Who should write your business plan?
My husband and I recently bought a food truck for healthy cuisine on-the-go. We've done a few 'soft opens' the past few weekends at smaller venues, but have yet to go anywhere that would attract too many customers. This is mainly because we feel like we are not ready since we don't have a business plan. We are both first time entrepreneurs and have never written one. If not us, who should write our business plan?
Since you've already made the commitment to start a business and have purchased the truck, I suggest that:
1. Turn off the engine.
2. Do some critical thinking and research.
Specifically, if you've not already done so, formulate a business model. You can find numerous examples on the web. The purpose of this exercise is to test your original assumptions with reality. It is not to your benefit to try to confirm your original beliefs (hopes and dreams), rather you need to find out what is real.
To be successful, it is never about what you want to offer, but rather what customers want, desire and can afford to purchase.
Go to the locations where you originally anticipated your customers would be. Ask the customers at the other food trucks some basic "research" questions:
1. What do they buy
2. How often do they buy from any food truck
3. What do they like about the current (truck) offerings
4. What is not being offered that they would prefer to buy
5. How often they might buy from a different truck - if that option were available.
In doing so, you have the opportunity to formulate your "unique value" and, hopefully, a competitive edge. Although your intent to offer "healthy cuisine" is understandable, virtually every market segment is saturated. with numerous and/or "similar" offerings. I'm sure your area is the same.
If you cannot come up with one, your best (and least expensive option) is to sell the truck and try something else.(You will not want to hear this, but starting over may be your least costly option.)
If, however, you can find a definable way to compete, do research on all of the other aspects of operating your business. Such as, cost of food, fuel, insurance, licensing, social media (advertising and promotion), truck and equipment maintenance, etc.
Hopefully, this analysis will yield a profit margin (above your all of your expenses) to make this endeavor a viable business, rather than an expensive hobby.
If you get to the point that there is a reasonable certainty that you:
1. Know who you target customer is
2. Know where they buy
3. Know how often they buy
4. Know what they will pay
5. Know (after all costs are computed) you will still be making a reasonable profit
Then it will be time to develop a Tactical Plan. That is, one Day One, you know what you need to do in order to prepare and travel to where your customers are and with everything you need to provide what your customers want.
Heather, there is a lot to consider. Take the time to do the critical thinking and research to assure your self and your husband that you can and will succeed.
By the way, should your ever need to prepare a Business Plan, this research and the development of a Business Model and Tactical Plan will wow whoever reads it because your Business Plan will be based upon reality, rather than assumptions, and expectations.
Hope this helps.
If you need a business plan, then you really should do it yourself. Going through the process of crafting the plan will help you think more deeply about your business. As this is your first entrepreneurial experience, it would help if you got guidance on your plan from someone with experience in food trucks. There are plenty of free business plan templates available that will provide you with a good outline to start.
However, as a few others have mentioned, if you aren't pursuing financing right now, then just piece the business plan together as you go. Customer feedback is going to be some of the most valuable information that you can get. Besides, a business plan is never finished - it continually evolves.
Finally, you can always start with a simple one-page business plan - like this one - http://100startup.com/resources/business-plan.pdf and determine your budget and financial requirements if you haven't already.
It's good to understand the reason for writing a plan, including what the future holds, but there's more to it. There are different formats and ways to write a plan, depending on what you're looking for. If you need a loan, a bank has different requirements than a partner, for example. You should still put a plan together if it's just for you and your husband. It may not be as formal, but it still should contain basic components, like revenue projections, costs and net profit. Even if you're not looking for financing, the business plan can be used to make informed decisions about other parts of your business, especially when it comes to operations and marketing.
As a SCORE mentor since 2003, I'd also recommend you make a visit to a local office for free mentoring and even take some classes.
It seems from your narration that you have already practically taken the initiative and started running a business.
In this scenario the business plan will be a shift of focus,motivation and energy.However, you can definitely delegate it to someone to do it for you with a target date.
The most important thing is that from the direction perspective your focus is correct and you should keep these soft introductions going till you identify customer intensive locations.
These soft opens will give you exact idea on the following:
1) Product Marketability and Acceptability
2) Customer Profile And Target Market
3) Quality considerations
4) Customer Requirements
5) Future Potential Products
6) Regulatory Environment
7) Operating Expenses
9) Product Costing
10) Branding and its impact
These will also become the bases for your business plan and strategy in future.Most probably after few experiences you will be able to identify the numbers yourself.
Don't expect immediate returns and keep enriching your customer and brand equity with a focus on change and continuous improvement.
Direct interaction with customers and improving on his feedback is the best way to take your business to success.
Keep yourself in positive spirits and energy during this time of effort and hardwork with lesser than expected returns.
Best Of Luck.
North York, Canada
Dear Heather: With all due respect, is the business plan going to take away the fear of being a first time entrepreneurs? Do you need the business plan to get permission to go to larger markets and attract your ideal clients? Or do you think that the business plan will give you instructions on how to get the "many customers" you wish to have?
Find out the places that attract your customers (you may want to follow other food trucks for a while), offer exceptional customer service and quality of food and you will be on your way to success. Later on, when you find out what works and what does not, you may want to have your thoughts more organized and then create a "business plan" and put down what worked best and focus on doing more of the things which worked well. and write down how you will be doing these things which bring you success
and modify the others which were not as successful.
PS trying to figure out why I get this red underline!
The reason for working on a business plan, whether you need the money or not, is to set your roadmap. By putting together a business plan you are doing the research into your market, your target audience, what makes your product unique etc. Also you can test your pricing, # of sales to break even etc. all before investing too much money into a business that you could realize may not be profitable. Yes, a plan is a lot of work, but well worth it. The SCORE organization is a great resource to help you. I also cover the Biz Plan fundamentals in a business startup guide I authored for women called "Fabulous Fempreneurship" which you might find worth reading to help you get started. http://www.volumesdirect.com/SearchResult.aspx?KeyWords=Slatter
Business plans serve two primary purposes: to design a way to grow and run your business and as a means of obtaining financing. The financing business plans should be done by someone experienced in this area. The operating business plans should be written by you, the business owner.
I've seen many types of business plans, from 1 page to 30! You should be able to craft a well thought out plan in under 10 pages. Here are the areas to concentrate on:
1. A summary of your business and what you want to accomplish. Describe your business in detail and why you chose to get into this type of business.
2. Mission, vision and values. People want to know who you are and what you stand for.
3. Key goals and objectves. This is important for staying on track and focused.
4. Target market & customer profile: You must know exactly who your best customers are and what they want.
5. Product & service description.
6. Competitive envirnoment: What are your customers other choices and what separates you from them.
7. Marketing Strategy and Sales Process; Where will you spend your time promoting your business.
8. Revenue and expense projections.
9. Operating plan: How will you operate your business every day? Who's involved, what are their roles? How will you turn a profit?
10. Business development and growth sechule: What and when will you take action on that will grow your business.
Going through a process like this will uncover a myriad of things you need to consider before actually diving in. It's important to anticipate issues and opportunities before you step in them. Once you have created a first draft, give it to someone with business building experience and let them evaluate it. Then, write your final plan.
Keep your business plan with you always. It's your road map. It won't do much good sitting on a book shelf somewhere.
By all means you need to create (& own) your business plan.
David and I will agree to disagree on this one.
But, you will need some expertise not only to create the business plan but to execute it as well. My suggestion is to contact your local Score for a free, confidential mentor. Good Luck! Doug PS - Even though you are likely a Tide fan, this is in good faith ;-)
You should. Planning is simple: where are we now? where do we want to be? and, how are we going to get there - month-by-month, quarter-by-quarter, and year-by-year? There are a wide variety of business plan software packages that you can use as a guide, but the input has to be yours. Be honest, realistic, and practical with your projections. Best thing you can ever do is develop a break-even analysis for your first year of operations: how much of what do you have to sell to who to cover your costs and expenses - can you do it? Take a look at the "Shark Tank" on TV for some good lessons on poor planning. You may also want to get: Guidebook to Planning - A Common Sense Approach, available on Amazon.