How To Create An Effective Business Plan

By Michael Metzger, DPM, MBA

Whether you are a new practitioner opening your first office or a veteran DPM setting up shop in a new location, having an effective business plan is a necessity.
The business plan is a promotional selling document. Indeed, it is a major tool for selling your business to a banker. It is to the banker what the history and physical are for physicians.Since a major audience for your business plan consists of higher-ups at the bank, the black and white of your plan is far more important than a winning personality. Gone are the days when you could stroll into the bank, say you are going to do them a favor and let them loan you some money. You must present yourself like any new small business owner with a written well-conceived business plan. This is also true if you plan to try financing from the Small Business Administration (SBA).
Drawing up a business plan helps you organize your thoughts and plans for the practice, much like charting may help you organize your thoughts on treating a patient. It also can help you sell yourself on the practice, providing “a sanity check” that can help you crystallize the financial realities as well as your long-term goals. As an instrument for obtaining financing, the business plan is impressive as can be to the banker. You may also want to give your employees copies of the business plan (albeit with certain modifications). Doing so can make them feel like they are an important part of the project.
Again, I can’t overemphasize enough how important it is to tailor the plan for the appropriate audience. Bankers don’t care how many double osteotomies you have done or if you use a screw or k-wire. They care about the number of procedures you expect to do and the number of new patients you expect to see, simply because they contribute to the cash flow of your practice.
Ensure A Reader-Friendly And Impressive Presentation
Your business plan should include 10 parts: A cover page, a table of contents, an executive summary, information on who you are, a needs assessment, information on the practice, the services you plan to offer, marketing info, financial info and an appendix.
1. Cover sheet. Before you do anything else, put your name and phone number on the cover sheet, as well as your cell phone or pager number. Time is of the essence for bankers and they want to be able to contact you immediately without playing phone tag. Unfortunately, basic contact information is one of the most common items left out of the business plan.
On this sheet, you also want to note who it was prepared by, the date it was prepared, indicate that it’s confidential and include a copy number. Always make it copy three or higher, which gives the appearance that you are dealing with more than one financing source. It is also easy to copy this onto each page of the document via the insert tool on Microsoft Word. Make sure the cover sheet (no spots or wrinkles) is an impressive presentation that commands the banker’s attention.
2. Table of contents. People are busy and they need to get where they want fast. An easy way to get off on the wrong foot with your banker is to try to find some information and fail because it is buried in the middle of page eight. A table of contents also can prevent the king of all embarrassment statements, “I know it’s in here somewhere.” It also adds a professional look to your presentation.
3. Executive summary. The executive summary is the most important part of your business plan. It must be concise, accurate and consist of no more than three or four pages. Very often, the person you deal with at the bank will need to present your loan application to a committee that may review a dozen presentations that morning. The summary allows bankers to get the information quickly. Bankers have told me when they’re pressed for time, the summary is the only part of the plan they read. It is like the abstract in a journal article. If it looks boring and uninteresting, you may just pass on it. However, if it is interesting and informative, you will stop skimming the pages and read it.
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At Selling Yourself

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