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What is a business plan? Why do I need a business plan? Why should I write a business plan?
Whether you’ve obtained your CDL and you’re planning to start up a trucking company or maybe you’re planning to start a freight brokerage, or both, you’ll need to make a clear case for your new business. You will need to explain things such as why your business (service) is needed, what exactly do you intend to do as a business, how is your business different from your competitors, and what are the main sources of revenue and likely expenses. A business plan helps answer these important questions.
What are the benefits of having a business plan?
Major benefits from having a successful business plan include mapping out the mission and goals of your business, identifying risk, understanding the potential of your business, attracting prospective partners, lenders and investors, receiving funding and support, and achieving milestones that lead to success.
The following will assist you in preparing your own business plan. Plus, a trucking business plan example and templates are also available.
If you’ve already started your business, that’s great. The following will serve as a review of the major elements and sections of a business plan. You might find this information useful in terms of helping you understand what it takes to run and grow your business. Remember, business planning is a continual process. The more you know about your business and the road ahead, the less risk you put yourself in.
How do I write a business plan? What are the major sections or steps in writing a business plan?
The ten sections or steps to writing a business plan are:
Market Analysis & Industry Outlook
Competitive Analysis & SWOT
Business Structure & Management Team
Breakdown of Service
Funding Request & Use of Funds
Look at this exercise, and the planning and effort you’ll put into it, as a way for you to think through the key aspects of your business and to document them under the major sections of a business plan. There are one page business plans that help you get organized and are even accepted by some parties and lenders. Traditional business plans use a standard format or structure that has you share as many details as possible in each section. If you wish to be taken seriously, then your business plan should contain these major sections and look professional. The effort you put into it upfront can pay dividends down the road. (See templates for purchase)
1. Executive Summary
Even though the executive summary is positioned at the beginning of the business plan document, it ought to be the last section that you write up. The summary describes the proposed business, its mission statement, and the industry the business will be in. It should also share the main takeaways from your financial analysis and the efforts that will ensure future growth and sustainability.
2. Company Description
The company description section is where you include information about your company, its mission and goals, target customers, and services (and/or products). Explain in some detail the main problem that your customers have that your business services will solve. Share a list of businesses and organizations that your company intends to work with down the road. If you have certain strengths or a clear competitive advantage that makes you stand out from others, be sure to mention it here. Lastly, describe major milestones, ones that you’ve achieved, like landing a new account, and those that are ahead of you. This is where you can share metrics that help explain your performance and productivity.
3. Market / Industry Analysis
You’ll want to do a little homework or research for this section. In your market analysis, you’ll show everyone just how well you know the markets and the industry in which you plan to operate. Give some background on your target market and customers as well as share details about the industry outlook. This is the place where you show that you have a solid understanding of the market, your target customer, and the overall industry that you will be operating in. Share specifics about the primary market and customers you will serve. Share some industry trends and statistics that give some context and paint a picture about the industry.
4. Competitive Analysis | SWOT
This section is a continuation of the market analysis. Here you’ll do some competitive research that helps you explain what other businesses are doing and how they measure up. What do some of the more successful competitors do? What works for them and what doesn’t? What can you do that is better and makes you stand out from your competitors? You’ll want to present a clear-cut comparison of your business relative to your competitors. One way to do this is by breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors in what is called a SWOT Analysis. SWOT involves creating a list of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The more honest and detailed you can be in this process, the better your understanding will be of the market, your competition, and where you will have success.
5. Description of Business Structure (LLC, Sole Proprietor, Partnership) & Management Team
In this section, you will describe the business structure you chose or that you plan to choose. You will also describe your management team and any advisors. There are multiple business structures to choose from, including sole proprietorship, limited liability corporation (LLC), limited liability partnership, partnership, and corporation, for example.
Seek advice from an accountant and an attorney to help you select the best business structure that evaluates not only managerial skill and direction but also factors in legal responsibility as well as financial risks and reporting. For example, if the business has a higher risk of liability or exposure to things like damage or injury, a sole proprietorship, which is not a separate entity from its owner, is likely not the best option because you are personally not protected from lawsuits. Obviously if a new business has more than one owner, then a sole proprietorship would not be an option. In either case, an LLC, a partnership, or corporation, would likely be a better choice. These are merely examples used to differentiate and explain concepts that might be new to you.
What is shared here is not legal, financial or tax advice.
If the business is not a sole proprietorship or single member LLC, then you’ll want to describe the management team. Consider using an organizational chart to illustrate who will be responsible for some of the major roles and functions in your business. Describe the background of your management team. It is also helpful to describe any external consultants [like Soshaul] who are there to support you and your management team. This support network might include your insurance agent, accountant, lawyer, dispatcher (perhaps a friend or spouse or service provider), marketing consultant, and even educators and mentors. Listing these external resources as direct consultants to the management team show that you have the necessary connections to help you move forward.
6. Breakdown of Services
Your company description above might cover this, or it might only list the service or services you plan to offer with little or no explanation. If that’s case, then use this section to give a more detailed description of your services and how you plan to meet demand. Explain how your services will meet a particular need in the market. You also want to explain how you'll get customers to seek your services. This is best explained in the subsequent marketing plan section.
7. Marketing Plan (we can help!)
Your goal in the marketing plan section is to describe how you'll attract and retain customers. In the next section you'll describe how sales will actually happen. The goal here in the marketing plan section is to describe how you intend to get your name (your brand) and your services in front of your target customers. The marketing plan section is where you identify target customers, including where they are located and how likely are they to need your services. Your marketing plan should describe the market location or locations, pricing, promotion and advertising, staffing and/or consultant support, and the costs associated with all of these activities.
WARNING/PRO-TIP: It is absolutely critical that you put some serious time into to developing a sound marketing plan. This could be the difference between success and failure. Seek advice from mentors and professionals that have expertise in this area.
8. Sales Plan
The sales plan section should answer how you will sell your services that you intend to offer to those target markets, what your pricing approach will be, and what types of activities and partnerships you need to make your business a success. Your sales strategy must be specific. Break down what your expected sales will be, explain how you will perform the selling that is necessary to reach your sales and revenue goals, what level of external support or outsourcing will you need for sales, if at all, how you will recruit external brokers or internal sales reps and bring them on board.
You need to specify your sales targets and make sales forecasts for the next two to five years. You'll refer to this section later when you make your financial projections, so make sure to thoroughly describe your plans for marketing and sales.
9. Funding Request | Use of Funds
One of the main reasons why new businesses fail is because of poor planning and not having enough startup capital to cover expenses. So, if you're planning to request funding, here is where you'll outline your funding needs and requirements. Describe your capital contribution and financial position in the business. Clearly explain how much funding you’ll need over the next two to five years and what you'll use the funds for. Specify whether you want debt or equity. For example, debt involves borrowing money in the form of a loan from a bank or lender, whereas equity involves selling a portion of equity or stake in the company to a partner or investors. Again, you’ll need to give a detailed description of how you'll use these funds. Explain if you need funds to buy equipment, make payroll and pay your staff, or cover various bills until revenue increases.
10. Financial Plan & Projections
Last, but certainly not least, is the financial plan section. In this section, you’ll support your funding request with a financial plan that includes assumptions and projections. One major assumption will likely be the amount of funds you expect to receive from financing and when you’ll likely need the funds to use. Another major assumption is sales and revenue (loads). Your goal in this section of your business plan is to convince potential lenders, investors, or partners that your business is sustainable and will be a financial success.
Financial projections should be estimated for at least two years and, if possible, for five years. For the first year, be specific and try to use monthly projections. Explain your projections and make sure they are in alignment or agreement with your funding request. You will capture your estimates and projections in a series of financial documents described below.
In addition to sales and revenue projections (see sales plan above), an income statement, cash flow statement, balance sheet, and budget are typically included in a business plan. New business owners often fail to carefully evaluate all areas of expense, which leads to underestimating the amount of capital needed to reach the stages to drive and accelerate the business.
These documents will present financial information in a form that lenders are accustomed to seeing. If you prepare your own financial documents, it is practical to have an accountant review them to check formatting and accuracy.
The typical financial plan includes:
Sales forecast information
You will need a monthly sales forecast for the first 12 months and then annual projections for the next two to five years.
Income (profit and loss) statement
An income statement, also known as a profit and loss statement, is a financial reporting document that summarizes the revenues, costs, and expenses that are incurred during a given period (monthly, quarterly, annually). It shows if you’re making a profit or taking a loss in that timeframe.
A balance sheet is a financial reporting document that lists the company’s assets, liabilities, and shareholder equity. In short, it highlights the financial health of your business by providing a snapshot of what the company owns and what it owes in a given period.
Cash flow statement
A cash flow statement is a financial reporting document that captures how cash enters and leaves a business during a given period. It reports how much cash you have at a given point in time.
WARNING/PRO-TIP: The income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement are the three core financial statements used by other entities, such as banks, lenders, and investors, to evaluate a business.
We know this section appears rather intimidating to most people and to most new business owners. But believe it or not, you don’t need a business degree to come up with financial projections. And the good news is that if you need help there are plenty of templates and resources that we have available to help you prepare your business plan.
Use your appendix to provide supporting documents or other materials that are specially requested. Common items to include are resumes, letters of reference, licenses, permits, contracts, and other legal documents.
Frequently Asked Questions & Final Thoughts
Is the business plan complete once I have details written in all the sections?
No. After you finish describing the company and its mission, sharing information about the market and your competition, outlining the business structure, breaking down your services, elaborating on your marketing, sales, and financial plans, you should finalize the executive summary and then ask other people to review your business plan.
Should I have someone review my business plan?
Yes. The next thing to do once all the sections are complete is share the plan with others, particularly those who you trust, and you know are willing to share their honest opinions with you. Get some feedback. Allow them to ask questions about your plan to help you get an idea if anything is missing and to see if you can defend what you wrote.
What are some common mistakes that are made when creating a business plan?
It is easy to make a mistake when writing a business plan. Some common mistakes to avoid are:
Not having a clearly defined objective or purpose for creating a business plan
Submitting the business plan to a lender without having someone else review it first
Having unrealistic assumptions with respect to sales or funding which lead to unrealistic projections
What if things change and they affect my business plan?
Stuff happens! Murphy’s Law tells us so. The important thing to remember is that your business plan is a living document that you can adjust when things change or when new information comes about where it just makes sense to do so. It is important that you continue to reference and review it throughout the year and let it guide you as you look to start and grow your business. A solid up to date business plan will give you confidence and it will help you be accountable as a new business owner. It’s a map that will help you get from point A to point B. It will help you reach your destination – success!
If the plan is based on rock solid assumptions and projections gives you the greenlight, then make the right decision. It’s time to start, drive, and accelerate your business! Hammer down!
Sources: SBA and UWCC
There are two major choices when it comes to starting your professional driving career – starting your own trucking business or working as a company driver. There are multiple ways to start your trucking business with different levels of investment, risk, pay, and support. It should be clear by now that it takes a definitive plan. If you feel drawn to the idea of starting your own trucking business, and if you feel you have the inner drive to drive, Soshaul can help! Please check out our free and for-purchase resources, templates, and in-depth courses available on our website.
If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. –Benjamin Franklin
Are you interested in learning more about detailed business plans or business structures, equipment or technology, or perhaps sales and marketing in transportation? Ready to START, DRIVE, & ACCELERATE your trucking business? Check out our course here!
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Soshaul Logistics LLC and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. It is meant to serve as a guide and information only and Soshaul Logistics, LLC - Copyright 2023 - does not assume responsibility for any omissions, errors, or ambiguity contained herein. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction or operation.