As a financial advisor, creating a solid business plan is paramount to long-term fiscal success — not just for the clients you consult with but also for your own personal goals and larger career aspirations. Drafting a successful business plan can be a difficult enterprise, but the right tools have the potential to become one of the most invaluable assets available.
Before you continue, here are some of the important concepts we will be discussing throughout the following article.
- How to define a business plan and what makes a business plan successful.
- Best ways to market your business plan to customers.
- Part of your business plan should be a solid marketing strategy. Let us help you reach more leads through different digital marketing initiatives. Contact us to get started.
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What Is A Business Plan, Exactly?
A business plan is not a static document but rather a fluid template, one that can be altered and changed as your particular business (personal or otherwise) evolves over time. No matter what, your business plan should never be thrown out at the first sign of trouble. Rather, ask yourself how you can amend the document in order to put yourself on the path to success.
In essence, a business plan represents a brief look into where your business finds itself presently, where you would like it to grow within a certain amount of time, and how you’re going to accomplish that growth. Further, it articulates your personal strategies for development and allows your client (or yourself) to see what’s on the horizon.
How Long Should A Business Plan Be?
A good business plan varies in length depending on the particular business it is being created for. That said, as a general rule of thumb, a stellar business plan and accompanying material should never exceed twenty pages. When it comes to a business plan, the shorter, the better. By keeping your business plan short and sweet, it will be much easier to engage with over time and ensure that prospective clients don’t lose interest.
Upfront, a business plan should at least include these items; executive summary, company description, mission statement, market analysis, the overall organization of business, provided goods and services, marketing strategy, means of funding, future financial projections, and any other supplementary information you can think of.
Although a fully formed business plan can be relatively long, another great idea would be to generate a one-page executive summary (more on that below.) By writing an executive summary, you have the potential to give investors an overview of your business without having to write multiple pages.
Generally speaking, a business plan should range anywhere between fifteen and twenty pages. Keep things short but thorough to ensure you communicate your goals and give an in-depth overview of your business. However, as mentioned, you can also opt for the one-page executive summary to give potential investors a clear introduction to your business. Either way, whether you’re consulting, coaching, planning, or otherwise — choose what works best for you to impress interested parties time after time.
Essential Elements Of A Business Plan
Below are the most essential aspects of any good business plan, and if followed correctly, can ensure that your financial acumen is never in question; for investors, your clients, and beyond.
First, your business plan should include a summary upfront to communicate each section of the plan. It is an introduction to those reading, so they understand what to expect and how to contextualize your particular goals.
Traditionally these summaries are actually written after the entire plan is finished. That way, you can get a birds-eye view of what key points are within your material — and avoid any missing information in the process.
Quickly engage your readers upfront, and then describe your business. What type of financial advising do you do, your past clients, how do you operate from day to day, and the facts and figures associated with these points?
Don’t be afraid to articulate your success, and briefly include financial earnings and targets along the way. Just make sure to keep these short and sweet; in many ways, less is more.
After the introduction and accompanying information, including small descriptions of the next sections within your plan. Discuss all the incoming information so whoever is reading understands what to expect over the next however many pages.
Understand the company you are financially planning for by asking and answering a few key questions;
- How long ago, and why did you start your business?
- What are some of your biggest victories since opening?
- What specifically is your legal structure, and what sort of legalities could we run into (positive or negative) over the course of our partnership?
Really, this is all about providing background for you and your clients. So that everyone can be comfortably on the same page in the long run.
It makes sense that you have to understand the industry you’re working within, and although this may seem self-explanatory, it’s helpful to include in a business plan. In a way, it allows you to understand what your competition is doing and what you plan to do.
What makes other businesses in this sector successful? How do they make money? How do they keep clients? These and so many others are fantastic questions to ask yourself and your client when drafting a plan.
Also, make sure to include larger questions and answers about;
- How big is your specific market?
- What are the trends?
- Where is this industry headed?
- How is it growing?
All these inquiries are in an effort to make relevant decisions during your advisory process, to give yourself and your business the best chance at overall success.
This particular section is one of the most important parts of your business plan. Who are your customers? What are their demographics, and where do they come from? How do they behave?
It’s your job to predict, based on this information, how these people are going to interact with your business. In the end, that is one of the largest facets of any monetary strategy.
Yet, it isn’t just about the customers your businesses may serve. BUT also the businesses themselves. Who started these businesses? Where do they come from? What are their belief systems that led to the creation in the first place? All good things to get in writing and clearly state.
>> Related Read: Target Markets for Financial Advisors: Tips to Define, Serve and Grow Your Niche
One quick tip that always comes in handy is Porter’s Five Forces. Essentially, Porter’s Five Forces is a competitive analysis that helps determine any given industry’s strengths and weaknesses. These are; Competition in the industry, Potential of new entrants into the industry, Power of suppliers, Power of customers, Threat of substitute products.
Plenty of information can be found online describing Porter’s Five Forces, and we highly suggest you acquaint yourself with the concepts.
At this point, you’re well within your business plan. You have described all the aspects that eventually lead to market strategy, and it’s time to put those to practice.
First, lay out what type of business you’re serving and what type of product(s) they produce. Then talk briefly about how you will be serving that business in the first place.
Next, discuss the prices your advised business is asking out and how those compare to their competitors. Present what the goods or services cost, what they’re being sold for, and how they will make a profit.
Then, simply state the location of your business in relation to any other business that you’re connected with.
Finally, make clear how this business will be promoted. How will customers hear about the business? Travel to the business? And, how will they become a loyal patron of your business in the first place?
Wrapping up your business plan is how it will operate day in and day out and how you plan to keep things running smoothly over a specified period of time.
Mention the everyday events that occur at your business, how you participate in them, and generally how your business runs normally. This bit of the plan needs to reiterate your long-term goals and let people know what you do during your day-to-day that sets you up to achieve those goals.
Identify your structure of leadership. Who is responsible for particular tasks, and how do you decide what gets done and when? Make clear who runs things, so others can look to them for leadership.
>> Related Read: Financial Advisor Coaching Programs: How to Pick the Best
We’ve reached the end of our plan template, but not before you need to finish up this incredible piece of literature with a full rundown of your finances. This includes;
Monthly financial statements and projections to help you manage uncertainty, balance sheets, and tax materials. Not forgetting to discuss your income and expenses, mainly, what you’re making (and at what rate) AND what it costs your business to exist on its own.
Generally, financial projects should extrapolate out within three to five years. Allowing you to realistically forecast for the near future while keeping what comes after on the horizon.
Rounding things off, discuss cash flow projections. That way, you can plainly describe what sort of amount you will need to get all these great ideas up and running. Don’t leave out any associated costs of your business; anything that goes toward making it possible needs to be included full stop.
One-Page Business Plan Template – What to Include?
A one-page business plan, as the name would suggest, is your business plan distilled down into its simplest form. It is a quick look at all the aspects we’ve talked about, but in paragraph form. That way, you can write briefly about each piece of your specific business plan and generate a template guaranteed to succeed.
Business Plan Tips: Things to Know Before You Start Writing
Now that you’ve acquainted yourself with the interworking of a business plan, there are some things you should think about before you is putting pen to paper.
Who Should Write A Business Plan?
Although some people may hire outside consultants, the person writing the plan for your business should, in most cases, be yourself. This not only holds you accountable but ensures that you remain the most involved in the overall workings of your particular business. Take pride in that fact, and carve out time to make the perfect business plan.
Do You Even Need A Business Plan?
Sort of. It’s true, there are times when you or your clients may not need a dedicated business plan. Plenty of businesses do just fine without them; having said that, creating a business plan means two things; you’re holding yourself accountable to a concrete roadmap that forces you to attempt some of your initial intentions, and it gives you the chance to visualize a clear future goal. With something to strive towards, we’re all much more likely to follow through.
Understand That Things Change
One of the most useful bits of information to keep in mind when writing and adhering to your business plan is that, frankly, not everything goes according to plan. Moreover, once you’ve chosen a particular path, you inevitably give up another.
In many ways, this first idea is a hard concept to grasp right out of the gate, but the idea is simple. You’re going to make a business plan and stick to it until something requires you to alter your original method. Then it pays to be flexible and make changes on the fly to cut costs and increase revenue.
Looking at your business plan holistically means that you have to understand the consequence of your choices. If you make a decision to carry out an action one way, you’ve lost the chance to do it another way. Be okay with that concept, and have confidence in yourself to come to the correct conclusions. After all, it’s your business.
Funding, Funding, Funding
For most financial advisors, the largest personal backing generally comes directly out of pocket. It’s true that personal savings, credit cards, and investments can take some of the pressure off — but more often than not, you’re going to have to receive some sort of bank loan if you plan on growing your business. Especially if you don’t have the capital on your own.
First and foremost, don’t be afraid of using bank loans to fund your ideas. This is where your stellar business plan comes in. Any loan officer worth their salt is going to want to see why, how, and when you plan on achieving all the wonderful things you intend to accomplish. It’s not enough that you’re confident in your ideas; the bank must also share in that confidence.
Have a resolute target for the future of your finances, and don’t forget to provide specific figures on what your present financial status looks like. This will allow the bank to have faith in your pursuits and help your dreams become a reality.
Make Room For New Hires
If your business is going to be as successful as we think it is, then plan for expansion. Too many financial advisors never think to include new employees in their plan until they’re forced to hire when a problem arises. Don’t wait until you absolutely need to hire an employee or two. Give yourself the breathing room to know that your specific plan includes the option of hiring.
Growing your business means reaching a point where you alone can not be the only person making decisions and managing assets. Instead, focus on the future by preparing to bring new additions to your team. Individuals who understand and agree with your business plan make suggestions and follow your lead.
>> Related Read: Different Financial Advisor Compensation Models
Business Plan Template
We’ve discussed what to expect when making the perfect business plan, how to approach potential pitfalls, and how to look at the bigger picture. Now, let’s dig into how to organize your business plan to maximize success and win the day.
Before the plan template, it’s important to note that research is key to any successful business plan. Decide and intimately understand your target market, fully acquaint yourself with the type of businesses you would like to work for, and (again) prepare for the unexpected.
Education is key in these scenarios so that you’re able to know when to push forward or when to pull back.
Go Out And Achieve
There you have it, a quick look at what makes a business plan and what makes them successful. Hopefully, you’ve gained some valuable insight and can take this information to use whenever needed along your professional journey.
Remember, at the end of the day, these are just guidelines. Use what you’d like, throw out what you don’t, and manifest your future without fear.