start selling? What are your initial costs, and what are you recurring costs?
  • Financial Projections, project your costs and what are you goals for revenue.

Here are some more resources that can help craft a business plan from Williamson, Inc:

The Small Business Planner includes information and resources that will help you at any stage of the business life cycle.

SCORE – business plan template

Provides counseling services by way of questions and answers to small businesses.

Business Owners Tool Kit

Various articles and topics related to starting or maintaining a small business.

Why Business Plans Don’t Deliver

Wall Street Journal article from 2009 on the top 5 common flaws of business plans and how to fix them.