What You’ll Learn at Business Plan Boot Camp – Day 1

By Megan

Last week, I attended the initial session of High Tech Rochester’s series of business plan workshops. Geared toward helping the Rochester Regional Business Plan Competition participants hone their business plan writing and presenting skills, the workshop was typical of many such events being conducted around the country. If you decide to attend one, you can expect to gain a general knowledge of what goes into a business plan, regardless of whether you’re taking part in a business plan contest, seeking investment opportunities, or just trying to establish the direction of your own start-up company.

There were a few key points that stuck with me when it came to developing a business plan:

You have to be realistic:

One of the most valuable aspects of a business plan is that writing it forces you to take a “reality check” and identify the strengths and weaknesses in every aspect of your business. No plan is foolproof, and the assumption that “everything is great” and there are absolutely no flaws with your business is a sign of naivety that will be immediately apparent to those reviewing your plan. When participating in business plan competitions or presenting to potential investors, you are expected to reveal your weaknesses (often in a SWOT analysis). The key to a good presentation, however, is the ability to discuss how you will address those issues to create a better business, and how your strengths trump the weaknesses.

Know your competition:

This also tends to tie in with identifying weaknesses and potential threats. Being able to not only identify who your competition is, but also know certain market information about them, is crucial. Considering the ease of information gathering these days, anyone who says there simply is no competition for their business idea or product will quickly be met with skepticism. By pointing out who your competitors are, you can then proceed to discuss how your business or idea compares and what advantages you can provide to potential customers.

Get help:

The last thing I took away from this first lecture was that small businesses, especially start-ups where funding may be limited, should not be afraid to reach out to the resources that are available to them. This includes anything from networking, to calling upon acquaintances who can act as mentors, to utilizing professional economic development and government resources. Because entrepreneurship is calling to so many, the resources catering to entrepreneurs are also expanding. Identifying who you can rely on to help you grow your business is also an integral part of any business plan.

Whether you are planning to attend business plan competitions or not, creating a business plan for your startup or business idea will give you a valuable guide that you can refer back to over and over again throughout the lifespan of the business. Even if you don’t ever write a formal business plan, thinking about these components and how they play a part in your business will help provide needed direction.

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Co-founder of Bizplancompetitions.com. 2009 graduate of Nazareth College (Rochester, NY) who enjoys riding horses and motorcycles (in that order).
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