Langley-based financial expert says planning vital for small business

Small business owners in B.C. are feeling optimistic about 2015, with a recent Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) survey showing that the majority of B.C. small business owners are expecting better business performance next year.

According to CFIB, the buoyant feelings often reflect a growing economy. So with an economy that looks like it’s headed in the right direction, are small business owners prepared to grow their business? According to Envision Financial business expert Robert Deol, the answer is up for debate.

“Small businesses looking to grow their operations usually need to borrow money from their financial institution,” said Deol, a commercial account manager who also holds a certified management accountant designation. “One of the most important things a lender will want to see when making a lending decision is a business plan. Yet, most of the time when I ask to see the business plan, there isn’t one – or at least there isn’t one on paper.”

A written business plan is a fundamental tool that every business owner must have, Deol said. It provides a blueprint for the company, providing clear direction and objectives, outlining how success will be achieved. It also shows your financial expert that you’ve thought through scenarios, conditions and your financials.

Deol added that that many small business owners have some form of plan – but it’s tucked away in their heads.

“You’ve got to put that business plan on paper,” he noted. “It then becomes a point of reference as you go forward. It’s like personal goals – people who have better success are often in the habit of writing their goals down. There’s something to be said about committing things to paper.”

To make a business plan a solid guide for operating a business, Deol recommended that the plan contain three key focus areas: a financial plan, an operational plan and a marketing plan. More specifically, he suggests business owners include the following information:

• Detailed information on the management team, such as industry experience and strengths

• A description of the products and services the business will offer, including a pricing strategy,

• Market research and analysis, including competitive analysis

• A defined target market

• The business’ value proposition/competitive advantage

• An operational plan

• A financial plan, budgeting, sales projections and cash flow

“The more detail, the better – within reason of course,” said Deol. “It really helps your financial advisor understand your vision for your business and makes it easier for them to say yes when you need additional funds to grow your business.”

He points out that in the Google age, information and tools for business plan writing abound on the web – and from sources like local chambers of commerce.

“Although it may seem like a lot of work to create a business plan, there are a lot of helpful resources out there,” he said. “In the end, the final result is worth the effort. I find that the more planning goes in at the beginning, the more successful the business will be in the long-term.”

For more on the CIFB survey, go to www.cfib-fcei.ca/english/article/6065-business-barometer.html.

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