Owning a business entails both daunting challenges and exciting opportunities — but that's what makes it so fulfilling. You get to create a business plan, conceptualize new products and services, and make a great marketing strategy. While these are all interesting endeavors, it doesn’t mean a thing if you can’t back it up with good sales figures.
Entrepreneur points out that developing a financial plan is one of the most essential components of a business, as it states your long-term objectives and a detailed strategy on how to reach them. This is crucial in winning over investors or obtaining a bank loan. Even if you don’t need outside financing, having a financial plan is still key to steer your business to success. That said, we’ve provided a step-by-step guide to developing a smart financial plan.
First, you should identify where you want your business to be, as well as have a short-term and long-term goals. These will motivate you to work harder and set the direction for your operations while also helping you make sure you’re staying on the right track. Ask yourself questions like:
- Where do I want this business to be by next year?
- Where do I want this business to be in the next 5 to 10 years?
Don’t forget to make sure your goals are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.
Identify where the capital will come from
Obtaining capital is one of the most difficult hurdles for business owners. You can receive help from family, find investors, or take out a personal or business loan. While business loans are the most appropriate, some may consider personal loans too as they are easier to obtain.
A guide by Marcus on how to get a personal loan discusses how lenders look at your credit history and capacity to pay which many experts suggest is an easier process than taking out a business loan. This is because business lenders will probably look at your credit and overall business plan, as well as its accounting books and financial statements, all on top of your own personal credit. Not to mention that banks traditionally require collateral. This can be a challenge to gather for less established businesses, which is why some business owners turn to personal loans.
However, if you’re ready to take on the requirements above, then our article entitled ‘A Guide to Secure a Small Business Loan’ recommends organizing your financial statements, ensures an accurate and complete credit profile. Therefore, researching the best lender for your business’ needs is gravely important before borrowing. Overall, it’s best to stick to a capital level that is easy to attain and maintain.
Have a sales forecast
You should also have a goals-based sales forecast predicting revenue for the first 12 months. One way to establish this forecast is through the creation of a spreadsheet that shows just how much sales you predict you’ll get within a set period of time.
Ideally, your projections should include unit sales, pricing, costs, and cost of sales. This last one is to find the gross margin which is a useful number to compare with different industry-standard ratios. For new businesses, Business Insider recommends looking at historical data from similar products or services to have a good benchmark. You can also make an educated guess based on this data.
You need to establish how much it’s going to cost for you to reach your forecasted sales. It may be helpful to make a list. This list should differentiate between fixed (e.g. rent and payroll) and variable (e.g. advertisements) costs. Additionally, this list should be similar to your sales forecast. This means that you should make educated guesses based on industry averages. To do so, calculate the number of years for your forecast and try to include anticipated charges like the cost of goods, production costs or upgrades.
Review your plan
Lastly, take a final look at your plan. Examine each month’s projected results for the first year. Are they low for certain months, or are you achieving your short-term and long-term goals? If not, try to shift expenditures where possible. Remember to look at the actual results in your financial reports each month and compare these results against the numbers in your forecast. This will give you information on what to do if your revenues fall substantially below your predictions.