The next step in creating your business plan is to develop an Operations Plan that will serve your customers, keep your operating costs in line, and ensure profitability. Your ops plan should detail strategies for managing, staffing, manufacturing, fulfillment, inventory... all the stuff involved in operating your business on a day-to-day basis.
Fortunately, most entrepreneurs have a better handle on their operations plan than on any other aspect of their business. After all, while it may not seem natural to analyze your market or your competition, most budding entrepreneurs tend to spend a lot of time thinking about how they will run their businesses.
Your goal is to answer the following key questions:
- What facilities, equipment, and supplies do you need?
- What is your organizational structure? Who is responsible for which aspects of the business?
- Is research and development required, either during start-up or as an ongoing operation? If so, how will you accomplish this task?
- What are your initial staffing needs? When and how will you add staff?
- Who will you establish business relationships with vendors and suppliers? How will those relationships impact your day-to-day operations?
- How will your operations change as the company grows? What steps will you take to cut costs if the company initially does not perform up to expectations?
Operations plans should be highly specific to your industry, your market sector, and your customers. Instead of providing an example like I've done with other sections, use the following to determine the key areas your plan should address:
Location and Facility Management
In terms of location, describe:
- Zoning requirements
- The type of building you need
- The space you need
- Power and utility requirements
- Access: Customers, suppliers, shipping, etc.
- Specialized construction or renovations
- Interior and exterior remodeling and preparation
- Production methods
- Service methods
- Inventory control
- Sales and customer service
- Receiving and Delivery
- Maintenance, cleaning, and re-stocking
- Licenses and permits
- Environmental or health regulations
- Patents, trademarks, and copyrights
- Typical staffing
- Breakdown of skills required
- Recruiting and retention
- Policies and procedures
- Pay structures
- Anticipated inventory levels
- Turnover rate
- Lead times
- Seasonal fluctuations in demand
- Major suppliers
- Back-up suppliers and contingency plans
- Credit and payment policies
Sound like a lot? It can be--but not all of the above needs to be in your business plan.
You should think through and create a detailed plan for each category, but you won't need to share the results with the people who read your business plan
Working through each issue and developing concrete operations plans helps you in two major ways:
- If you don't plan to seek financing or outside capital, you can still take advantage of creating a comprehensive plan that addresses all of your operational needs.
- If you do seek financing or outside capital, you may not include all the detail in your business plan--but you will have answers to any operations questions at your fingertips.
Think of Operations as the "implementation" section of your business plan. What do you need to do? How will you get it done? Then create an overview of that plan to make sure your milestones and timeline make sense.
That way the operations section answers the "How?" question.
Next time we'll look at another major component in a business plan: who is (or will be) on your Management Team.
More in this series:
- How to Write a Great Business Plan: Key Concepts
- How to Write a Great Business Plan: the Executive Summary
- How to Write a Great Business Plan: Overview and Objectives
- How to Write a Great Business Plan: Products and Services
- How to Write a Great Business Plan: Market Opportunities
- How to Write a Great Business Plan: Sales and Marketing
- How to Write a Great Business Plan: Competitive Analysis
- How to Write a Great Business Plan: Operations
- How to Write a Great Business Plan: Management Team
- How to Write a Great Business Plan: Financial Analysis