So you want to start a business but you don't have the necessary capital. You need money. What are the choices? Whether you hit up friends and family, apply for a business loan or approach investors personally you will need a business plan on paper. A business plan serves to organize your thoughts, clarify your investment strategy and signal your intent. People are more likely to give you money when your business has structure and goals.
Things You Will NeedYou will need to sit down and think about what you are really in the business of, what you service, provide, distribute or produce. Perhaps you sell motorcycle parts via your own website, or on Amazon.com or even Ebay. Are you in the business of providing motorcycle parts? Partly, more importantly though, you are in the shipping out items business. If you have vendors who drop ship directly for you, your business is really more about upkeep of your inventory and auctions than it is about bikes. Be aware of that. A webmaster fluent in microsoft excel might be a more useful employee than a motorcycle guy, may be, just something to consider.
Step 1A successful business statement needs a summary of your business, and you may want to do that part last instead of first. Your mission statement will be clarified as you consider your focus group and marketing strategies. Don't make a useless mission statement, make one you can look at daily and remind yourself what you are doing.
I once worked for a bank that had the word "Relationships" as the key to their mission statement. This from a bank that processed debits first and credits second, then charged their customers overdraft fees. Dysfunctional relationships is what they were in the business of creating. When your employees and customers alike sense the falseness of your mission statement it ceases to be useful. Had they said they were in the business of making a profit from sound investments, the mission would have been more clear.
Step 2Describe your focus group and marketing strategy. If you have an idea to open a motorcycle shop, have a niche market in mind. Do you want to sell Harley Davidsons or dirt bikes? Can you do both well? Ask yourself if you want to go broad or go deep. There is no right or wrong answer. Know your focus group! Kids who ride dirtbikes like to have the latest styles, not last year's gear. Visit chat rooms and blogs, facebook friend them, show up at events with flyers.
Marketing strategy, do you have one? Write it down. Whether your lender finds merit in your strategy will very much effect your chances of getting money. Attack your warm market first, work your way out to second string markets. For example, if you aim to get into the used book business, try selling your stuff first on an established website with traffic, such as Ebay, Amazon.com, Alibris.com, Half.com, and work your way up to creating your own website or retail store front. If you want to go into the housekeeping business, see if any of your friend's friends, former employers, or co-workers need their house cleaned before you advertise to strangers.
Step 3Principals, and organizational structure. Write a brief summary of your principals (including yourself), your work history, your education, why you believe you can run this business successfully. Describe what other positions you would need. If you already have employees picked out, write summaries for each of them as well. Spell check everything, and then go back and check for grammar as well. The better presented the business plan, the better your chances of getting money. Use a 12 or 13 point font. Anything smaller than 11 is irritating to read, use a "footed" font, not sans serif for the same reason.
Step 4If you already have a gmail account, click on "googledocs" for a business plan template. IF you don't already have a gmail account, get one. They're free, and your business needs an email account. It's better not to mix your personal account with your business account. It is also useful to be able to pick up business email from any location (including your phone.)
As the recession continues, going into business for yourself may be the best opportunity you get.