Do I really need a business plan for my small business?

Many people think that the only reason to develop a business plan is to convince potential lenders or investors to provide financial backing. This view is a little shortsighted. A business plan does help you quantify your goals. What more? A well-developed plan can serve as one of your most important management tools. A good plan will provide a blueprint and step-by-step instructions on how to translate your ideas into a profitably marketed service or product.

Remember that no two business plans will look alike. A poultry business plan in Thekerani will be different from one developed for Blantyre. There are a number of key considerations that will play an important role in shaping the content. These considerations include complexity of the targeted market as well as whether you are writing a plan for a new business or business opportunity, or is it a plan that upgrades an already existing plan.

An ongoing business might require a plan that relates primarily to a new market that it wants to enter. Like a poultry-product selling colleague who is supplying chicken livers in entertainment centres, may also wish to introduce a new product line like selling chicken intestines fried together with lower chicken legs (zipalasilo zokulunga matumbo). She may go a step further into a new market penetrating the secondary schools, for example.

But what are the benefits of a business plan? Does one really need a business plan for opening a kaunjika or doughnut business—a business so small meant to just complement their salaried income? I am glad you ask. Everyone who opens his or her own business needs a plan, however informal. The Mphompha Farm shop assistant who, having learnt the skills of poultry product selling, decides to open a poultry product-selling hawker may not have a formal, written plan outlining the steps to be taken. However, at some level (even though informally), she will have organised the relevant information, performed her own analysis of the market, and decided that she could make a living by starting out on her own. Perhaps she has been moonlighting by selling the poultry products in her neighbourhood and supplying for other special events, and the demand seems sufficient to support her without the farm shop job.

If you are just starting out in business, the time it takes to create the first plan will be more than repaid by the insight you gain. If you are in business already but have never created a business plan, you will be in a much better position to assess opportunities and risks that accompany the various changes you may be considering.

So whether you are into starting a small business that will just complement your salaried job earnings or indeed wish to use the business as an exit point from your salaried job, a business plan will help you get focused at attaining your goals.

Blessed weekend to you and yours as you visit the nearest book shop to read a book on Developing Business Plans or enrolling on a course on this subject.

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