I talked in an earlier post about the need to operate libraries as if they were businesses. If that is so, the first thing you would want to consider would be to develop a business plan. Why? For-profit businesses use their business plans to obtain the funding they need from banks, etc. to move forward with their businesses. The plan is also useful because it outlines what your services will be, who your clients are, what you will do for marketing, and more. It is the basis for how you will operate your business and may help you uncover areas of planning that need more attention.
There are many books, websites, and software applications that will help you with writing your plan. While there are many forms a business plan can take, it is good to start with something basic. The Small Business Administration has some basic information about creating a business plan. They begin by defining the elements of a plan and provide other resources to support the development of the plan.
This may look a bit overwhelming but one way to attack it is to take what works for your library and leave the rest. An example of what that may look like follows:
Table of contents
The [Services / Department / Plan]
- Description of services /projects
Budget History and Proposal
- 1-3 years of budget history
- Proposal for funds needed to support the delivery of services
- 1-3 year budget projection
- Assumptions upon which projections were based
- Summary of services offered in the past with statistics that demonstrate success
- Summary of open and completed projects with statistics taht demonstrate success
- Organization chart
- Copy of resumes of all management staff
- Vendor proposals for products and services that will support the plan and are represented in the proposal
- Other documents including; Strategic Plan, Collection Development Plan, Information or Knowledge Audit Summary, etc.
- Document describing how the proposal is tied to the firm’s business goals
This is just a suggestion of what might be included. The actual business plan that you develop is only limited by your business acumen and creative skills. The goal is to be able to demonstrate to your leadership that your plans are based on the firm’s business goals and you have skills that go beyond what they think of as a traditional librarian.
Some things to think about:
- The executive summary is your chance to get the most important points in front of your audience. As lawyers often have a short attention span for this type of thing, it is very important to format the executive summary carefully to make sure you get the right message to your potential supporters.
- The description of services, etc. is your opportunity to demonstrate what you are already doing along with what services need to be offered in the future.
- The marketing section should include a description of the market you are serving within your organization or community along with what you will do to communicate with that market.
- The competition section should be a realistic look at your competitors. This could be included in a strategic plan instead and referenced in the business plan
- The difference between this and a strategic plan is that the strategic plan focuses on vision, mission, goals, and objectives and the business plan focuses on how to make the goals and objectives a reality.
Additional resources for learning more about writing a business plan include the Small Business Lending Corporation’s online workshop titled Developing a Business Plan. This pre-recorded workshop provides a great review of the topic. Your public library is another good source – searching on “business plan library” Google will bring up a number of library website pages that list resources and sample plans. SLA members have access to several books on business planning through the ebrary available through Click University.
Any comments on this post? Do you think creating a business plan for the library in a private law firm would work? I’d love to hear your thoughts.