Do you have an exciting idea for a new business? Is it time to expand your favorite hobby into a profession? Or are you growing your existing business? It’s time to write a business plan!

A business owner holds his tablet

There are as many types of business plans as there are businesses. One of the most important questions to consider before you start writing your plan is who you are writing the plan for — is it for your own use and guidance as you build your business, or is it for investors? After you’ve answered this question, you’ll have a better idea of what you need to focus on in your plan and what the tone and format should be.

Most business plans include financial projections and a business description or goals. Other common elements include: market analysis, organization and management, service or product descriptions, and marketing and sales strategies. While giving due consideration to all of these elements will help you in the long run, the level of attention and detail you give each piece will vary depending on the specific purpose and audience of your plan.

While you consider who you’re writing for and what you want to focus on, you can read more about business plan development from the experts at the Small Business Administration.

As you write out your business plan, don’t forget to consider the essential role of technology in your business. Whether you’re a home baker selling goods at a farmer’s market or a tattoo artist opening your own shop, every type of business requires some level of technology. It’s important to think about how you’ll use technology in your business, and plan for it from the very beginning — strategically, operationally, and financially.

Strategic considerations of technology

For some businesses, technology has an obvious and essential role — for any web-based business, for example, such as online booking or payment platforms. For these types of businesses, the strategic inclusion of technology is crucial to all parts of the plan. For other businesses, the role of technology might not be so clear. In thinking about your business, do some research to learn if there are any apps, programs, or systems that might help you streamline operations, increase your efficiency, or add value to your product or service. And don’t forget to consider the value of data for your business. These might be considerations for the growth of your business that you’ll implement a few years in, or you might find solutions that can help you immediately.

Technology in your operations

After you’ve taken a strategic look at your business and the technology-driven tools available to you, it’s time to consider how you’ll use those tools in your operations. While it goes without saying that a good internet connection is the most basic of technology tools you should plan for, you may also want landline phone service for your business, or a second internet line. You will also likely want to develop and maintain a website, and subscribe to an email marketing program, such as MailChimp or ConstantContact. And then there’s record-keeping and financials — how will you keep track of your revenue and expenses for planning and tax purposes? A subscription to a web or cloud-based accounting system is often a good solution for small businesses.

These are just a few of the more common examples of the use of technology in business operations. Whether you call out these types of tools as part of a specified “technology plan” in your larger business plan, or include them in relevant sections such as marketing, communications, or management/administration, this list serves to remind you that no matter what your business is, technology will play some role.

A food truck business owner at work

Financial considerations of technology tools

You’ve taken a strategic look at technology for your business, you’ve considered its role in your operations, and now it’s time to include it in your financial planning. The cost of internet and/or phone service may or may not be included in the monthly payment for your physical location (whether that’s a leased office space, a co-working space, or your home office). If it’s not included in monthly rent, or if you are working from home, you’ll want to include the cost as a separate line item in your expenses. The other tools mentioned above will also all have recurring monthly fees, unless you pay up-front for a year of service for a program like QuickBooks or MailChimp. The development of a website may require an additional one-time expense if you hire someone to do it for you. Web hosting will usually be an annual fee.

The costs for all of these tools definitely adds up, so it’s important not to overlook them in your financial planning. For so many new businesses, financial success or failure can be only a few hundred dollars away – don’t let the tools that will contribute to your long-term success be an unpleasant surprise when it comes time to pay for them.

When you’re planning your new or growing business, considering how technology will serve you will be an essential factor in your business plan. From internet and phone service to advanced programs that support sales, inventory, and logistics, the right technology can help you automate and streamline your business, serve your customers better, and give you more time to focus on the work that really excites you.

Malia Ruchti has been known to use the internet once in a while. She has found herself writing on, about, and for the internet for at least 10 years. She's written web content for nonprofits and small businesses. She has also written grants and business plans. Writing content for CenturyLink has given her great insight to the workings of the internet. Malia lives in Colorado with her family, most of whom are too young to explore the internet. Instead, they spend a lot of time outside with plants, dogs, and bikes.