Your Business Plan: Starting Off Right

David Kiger directs shipping company Worldwide Express Operations, LLC, a provider of package shipping for smaller businesses nationwide. In leading the company he established in the mid-1990s, David Kiger has gained wide-ranging and in-depth knowledge of the best practices that any small business should follow on the road to success.

One of the first documents any new or potential business owner needs to compile is a business plan. Leading experts and business-focused government agencies note that you should never underestimate the strategic importance of a business plan for the long-term achievement of your goals. Simply put, a business plan is your roadmap that will take you from where you are right now to where you want to be in a specified amount of time, while marking the necessary milestones along the way.

You can write different pieces of your business plan at different times, depending on what your most significant needs may be. You may want to begin with a SWOT analysis, an overview of the most important strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that surround your organization. Your goal is to brainstorm with your team or focus group to determine how to make the most of your strengths, minimize weaknesses, recognize and grasp opportunities, and avoid or neutralize threats.

You may want to begin with your mission statement, which will identify you as a unique presence in your market. Your mission statement should make a reader immediately identify it as belonging to your business and should build support by motivating readers to discuss it with other potential customers.

Another way to start your business plan is after a conversation with key stakeholders. Find customers, potential customers, employees, or colleagues and ask them for their honest assessment of your business and your field, now and in the future. These conversations can be the jumping-off point for a large portion of your plan.