While it is true that some of the largest trucking companies started with very humble origins, the one thing that virtually all successful companies share is a well thought out strategic business plan. Often times, writing a business plan can be perceived as a tedious and time-consuming task that is only lost when the bank manager insists on it; however, it is an exciting opportunity to set a clear vision and direction for the future of your new company or business. Strengthen the foundation of your existing transportation operation.
Plan the plan
A good business plan should be written with a purpose in mind. Is it simply a roadmap for internal use or will it be used to seek funds from a financial institution or other external investor? While a well-researched plan can be diversified and adapted for different purposes, the focus can change depending on what it will be used for.
Covering the basics
Whether you’re planning a large company or owner-driver operation, taking on a limited number of transportation jobs, the basics of a business plan will cover the same: structure, strategies, and finances. Before you begin, make sure you have as much information on hand as possible, to ensure transparency and allow you to analyze and forecast accurately.
While the summary comes first in a business plan, it is best to write it last. It should be a clear and concise overview of your business, an ‘at a glance’ statement of who you are and what you do. Simple, if you do the hard work first!
The operations plan includes the details of the structure of your business; your location (even if you are a proprietary driver and your truck is your mobile office); number and roles of staff members; a review of your services in particular, what kind of transportation work you do (do you specialize or diversify?); and any license, accreditation or registration that it possesses or must possess. The latter should also include memberships to any relevant industry body.
The marketing plan should include details of both your customers (potential and existing if applicable) and your competitors. Ideally, it should also include a brief analysis of your transport and logistics industry sector. Document any successful marketing strategies you have undertaken in the past and your key strategies to achieve future marketing goals.
This section includes your vision for the global future of your operations, your growth strategy to increase the amount of transportation jobs you can take on and maintain, and all of your key business goals. This section may be in the form of a vision or mission statement, or it may be more formally documented.
The ability to analyze finances and forecast future projections comes down to accurate documentation in your business plan, from facility and vehicle maintenance costs, volume of transportation jobs, to salaries, cash flow and lists of creditors and debtors. If you are just starting out, it is very important to note that the financial figures you include are only forecasts.
Any information you include in your business plan, including records, memberships, finances, and operating procedures, should include copies of the documentation as verification of authenticity.
Best plans …
The most successful business plan is an organic and constantly evolving document. The plan, like the rules, is made to be broken, and you should never be afraid to adapt your plan to changing circumstances. In fact, updating your business plan regularly is vital to maintaining its relevance. The act of writing a business plan for a new business from scratch, or analyzing an existing one, holds you accountable and gives you the opportunity for review, clarity, and a deeper insight into your market.