A business that fails to plan can plan to fail. I’m not sure who said it but it is certainly true. Even if you never actually start a sign company it is a good idea to learn how to write a business plan. By developing this basic business skill you can almost write your won ticket to financial freedom. No matter what type of business you open, now or in the future, if you are able to properly plan and prepare for that business environment you will be light years ahead of your competitors!
There are tons of resources online to help you begin to write your sign shop business plan. The SBA has a great section specifically for helping new entrepreneurs work through this process and it would be a good idea to at least look it over. Palo Alto also makes a very useful software tool that you can use which will walk you through every aspect of putting your sign company business plan together. I have personally used this software package to plan and organize several business concepts.
In order to get you started, here are some general items that will need to be included in your sign company business plan if you ever plan to be taken seriously.
- Executive Summary: The executive summary is basically your teaser for the sign company you want to start and is pretty important. This is your chance to grab attention fast and effectively. This section even comes before the table of contents.
- Table of Contents: You already know what this is but it is important to make sure it remains accurate after you have revised your sign shop business plan 50 times.
- Company Description: This covers the company history and is primarily applicable to existing companies who are improving or expanding.
- Products / Services: Describe what you do in simple language. Assume that whoever is reading your sign company business plan has absolutely no idea what high performance vinyl graphics are. Keep it simple and focus on describing how you are different, what benefit will you provide, how does it help people and businesses. What kind of equipment do you need? What type of product do you plan to offer? Remember, you might be asking someone to give you a bunch of money… would you want to know?
- Market Analysis: This section depends on research, research, research. What industry trends and business movements do you see in your local market? What information makes you believe that your new sign shop will succeed? What other products might complement your services and how can you take advantage of them? How hard is it to start a sign shop and what might make it hard for a competitor to open a sign company right next store?
- Marketing Plan: This section show that you have taken the time to figure out exactly how you are going to find your customers. This requires specific plans of action that detail where your customers are, how you plan to attract them, what methods do think will be the most effective? In short, how will you give your sign business the opportunity to sell a sign?
- Operation Plans: Identify exactly how you sign company will run. What systems will you put in place? What employees will be necessary to succeed? What is involved in behind the scenes that makes a sign shop run?
- Financial Plan: This is the best part right? Chances are, you are a creative type and the mere thought of “crunching numbers” will drive you screaming into the night. Despite your reservations, it is vital that you get a handle on the actual numbers involved in running your business. You will need to learn about profitability and margins. Bite the bullet and make sure this is not something that you conveniently forget about when you start a sign company.
- Management: Usually the number one killer of people when they start a sign business is mis-management. You will be many steps ahead if you take the time to establish exactly how you will manage (or delegate the management) your sign shop. Failure to do so will create frustration and eventual collapse of your sign shop. Be warned.
- Exit Strategy: While you might be planning to run your new sign business until you pass it to your eldest child… it is a good idea to plan exactly how you plan to do that. What steps will you take to make sure that day comes? What steps need to be taken if you plan on selling your profitable sign shop to another owner in five years? What systems need to be in place in order to accept that merger offer and take off to Bermuda? How will our investor (assuming you have one) get his / her money back and be al to leave to pursue other interests?
- Appendices: This is where all of the resumes, marketing / promotional materials, photos, product surveys etc. go. Keep the items here to necessary things only and don’t use it as a place to “bulk up” your plan.