Whether you’re hoping to run a gite, open a shop, or run an e-commerce site—every successful business starts out with a plan. From researching the market to defining your USP—here’s what you need to know about making a business plan for your small business in France.
Why Do You Need a Business Plan for Your Small Business in France?
A business plan is essential for any business as it serves to clarify exactly what the enterprise is about—its purpose or “raison d’être”, as well as its financial viability and potential for profit. A solid business plan will express your business objective, establish your goals, and set your financial budget and projections.
This is the proposal for your business that will be presented to banks, possible investors, or partners, but most importantly, it is for your own use and reference. Your business plan should serve as the roadmap to your business, allowing you to track milestones, deliverables, and progress. It’s an organic document that can be visited, revisited and refined throughout the life of your business.
Starting Your French Business Plan
Any Business Plan worth its salt will need to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The ‘end’ should serve as a positive yet realistic forecast as to the future of your small business. Your business plan should answer the following questions:
1. Why do I want to run a business in France? And why this particular idea?
You need to be specific here. Be clear as to what you want the business to be and what you want to get out of it. Research the existing market to compare and contrast your business idea with what is already out there. Define your business’s USP (Unique Selling Point).
I want to open a one-stop-shop/boutique specialising in selling organic pet food and pet accoutrements. A shop that will showcase everything relating to the maintenance and care of pets, i.e. “A one-stop centre catering for all your pet’s needs.”
The short-term aim is to stock brand pet food and treats, along with hand-made products, including personalised outfits, collars, toys, pet houses/kennels, and other pet paraphernalia.
The long-term aim is to become a ‘by appointment only’ on-site pet groomer and provide an online ‘agony aunt’ service via email for pet owners to target questions about their pets.
2. Is there a gap in the market for my business?
Continuing with the above example, you might ask yourself whether pet owners want this facility in your chosen locale? You might carry out a short survey to ascertain the needs and wants of local pet owners. You might look at the local market to establish whether there is a need for this business or whether these needs are already being met. You could also liaise with veterinary surgeries or use social media to connect with your target audience, and research the market.
3. What is my reason for starting this business?
Consider whether this is a business opportunity with lucrative and profitable outcomes, or whether it is more of a hobby that you would like to turn into a business. Both are potentially good reasons to set up a business, but either way, in order for your business to be viable, you need to be able to prove that it will be sustainable and profitable… which is where your business plan comes in.
Starting Your Business Plan
Your business plan may well be something you revisit time and time again throughout the lifespan of your business. Putting the time and effort in at this planning stage will not only set you in good stead for a successful business launch, but it might make the difference between bringing your plans to fruition or not.
How Long Should Your Business Plan Be?
Depending on the size and scope of your business idea, your business plan might be one page or fifty pages! However, if you are new to the business arena, it’s advisable to start small. Many new businesses flounder despite a good idea, simply because the business owner took on too much too soon or failed to establish a solid foundation before expanding.
The first priority should be to establish the business and build a sound client base. Start simple by identifying the key elements of your business idea, then in your forecast for the future, you can explore how you will build on those elements and grow the business.
Who Can Help With Your Business Plan?
During the planning stages, it’s a good idea to pay a visit to the Mairie and your local Centre of Commerce. You should start thinking about the kind of business structure you will use, what taxes and social charges you will be liable to pay, and any licences or training you will need to apply for in order to get your business off the ground. All of these are crucial and if you don’t think about them right from the start, you may find your business plan needs completely revising!
If you have a business mentor or someone whose business acumen and achievements you admire, you may wish to run your Business Plan past them and invite candid feedback. It might also be a good idea to meet with an accountant, who can advise you on all of the above and also offer a realistic assessment of your financial plan.
Read more about this in our article 10 Steps to Starting Your Small Business in France.
What Should Your Business Plan Include?
Start with an introduction containing your Mission Statement. This should express your aims and objectives, and highlight what your USP is i.e. What makes you stand out in the crowd? Think of this as your ‘elevator pitch’ – how would you describe and sell your business idea in just a few short minutes?
Market Analysis and Marketing Plan
Provide an analysis of the current market and competition, and focus on how your business will fit into the current market, fill a ‘gap in the market’, or provide additional benefits or services that competitors have missed.
Then, set out the practical steps you will take for attracting potential customers, meeting the market demand, and marketing your business. Include a presentation of your own skills and experience, proving your ability to implement your proposed plan.
An optional but useful tool to include in your business plan is a SWOT analysis. Your analysis should include the Strengths of the business idea, the Weaknesses that might exist, along with Opportunities for the business, and any potential Threats to it becoming a success.
Financial Plan and Projections
The nuts and bolts of any business is money, and a large section of your business plan should cover your business’s financial plan, budget, and forecasts. Some things you need to include are:
- A balance sheet of your assets and liabilities: detail investment capital, start-up costs, and costs of initial stock (if applicable)
- A cash-flow forecast: taking into account business overheads and expenses (include everything from office rentals, utility bills, and employee wages, to travel expenses, web hosting, and marketing) and projected income.
- A five-year financial forecast that sets out projected profits and losses.
- Contingency plan: it’s a good idea to include some kind of contingency plan, whether that be a financial safety net, a secondary source of income, or sellable assets.
Your Action Plan
Write out your short-term goals, your objectives for the next six to 12 months, and your plan for the next five years. This will serve as your personal point of reference and serve as a basis for your annual reviews.
By Teresa Dolan
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