As an ambulance company owner or administrator, developing a multiyear business plan sounds like a daunting process but it is one of the most important processes that is often overlooked when developing a new company. Creating a business plan is equivalent to having a GPS or road map when you travel. As you can imagine, not having one is a sure fire way to get “lost” and lose focus on your core business strategies.
Developing a business plan is an easy component to overlook, especially when there are more pressing operational and financial pressures vying for your attention. The problem with not having a plan, is that as you address the daily challenges of operating the company, it is easy for the operations to spin out of control. A well thought out business plan is designed to get you back on track. I’d like to share 10 simple tips for developing a business plan that I have found helpful over the years.
1. Remember that a business plan is meant to be a fluid document and that you are not writing anything in stone. Your business plan will change and evolve as time goes on. As a foundation, the plan should outline your goals, challenges and where you want to be in 3 to 5 years. The plan should be updated annually to fit different economic circumstances or operational changes. We cannot truly see into the future, so don’t panic about getting it exactly right, instead concentrate on your market, your competitors and your grow strategies over this period. .
2. As a general rule, do not get caught up on the length of the business plan. Most owners think that unless a business plan is 30 pages long, that it is not of any worth. This is the wrong approach; your business plan can be as long or as short as it needs to be. There is no need to pad the plan with unnecessary words or items that don’t need to be there. Keep it clear and concise. It is not the size of the plan that counts, it is the content.
3. Develop the outline for the executive summary. An executive summary needs to be fairly succinct and should enable readers to know what the business is, what the business does and the objectives that you want the company to meet. This is the area of the plan to include your mission statement, if you don’t have one this is a good time to develop one.
4. Business plans are often a way of attracting funding or are part of the loan process. The plan should showcase senior personnel; market differentiators and operational best practices. This approach is the best way to sell potential investors or lenders on the intangible worth of your company.
5. It is critical to provide a detailed analysis of the markets you serve. A good plan analyzes the facilities or municipalities who want to contract for services, analyzes the competition and examines the buying behavior within the target markets. Be thorough in this section and do not simply assume that you have work in a market that is devoid of competition. All markets are vulnerable; the plan simply needs to show that the company can survive when times get tough.
6. The development of a strong marketing plan is essential. You will need to show that you can market your ambulance services and that you have thought about how to increase market share through an understanding of the basic principles of marketing.
7. It is important to include some kind of analysis that looks at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats: namely a SWOT analysis. This is the time to peel back the onion to examine all the layers of the company. In general, you are only as strong as the weakest link. This section should be an open and honest look at the organization. Most importantly, it demonstrates that you have thought everything through and that you are methodical in your approach.
8. Timing is everything. It is critical to consider the timing of your plan; don’t be overly optimistic, set realistic growth goals and identify achievable milestones. Taking a year over year approach and knowing the timing of contract or RFP opportunities will assist in this process.
9. As a final detail, the business plan will need to demonstrate that you have included a very methodical financial projection over this period of time. The financial plan has to be based on your past financial performance and needs to be accurate. It is easier to project revenue but all expenses need to be included, such as rent, any payroll, insurances, operating costs etc.
10. There is an old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. This is especially true when developing a compelling plan. Take the time to develop graphics, graphs and insert pictures that tell the story. Finally, include all relevant data such as bank statements, excel spreadsheets etc.
As a final point, the sections outlined in this article should provide a solid foundation in the development of the business plan. Remember that the plan does not have to written in one day, take your time and work on each section over a period of time. This approach will enable you to get to the end result in a way that is achievable and makes the whole process a whole lot less daunting.
About the Author
Michael Shabkie has extensive ambulance business development experience in Arizona, Texas and Colorado, with both the public and private sector. He is currently the Managing Partner for Engage 911. He has served as a key collaborator for EMS system design, developed winning contracting strategies, managed political and public affairs, and acted as an executive advisor on operational processes for both public and private ambulance organizations.
For more information visit: http://www.engage911.net.