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A business plan for detailers

October 11, 2010
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A business plan is an essential tool for managing and marketing the business and simply knowing where your business is going.

Without it, you are a ship at sea without a rudder.

It is a living document that changes with time.

The basics

A good business plan should be divided into four sections:

  1. Business description
  2. Marketing
  3. Finances
  4. Management

Writing a business plan requires you to look at nearly every area of the detail business and make an honest assessment with timelines and achievements.

This is useful for comparing your projections to actual accomplishments.

It helps you allocate resources, handle unforeseen complications, make educated business decisions, and avoid obstacles by establishing alternatives ahead of time.

By defining the purpose of your detail business, the plan can also assist you in reaching your sales goals.

If you want to borrow money, a business plan is an essential tool.

Beginning a business plan

To begin you must first develop a budget, establish reasonable objectives and build a sales strategy. Then revise this every six months.

Keep in mind that there are plenty of detail businesses that provide quality detailing services, have the latest equipment, and have dedicated and trained employees, yet they are struggling and operate everyday in a survival mode.

Why? Because they only focus on what is in front of them today.

If they had a business plan they would know where they are going and how to get there.

It would allow them to reap the benefits from the business.

Business plan outline

A – Cover sheet

Include a title, company name and contact information, the date and names of the principal or principals.

B – Table of contents

C – Executive summary

In the first two pages, summarize your business plan.

Give a brief description of the detail business.

If you are creating the plan for a loan, include the amount of the loan being requested and how you will use the money.

D – Business profile

This should include a description of the detail business. What you do, who you serve, and so on.

Explain how your detail service fills a demand in the marketplace, include both retail and wholesale. It shows potential even though you might not do dealer work.

Is the structure of your detail business a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, S-corporation, or LLC?

Is your detail business a start-up, an expansion of an established detail business, or are you purchasing an existing detail business? When will the business open?

E – Management team profile

Who manages (or will manage) the business? What business experience and skills does the person(s) possess?

List the name and address of the company accountant, lawyer and insurance adviser.

Include the current resumes of the owner and managers.

F – Personnel profile
  • What are your current personnel requirements?
  • Future needs?
  • What skills are required of employees?
  • What level of training?

What level of education is necessary — technical or business background?

Will employees be full time or part time, hourly or salaried? What benefits will you provide — vacation, holidays, health benefits, etc.? Will you have an employee handbook outlining company policies and procedures?

Do you have Workers' Compensation in place? You must have this by law before you hire any employees. If you are a proprietorship with no employees, you are not required to have Workers' Comp or tax identification numbers. If your company is a partnership or a corporation these are required.

G – Market profile

Show the need for the detail services that your business will provide. Who are the target markets and where are they? What is the potential size of these markets? What share do you have or plan to obtain? Is the market stable, growing or declining?

H – Advertising/marketing
  • How will you reach your target markets?
  • Have you developed a marketing plan?
  • Will you utilize newspapers, TV, radio, signs, direct mail?
  • What is your advertising budget?
I – Competitor profile

Who are your direct competitors? List their strengths and weaknesses. Discuss how you will take advantage of their weaknesses and how you can use their strengths to your advantage.

  • Can you provide any current sales trends?
  • What percentage of the competition's market will you be able to take?
  • Will you be price competitive?
  • How do you compare in location, price, quality and service with the competition?
J – Location of business and facilities

Have you checked zoning laws for a detail business? Do you meet all legal requirements for water discharge, etc? Will you own or lease? Will remodeling be required? If so, how much will it cost?

Name some of the positive factors about your location. Is there a good labor pool in the area? Good quality of life in the community? Is it a high-traffic area with potential buyers? What is the area's economic, demographic, political climate?

Getting the loan

If you are using your business plan to get a loan, the following information will help prepare you to answer the questions the lender will have even before they ask them. This can have a positive impact on the outcome of your loan request by showing the lender you are on top of things.

Financial facets

A – Source and application of funds/loan

How much money do you need to accomplish the goals of your detail business?

List why you need the money — is it for new equipment, remodeling, start-ups costs, working capital, or buying an existing detail business.

List the terms of the loan including the number of years for payback, and so on. What kind of collateral can you offer?

B – Financial statements

If you are already in business be sure to provide financial statements, balance sheets and income tax returns for the previous two years and provide an interim statement no older than 90 days.

C – Capital equipment list

List the cost and current value of equipment you own or will be purchasing.

D – Proformas (income projections)

Develop profit and loss projections for two years. This is an estimate of what you expect will occur with the business on a monthly basis for the next two years.

Show the seasonality of the detail business, that is, the highs and lows that occur during the year. Include notes and explanations of profit and loss projection.

Explain how you arrived at your figures, what they represent, the timing of increases or decreases, and any other information that clarifies your statement.

Cash flow projections for two years should be done after you develop your profit and loss statements. Cash flow is one of the most important areas of running your business. It shows you have enough cash to be in business.

Include a balance sheet that lists the assets and liabilities of your business. The business plan should include a beginning balance sheet and projected balance sheet after one year of business.

E – Supporting documents
  • Tax returns of principals for the last three years;
  • Personal financial statement (all banks have these forms);
  • Copy of the proposed lease or purchase agreement for the building space;
  • Copy of licenses and other legal documents;
  • Copy of resumes of all principals;
  • Copies of letters of intent from suppliers, etc; and
  • Marketing studies, articles, etc.
Take a breath

This may seem overwhelming but I can almost guarantee that any detail business owner who develops a realistic business plan, as outlined above, can expect to get the necessary loan if their credit and collateral is good, and will stay in business for the long haul.

R.L. "Bud" Abraham is president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems, Portland, OR, and a 30-year member of the car-care industry. He can be contacted at

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