Small Business BC is excited to introduce our new Business Plan Advisor, John Baxter.
John brings a wealth of experience to his new role at SBBC, having worked on entrepreneurship programs in Canada and further afield. Most recently, John worked at the Immigrant Services Society of BC, giving him a valuable insight into the experiences of immigrant entrepreneurs.
“I studied Mathematics and Business Administration, later moving on to a Masters in International Development. This led to me working overseas in Indonesia, helping youth find employment and explore entrepreneurship. It changed over time to become more of a business advisor role, providing information about our various grants programs, how to write a business plan, and then going through business plans with our youth clients.
“I came home shortly afterwards, working at the Immigrant Services Society of BC helping immigrant and refugee clients to start their own business here in BC. It was great being able to take the knowledge I had gained way back in school and in Indonesia and applying it in a Canadian context.
“My role saw me interact a lot with Small Business BC, leaning on the resources we have here, referring clients to webinars and advisory services. Eventually, I found out about the opportunity to come on board at SBBC and it was a natural fit for everyone.”
Building a Successful Business Plan
Throughout his career, John has helped dozens of clients refine their business plans and move to the next phase. The main quality he’s identified in a strong business plan is a consistency that treats it as one large document, rather than a series of individual sections that don’t interact.
“Apart from the obvious categories that need to be in the plan, there needs to be an overall line that demonstrates the business plan is thought out and has a consistent story from beginning to end. It’s really important all parts of the business plan are written with one story and one idea in mind. Often, you’ll see a business plan that talks about how sales will go in one section, then you get to the financials and it doesn’t align whatsoever. To me, you’re presenting two different documents here that don’t work together. There’s no common thread that ties them all together.
“You also see this present itself in people’s executive summary. The information in there doesn’t match up with the information written in other areas of the plan. It shows the person hasn’t thought the plan through from start to finish. A business plan isn’t completed or ready until that alignment is there and all the information ties together consistently.”
Getting Over the Hump
As anyone who writes for a living can attest, the first words to write are often the hardest. The same is true for writing a business plan. Where to start? What section should come first? Don’t fall into the trap of beginning with your executive summary…
“Typically, people try to start a business plan with the executive summary. That’s the area of the business plan they should leave until last. You need to wait until you’ve written through the entirety of the plan and understand each aspect of it before you can proceed to summarizing it. Otherwise, you’re trying to summarize a detailed document you haven’t written yet. It makes no sense.
“It can be daunting for sure to sit down and write a business plan. I was taught the best place to start are the sections you feel most confident about. Begin in sections you understand well and build momentum that way. If there are areas you’re unsure about, you don’t need to try and muddle through them. Do your research, or reach out to people who have the expertise you lack and ask for advice.
“There’s no business plan you can write in one go without a break. Don’t view it as a document you’ll put together in one sitting through cramming. It’s important to take a breather between sections and give yourself time to digest what you’re writing.
“Get out of the mindset where you think it’s a problem if you don’t have the answers for a section – it’s only a problem if you ignore that section because you don’t know what to write. Instead, view it as an opportunity to do your research and expand your skillset.
“Ultimately, if your business is going to be successful, you need to have an understanding of all aspects of it. Sure, you can start your business and ignore those sections, but they are going to come up down the line and broadside you while you’re trying to build and grow. It’s creating needless stress for yourself that’s completely avoidable.”
Business Plan Services Offered by John
Interested in working with John to refine your business plan? Whether you’re at the ideas on a napkin phase, or you’re looking to identify areas for growth, learn about the range of business plan services available at SBBC and start creating your roadmap for business success.