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We strongly advise you to develop your own growth plan, even if you hire

someone to edit a final draft. The act of writing will push you to think more

clearly and deeply about this important set of business decisions—to grow or not

to grow, and in what ways do you want to grow. You should be brainstorming

your own questions and, in the process of answering them, coming up with more

questions. Explore as many possibilities as you can, and jot down notes so you’ll

remember your ideas. Thinking on paper is one of the best ways to avoid making

costly mistakes.

Think Before You Write

Before you begin to write your business growth plan, you should set about

answering all or most of the following questions. Not all of these answers will

make it into the final business plan. (The final business plan will be used for

potential investors and for management purposes.) These preliminary questions

are designed to help pull you out of the demand and response cycle that comprises

much of business life and, instead, give you an overview of where you’ve

been, where you are, and where you intend to go.

• How do I want to expand or change?

• How much capital do I need to raise?

• What are additional people needed to meet my goals?

• What are the current strengths and weaknesses of my business?

• To what categories do my clients currently belong?

• Who are my competitors?

• What could factors beyond my control undermine my business?

• What new opportunities are arising for my services?

• What challenges must be met?

• How can I increase sales?

• How can I build more name recognition and customer loyalty?

• How can I cut costs and increase profits?

The Elements of a Business Growth Plan

A business growth plan is a valuable tool for helping you map out a strategy for

growing your business. It’s also necessary for potential investors and/or partners

and people within your firm. These elements, adapted from Growing Your Own

Business by Gregory and Patricia Kishel, provide you with a guide to follow.

Please note that the first three sections should be written after you have completed

the body of the plan.

• Title page—This presents company and contact information, the date the

plan was finished, and the owners’ names.

• Table of contents—This is important to help your readers locate information.

Obviously, the pages of the plan need to be numbered to make this
table useful.

• Executive summary—Your summary should be about two pages. Keep in

mind that it is the only section some people will read to decide whether

or not they are interested in your plan. Therefore, it needs to be persuasive
and to the point. Once again, write your summary only after you
have finished writing the body of your plan, and pull out the relevant

details and data. It should include:

• Mission statement
• Background and industry information
• A breakdown of your services and deliverables
• Target markets
• Competitive advantages that will enable you to succeed
• Short-and long-term objectives
• Management capabilities
• Financial projections
• Capitalization needs
• Business/Industry Profile—Include the purpose and objectives of your
business; its legal structure, location(s), and number of employees. Some of
your readers will not be familiar with the graphic design industry or the
major industries you work with and will need to be brought up to speed.
Give information that reflects credit on your business—awards, positive
press, community involvement—as well as potential growth factors.
• Services provided—Highlight what makes your services unique or superior
to the competition. Indicate types of work and sales figures. Name
some of your clients and the range of project costs.
• Sales and marketing—Describe how you market your business and the
methods you’ll use to get a larger share.
• Competitive analysis—You will have compared your strengths and weaknesses
with those of your competition in your prewriting exploration.
Here, you should emphasize the factors that give you a competitive edge.
• Management structure—Show how your business is organized and
managed. Include an organizational chart with job descriptions.
Describe outside consultants or advisers. Project estimated personnel
needs for expansion.
• Operations—Describe your facilities and equipment as well as your relations
with suppliers and subcontractors. If you are using new technologies
or shared equipment that gives you a competitive edge, include
that information.
• Finances—Bankers, as well as potential investors and partners, will scrutinize
this section, so be thorough with your information. You may want to
set this off so it can be easily omitted when circulating the general plan to
your staff and others who don’t need to have this information. Include
income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow projections for the next
three years, as well as financial statements for the past two years.
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