So, if you’re already in business, why do you need a business plan? The other question, of course, did you do one in the first place?
Here’s the second in our series of the A-Z of running a successful garage. From accounts to marketing and from the job card system to social media, we plan to cover off practically everything. This at-a-glance guide, has been designed as an easy reference, providing you with details of where to find more information and, hopefully, ideas for growth.
If you want to invest in additional equipment, refurbish your premises or expand, it is likely you will need funding with the obvious first port of call being your bank. Before your bank lends you money to invest, they will want to see your business plan which shows everything from marketing to a forecast demonstrating how the additional predicted business compares to the investment figure itself.
Even if you are not looking for a major investment in your garage, a business plan can help you plan and grow: looking back essentially helps you to take the next step forward. A business plan also acts as a good reference from comparing previous forecasts to actual performance.
Your business plan should not be considered as written in stone, but should act as a tool which ensures your garage stays on track and evolves according to the demands of your business, new initiatives or fluctuating market forces.
If you’re putting together a business plan as a reference or a guide to developing your garage, it doesn’t have to be on a par with ‘War and Peace’, but it still needs to be well thought out, structured and realistic. If you are looking for investment or you are applying to your bank for a loan, the devil will be in the detail, but don’t be tempted to blind your bank manager with ‘science’, they will be able to see the wood for the trees and spot any holes in a not-so-well-argued or poorly researched document.
Don’t panic though, it’s not that difficult and there’s a ton of information on the internet as well as government guides and blogs from B2B businesses containing relevant and interesting tips, advice and facts whatever your industry sector.
If you pen a business plan for no other reason than to focus your own thoughts and identify where you think you’re going, that will be a job well done.
If you are up and running, outline the foundations of your business, how and why you first set up, your highs and lows and your plans for the future.
Whether you’re a start-up or a family business which has supported several generations, understanding the market and knowing the competition is essential for your future.
You are likely to be able to find all the information you need online so there’s no reason why your market research can’t be done when you’re not at work. It’s always good to know what you’re customers think, so a simple questionnaire or follow up email after a visit is likely to provide you with some interesting insights.
Your figures are likely to determine whether your new business has viability, investment to expand your current business will be forthcoming or whether your garage needs some TLC to keep trading. Be honest and transparent and when forecasting, base it on your previous performance. In short, your figures must stack up, even if your business plan is just a personal exercise. Projected sales, labour hours, cashflow projection, costs and a contingency plan should all be included.
Every business plan should incorporate a marketing strategy, thinking through how you will market your business and attract new customers as well as retain those who have already experienced your services will demonstrate all-round business acumen to your bank manager or potential investor or could just give you a few ideas to drum up some more custom.
Setting down your goal on paper is often the first step to making it happen.
If you want more detailed guidance on how to write a business plan, several business plan templates can be found at https://www.gov.uk/write-business-plan where you will find a template and information on how to write a plan.
For insights and easy-to-read digestible articles, search ‘how to write a business plan’ in LinkedIn’s posts.
Finally, your business plan should be something which you refer to and update regularly, don’t leave it metaphorically gathering dust in the depths of your laptop or desktop. It is your roadmap on your business journey, it will stop you from getting lost and will keep you heading in the right direction.
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