The first step to being seri- ous about your business is to have a plan. That might seem obvious, but very few
small woodworking operations have
a formal, written business plan. They
struggle with the day-to-day challenges
of running a business and making
quality products without having a clear
picture of where they are going or how
to make the journey. No wonder they
never get there.
I’ve talked to lots of small shop professional woodworkers, who view such
a document as a lot of work for no real
gain unless they are trying to apply
for a business loan. I confess I’ve been
there, too. I started and ran two businesses, including the one that put me
through college, without ever having a
real plan. It wasn’t until I entered the
crazy world of seeking venture capital
for a new enterprise that I actually
invested the time and energy to write
a serious business plan. That plan was
successful in getting funding, but it was
more important in forcing me to ask
hard questions about my business.
What is a business plan?
A business plan defines the goals of
the business and what the owners
expect it to take to reach those goals.
You can certainly run a business, seek
financing, and develop new markets
and products without a business plan,
but it really helps. Financial folk will
pay a lot more attention to you if you
have invested the time and energy into
a formal business plan. But even more
important, the exercise of seriously
creating such a document will force
you to ask a lot of tough questions and
expose weaknesses (and strengths) in
your business that could be crucial to
your long-term success.
One venture capitalist I spoke to
put it this way, “What we envision in
our mind’s eye often takes on a differ-
ent meaning when we transcribe it to
There are countless books, outlines,
services and online resources (both
free and paid) that promise to take
you step by step through the process of
writing a business plan. Most of those
are not designed for custom woodwork-
ing businesses or small manufacturers.
What I’ll share here is a generic outline
(see the sidebar) tailored to small
woodshops, but it can be customized
to suit your needs. There are no firm
rules to follow. Let’s get started.
Your business plan should open with a
succinct, one-page or less, description
of your plan. Talk briefly about who
and what you are, what your market
and potential business is, and how you
intend to go about it. What makes your
enterprise special? What makes you
more likely to succeed?
But don’t get hung up on those
questions and not get to the rest of
the plan. It’s actually better to write
the plan first and the summary last.
Throughout the plan, write in the
third person (he, she, they) rather than
the first person (I, me). Not only does
that make the plan more professional,
but also it helps you to step back from
the plan and be more analytical.
This section of the plan goes into
Every business needs a plan
detail about the business. Start by
talking about the background and his-
tory of the business. How did you get
started? What are the backgrounds of
by William Sampson
email@example.com PATH TO PROFESSIONALISM
Writing a business plan is an important step to advance your woodworking business.
✚ Want more? Look for more articles
and columns by William Sampson online at
William Sampson is a lifelong woodworker and editor of
FDMC. A serial entrepreneur, he put himself through college
with the first two businesses he started. He has paid special
attention to the business challenges faced by woodworkers.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org