by Doug Marranci
In the early 90’s I wanted to create a business plan to open my first coffee house in Charlotte NC. I did a lot of research and found many different types of plans that could be written. After going to the library and looking at many books and SBA information about writing a business plan, here are some of my thoughts on writing that first business plan.
1. If you address all of the areas of a standard business plan, you will probably have uncovered all of the information that you need to find to start your business.
2. Work on one small part of the business plan at a time. If you think about writing the entire plan, you will get overwhelmed. As with any project in life, the longest journey begins with the first step. Take one small section of the plan, do your writing, do your research, check your work, and move on to the next section.
3. Use friends and acquaintances to read over the plan as you are developing it. I asked a variety of friends to check my work for various reasons. The first was a banker. Enough said. The next was a Research Physician. He pointed out anything that I said that i did not substantiate. The next was an English Professor. Enough said on that one too. The last was a friend who was not a business person, just to make sure an average person understood what I was trying to do.
4. Tell everyone what you are doing. You are not “opening a restaurant” you are simply writing a business plan for a restaurant idea to see if it could work. I can assure you that a well written plan will clearly let you know if you are able to fulfill this dream, or do you need to “scale down” your dream to something more realistic. One note here, I never had to go to investors. I talked to so many people about my ideas that I had people volunteer to be investors before I ever had my plan finished. (I thought i was done, however, they made me finish my business plan).
5. You never know who can be a resource. You will develop relationships with many people in the process who are in the Industry. Pricing from Food Vendors, Lease and Sale prices from a Restaurant Broker, Equipment from a Food Service Equipment Vendor and your accounting or banker friend when you ask for advice. These relationships carry over into your business. Since you are a small business person, most people take an interest in you, and your business venture. Most people with whom I had discussions with kept up with my progress, and were some of my first customers.
6. You will gain knowledge and assistance from many sources. My desire to open this Coffee House was to provide a safe environment for people away from bars and clubs. Remember, this was P.S. (Pre-Starbucks). I went to a used furniture store, and was picking out what I wanted. When I told the manager what I was doing, he told me to pick out whatever I wanted, and gave it to me for free. While this may not happen to everyone, you never know who is willing to help you and in what ways they can help.
Since that initial coffee house, I have gone on to start up and sell three more restaurants since then. This was all done from starting with nothing but an idea.