Planning Your Business

Starting your business may seem like a daunting task but a step-by-step approach will give you the preparation needed to make your business successful.  We have consulted our friends at the Small Business Administration and the Montana Small Business Development Center to find valuable resources for you.  We have linked directly to their resource pages so you don’t have to search for them.  In addition, we link to other resource providers that can advise you with any questions you may have.  So let’s get started!

Thinking about Starting a Business?

20 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Business

1.Why am I starting a business?

2.What kind of business do I want?

3. Who is my ideal customer?

4. What products or services will my business provide?

5. Am I prepared to spend the time and money needed to get my business started?

6.  What differentiates my business idea and the products or services I will provide from others in the market?

7. Where will my business be located?

8. How many employees will I need?

9. What types of suppliers do I need?

10. How much money do I need to get started?

11. Will I need to get a loan?

12. How soon will it take before my products or services are available?

13. How long do I have until I start making a profit?

14. Who is my competition?

15. How will I price my product compared to my competition?

16. How will I set up the legal structure of my business?

17. What taxes do I need to pay?

18. What kind of insurance do I need?

19. How will I manage my business?

20. How will I advertise my business?

Research your Market

To run a successful business, you need to learn about your customers, your competitors and your industry. Market research is the process of analyzing data to help you understand which products and services are in demand, and how to be competitive. To conduct Market Research, you must Identify Official Government Sources of Market and Industry Data, Identify Additional Sources of Analysis, and Understand the International Marketplace.

Find a Mentor or Counselor

In the first months of opening your business, you’ll need to make many important decisions. But you don’t have to make every decision on your own. Ultimately, you’re responsible for you business, but you can always consult a mentor for advice. A mentor is someone who has been down the same path you're taking. He or she is experienced, successful and willing to provide advice and guidance — for no real personal gain. Advice from  partner organizations such as SCORE MentorsSmall Business Development Centers and Women’s Business Centers can help you avoid common pitfalls.  

Do You Have A Business Plan?

A business plan is an essential roadmap for business success. This living document generally projects 3-5 years ahead and outlines the route a company intends to take to grow revenues. A business plan can guide you to your destination – your goal for a successful and rewarding business. We have gathered some resources to help you with your business plan.

Why Do I Need a Business Plan?

The Montana Small Business Development Center has 5 very good reasons to write a business plan

  • To test the feasibility of your business idea
  • To give your business the best possible chance of success
  • To secure funding
  • To make business planning manageable and effective
  • To attract investors

A business plan describes the business: how it operates, how it is managed, how it interacts in the marketplace, how it functions financially and what its strengths and weaknesses are. The business plan is a planning tool that details the goals of the business and gives the owner a path to follow. It can help the owner make judgments and decisions on opportunities and threats by providing a framework to assess the options. Although often not required by banks, a business plan is the most professional format to present the information the bank will need to evaluate a loan request.

Lack of planning can cause serious business problems or outright business failure. Poor management and planning are estimated to account for over 90% of business failures. The most common mistakes made are: poor initial planning; not understanding market position; not knowing costs; not properly pricing; not planning cash flow in advance; not monitoring financial position at all times; not controlling costs; and, not planning and managing growth. A good business plan can help the business owner avoid all of these costly pitfalls.

What Goes Into My Business Plan?

  • Your executive summary is a snapshot of your business plan as a whole and touches on your company profile and goals. 

  • Your company description provides information on what you do, what differentiates your business from others, and the markets your business serves.

  • Before launching your business, it is essential for you to research your business industry, market and competitors.

  • Every business is structured differently. Find out the best organization and management structure for your business.

  • What do you sell? How does it benefit your customers? What is the product lifecycle? Get tips on how to tell the story about your product or service.

  • How do you plan to market your business? What is your sales strategy? 

  • If you are seeking funding for your business, find out about the necessary information you should include in your plan.

  • If you need funding, providing financial projections to back up your request is critical. Find out what information you need to include in your financial projections for your small business.

  • An appendix is optional, but a useful place to include information such as resumes, permits and leases. Find additional information you should include in your appendix.

How do I write my Business Plan?

Are you ready to get started with your business plan?  Here are some good formats to use.

Business Plan for an Established Business

Business Plan for a Startup

SBDC Business Plan Template

Are you still not sure about your plan?  Here is a series of videos about writing an effective Business Plan.

Are you ready to start your business?

Once you have developed a winning business plan, you are ready to start your business.  The first step to getting your business off the ground is to get a checklist set up with our Montana Business Checklist service. This service will help you navigate through the State of Montana's permitting and licensing and help develop your business into a Montana success story.


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