How to write a business plan for an independent dog walker?
Putting together a business plan for an independent dog walker can be daunting - especially if you're creating a business for the first time - but with this comprehensive guide, you'll have the necessary tools to do it confidently.
We will explore why writing one is so important in both starting up and growing an existing independent dog walker, as well as what should go into making an effective plan - from its structure to content - and what tools can be used to streamline the process and avoid errors.
Without further ado, let us begin!
Why write a business plan for an independent dog walker?
Understanding the document's scope and goals will help you easily grasp its structure and content. Before diving into the specifics of the plan, let's take a moment to explore the key reasons why having an independent dog walker business plan is so crucial.
To have a clear roadmap to grow the business
Small businesses rarely experience a constant and predictable environment. Economic cycles go up and down, while the business landscape is mutating constantly with new regulations, technologies, competitors, and consumer behaviours emerging when we least expect it.
In this dynamic context, it's essential to have a clear roadmap for your independent dog walker. Otherwise, you are navigating in the dark which is dangerous given that - as a business owner - your capital is at risk.
That's why crafting a well-thought-out business plan is crucial to ensure the long-term success and sustainability of your venture.
To create an effective business plan, you'll need to take a step-by-step approach. First, you'll have to assess your current position (if you're already in business), and then identify where you'd like your independent dog walker to be in the next three to five years.
Once you have a clear destination for your independent dog walker, you'll focus on three key areas:
- Resources: you'll determine the human, equipment, and capital resources needed to reach your goals successfully.
- Speed: you'll establish the optimal pace at which your business needs to grow if it is to meet its objectives within the desired timeframe.
- Risks: you'll identify and address potential risks you might encounter along the way.
By going through this process regularly, you'll be able to make informed decisions about resource allocation, paving the way for the long-term success of your business.
To get visibility on future cash flows
If your small independent dog walker runs out of cash: it's game over. That's why we often say "cash is king", and it's crucial to have a clear view of your independent dog walker's future cash flows.
So, how can you achieve this? It's simple - you need to have an up-to-date financial forecast.
The good news is that your independent dog walker business plan already includes a financial forecast (which we'll discuss further in this guide). Your task is to ensure it stays current.
To accomplish this, it's essential to regularly compare your actual financial performance with what was planned in your financial forecast. Based on your business's current trajectory, you can make adjustments to the forecast.
By diligently monitoring your independent dog walker's financial health, you'll be able to spot potential financial issues, like unexpected cash shortfalls, early on and take corrective actions. Moreover, this practice will enable you to recognize and capitalize on growth opportunities, such as excess cash flow enabling you to expand to new locations.
To secure financing
Crafting a comprehensive business plan for your independent dog walker, whether you're starting up or already established, is paramount when you're seeking financing from banks or investors.
Given how fragile small businesses are, financiers will want to ensure that you have a clear roadmap in place as well as command and control of your future cash flows before entertaining the idea of funding you.
For banks, the information in your business plan will be used to assess your borrowing capacity - which is defined as the maximum amount of debt your business can afford alongside your ability to repay the loan. This evaluation helps them decide whether to extend credit to your business and under what terms (interest rate, duration, repayment options, collateral, etc.).
Similarly, investors will thoroughly review your plan to determine if their investment can yield an attractive return. They'll be looking for evidence that your independent dog walker has the potential for healthy growth, profitability, and consistent cash flow generation over time.
Now that you understand the importance of creating a business plan for your independent dog walker, let's delve into the necessary information needed to craft an effective plan.
Information needed to create a business plan for an independent dog walker
Drafting an independent dog walker business plan requires research so that you can project sales, investments and cost accurately in your financial forecast, and convince the reader that there is a viable commercial opportunity to be seized.
Below, we'll focus on three critical pieces of information you should gather before starting to write your plan.
Carrying out market research for an independent dog walker
Before you begin writing your business plan for an independent dog walker, conducting market research is a critical step in ensuring precise and realistic financial projections.
Market research grants you valuable insights into your target customer base, competitors, pricing strategies, and other crucial factors that can impact the success of your business.
In the course of this research, you may stumble upon trends that could impact your independent dog walker.
You may discover that pet owners in your area prefer to hire independent dog walkers who offer flexible services such as evening and weekend walks. Additionally, your market research might reveal that pet owners are increasingly looking for dog walkers who provide extra services, such as administering medication or taking their dogs to the vet.
Such market trends play a pivotal role in revenue forecasting, as they provide essential data regarding potential customers' spending habits and preferences.
By integrating these findings into your financial projections, you can provide investors with more accurate information, enabling them to make well-informed decisions about investing in your independent dog walker.
Developing the marketing plan for an independent dog walker
Before delving into your independent dog walker business plan, it's imperative to budget for sales and marketing expenses.
To achieve this, a comprehensive sales and marketing plan is essential. This plan should provide an accurate projection of the necessary actions to acquire and retain customers.
Additionally, it will outline the required workforce to carry out these initiatives and the corresponding budget for promotions, advertising, and other marketing endeavours.
By budgeting accordingly, you can ensure that the right resources are allocated to these vital activities, aligning them with the sales and growth objectives outlined in your business plan.
The staffing and equipment needs of an independent dog walker
Whether you are at the beginning stages of your independent dog walker or expanding its horizons, having a clear plan for recruitment and capital expenditures (investment in equipment and real estate) is vital to ensure your business's success.
To achieve this, both the recruitment and investment plans must align coherently with the projected timing and level of growth in your forecast. It is essential to secure appropriate funding for these plans.
Staffing costs for an independent dog walker might include salary for employees to take care of the dogs on walks, as well as wages for a receptionist to manage bookings and handle customer inquiries. Equipment costs could include leashes, collars, doggy first-aid kits, and waste-disposal bags.
To create a financial forecast that accurately represents your business's outlook, remember to factor in other day-to-day operating expenses.
Now that you have all the necessary information, it's time to dive in and start creating your business plan and developing the financial forecast for your independent dog walker.
What goes into your independent dog walker's financial forecast?
The objective of the financial forecast of your independent dog walker's business plan is to show the growth, profitability, funding requirements, and cash generation potential of your business over the next 3 to 5 years.
The four key outputs of a financial forecast for an independent dog walker are:
- The profit and loss (P&L) statement,
- The projected balance sheet,
- The cash flow forecast,
- And the sources and uses table.
Let's look at each of these in a bit more detail.
The projected P&L statement
The projected P&L statement for an independent dog walker shows how much revenue and profits your business is expected to generate in the future.
Ideally, your independent dog walker's P&L statement should show:
- Healthy growth - above inflation level
- Improving or stable profit margins
- Positive net profit
Expectations will vary based on the stage of your business. A startup will be expected to grow faster than an established independent dog walker. And similarly, an established company should showcase a higher level of profitability than a new venture.
The projected balance sheet of your independent dog walker
The balance sheet for an independent dog walker is a financial document that provides a snapshot of your business’s financial health at a given point in time.
It shows three main components: assets, liabilities and equity:
- Assets: are resources owned by the business, such as cash, equipment, and accounts receivable (money owed by clients).
- Liabilities: are debts owed to creditors and other entities, such as accounts payable (money owed to suppliers) and loans.
- Equity: includes the sums invested by the shareholders or business owners and the cumulative profits and losses of the business to date (called retained earnings). It is a proxy for the value of the owner's stake in the business.
Examining the balance sheet is important for lenders, investors, or other stakeholders who are interested in assessing your independent dog walker's liquidity and solvency:
- Liquidity: assesses whether or not your business has sufficient cash and short-term assets to honour its liabilities due over the next 12 months. It is a short-term focus.
- Solvency: assesses whether or not your business has the capacity to repay its debt over the medium-term.
Looking at the balance sheet can also provide insights into your independent dog walker's investment and financing policies.
In particular, stakeholders can compare the value of equity to the value of the outstanding financial debt to assess how the business is funded and what level of financial risk has been taken by the owners (financial debt is riskier because it has to be repaid, while equity doesn't need to be repaid).
The cash flow forecast
As we've seen earlier in this guide, monitoring future cash flows is the key to success and the only way of ensuring that your independent dog walker has enough cash to operate.
As you can expect showing future cash flows is the main role of the cash flow forecast in your independent dog walker business plan.
It is best practice to organise the cash flow statement by nature in order to show the cash impact of the following areas:
- Cash flow generated from operations: the operating cash flow shows how much cash is generated or consumed by the business's commercial activities
- Cash flow from investing activities: the investing cash flow shows how much cash is being invested in capital expenditure (equipment, real estate, etc.) either to maintain the business's equipment or to expand its capabilities
- Cash flow from financing activities: the financing cash flow shows how much cash is raised or distributed to financiers
Looking at the cash flow forecast helps you to make sure that your business has enough cash to keep running, and can help you anticipate potential cash shortfalls.
Your independent dog walker business plan will normally include both yearly and monthly cash flow forecasts so that the readers can view the impact of seasonality on your business cash position and generation.
The initial financing plan
The initial financing plan, also known as a sources and uses table, is a valuable resource to have in your business plan when starting your independent dog walker as it reveals the origins of the money needed to establish the business (sources) and how it will be allocated (uses).
Having this table helps show what costs are involved in setting up your independent dog walker, how risks are shared between founders, investors and lenders, and what the starting cash position will be. This cash position needs to be sufficient to sustain operations until the business reaches a break-even point.
Now that you have a clear understanding of what goes into the financial forecast of your independent dog walker business plan, let's shift our focus to the written part of the plan.
The written part of an independent dog walker business plan
The written part of an independent dog walker business plan is composed of 7 main sections:
- The executive summary
- The presentation of the company
- The products and services
- The market analysis
- The strategy
- The operations
- The financial plan
Throughout these sections, you will seek to provide the reader with the details and context needed for them to form a view on whether or not your business plan is achievable and your forecast a realistic possibility.
Let's go through the content of each section in more detail!
1. The executive summary
The first section of your independent dog walker's business plan is the executive summary which provides, as its name suggests, an enticing summary of your plan which should hook the reader and make them want to know more about your business.
When writing the executive summary, it is important to provide an overview of the business, the market, the key financials, and what you are asking from the reader.
Start with a brief introduction of the business, its name, concept, location, how long it has been in operation, and what makes it unique. Mention any services or products you plan to offer and who you sell to.
Then you should follow with an overview of the addressable market for your independent dog walker, current trends, and potential growth opportunities.
You should then include a summary of your key financial figures such as projected revenues, profits, and cash flows.
Finally, you should detail any funding requirements in the ask section.
2. The presentation of the company
In your independent dog walker business plan, the second section should focus on the structure and ownership, location, and management team of your company.
In the structure and ownership part, you'll provide an overview of the business's legal structure, details about the owners, and their respective investments and ownership shares. This clarity is crucial, especially if you're seeking financing, as it helps the reader understand which legal entity will receive the funds and who controls the business.
Moving on to the location part, you'll offer an overview of the company's premises and their surroundings. Explain why this particular location is of interest, highlighting factors like catchment area, accessibility, and nearby amenities.
When describing the location of your independent dog walker, you could emphasize the potential for growth in the area. Explain how the population is increasing and there is likely to be an increased need for dog walking services. Point out the potential for expanding to other nearby towns or cities. Mention the access to public transportation and other resources that could make the business more convenient for customers. Additionally, you could emphasize the local economy and any incentives that may be available to start or grow the business.
Finally, you should introduce your management team. Describe each member's role, background, and experience.
Don't forget to emphasize any past successes achieved by the management team and how long they've been working together. Demonstrating their track record and teamwork will help potential lenders or investors gain confidence in their leadership and ability to execute the business plan.
3. The products and services section
The products and services section of your independent dog walker business plan should include a detailed description of what your company sells to its customers.
For example, your independent dog walker could offer dog walking services to give owners a break and provide their pup with exercise. They could also provide pet sitting services, giving owners peace of mind that their pet is safe and being taken care of while theyâre away. Finally, they could also offer additional services like brushing and baths, nail trims, and basic obedience training for more active owners.
The reader will want to understand what makes your independent dog walker unique from other businesses in this competitive market.
When drafting this section, you should be precise about the categories of products or services you sell, the clients you are targeting and the channels that you are targeting them through.
4. The market analysis
When outlining your market analysis in the independent dog walker business plan, it's essential to include comprehensive details about customers' demographics and segmentation, target market, competition, barriers to entry, and relevant regulations.
The primary aim of this section is to give the reader an understanding of the market size and appeal while demonstrating your expertise in the industry.
To begin, delve into the demographics and segmentation subsection, providing an overview of the addressable market for your independent dog walker, key marketplace trends, and introducing various customer segments and their preferences in terms of purchasing habits and budgets.
Next, shift your focus to the target market subsection, where you can zoom in on the specific customer segments your independent dog walker targets. Explain how your products and services are tailored to meet the unique needs of these customers.
For example, your target market might include busy, working professionals. These professionals may own dogs, but lack the time or energy to take them for regular walks. They would be willing to pay for a dependable and trustworthy service to ensure their pup is getting the exercise they need.
In the competition subsection, introduce your main competitors and explain what sets your independent dog walker apart from them.
Finally, round off your market analysis by providing an overview of the main regulations that apply to your independent dog walker.
5. The strategy section
When crafting the strategy section of your business plan for your independent dog walker, it's important to cover several key aspects, including your competitive edge, pricing strategy, sales & marketing plan, milestones, and risks and mitigants.
In the competitive edge subsection, clearly explain what sets your company apart from competitors. This is particularly critical if you're a startup, as you'll be trying to establish your presence in the marketplace among entrenched players.
The pricing strategy subsection should demonstrate how you aim to maintain profitability while offering competitive prices to your customers.
For the sales & marketing plan, outline how you plan to reach and acquire new customers, as well as retain existing ones through loyalty programs or special offers.
In the milestones subsection, detail what your company has achieved thus far and outline your primary objectives for the coming years by including specific dates for expected progress. This ensures everyone involved has clear expectations.
Lastly, in the risks and mitigants subsection, list the main risks that could potentially impact the execution of your plan. Explain the measures you've taken to minimize these risks. This is vital for investors or lenders to feel confident in supporting your venture - try to proactively address any objection they might have.
Your independent dog walker could face a variety of risks. They may encounter dangerous animals during their walks, such as a wild animal or a loose pet. They could also encounter dangerous people, as they would be alone and vulnerable while walking in various locations. They may also face the risk of injury, either from slipping and falling on the ground or from being attacked by a dog they are walking.
6. The operations section
In your business plan, it's also essential to provide a detailed overview of the operations of your independent dog walker.
Start by covering your team, highlighting key roles and your recruitment plan to support the expected growth. Outline the qualifications and experience required for each role and your intended recruitment methods, whether through job boards, referrals, or headhunters.
Next, clearly state your independent dog walker's operating hours, allowing the reader to assess staffing levels adequately. Additionally, mention any plans for varying opening times during peak seasons and how you'll handle customer queries outside normal operating hours.
Then, shift your focus to the key assets and intellectual property (IP) necessary for your business. If you rely on licenses, trademarks, physical structures like equipment or property, or lease agreements, make sure to include them in this section.
You may have key assets such as your dog walking equipment and your vehicle. This equipment could include leashes, collars, bags, and other items necessary for the job. Additionally, you might have intellectual property such as your list of clients, customer feedback, and any special training techniques you have developed. These are both important to your business and could help you to differentiate yourself from other dog walkers in the area.
Lastly, include a list of suppliers you plan to work with, detailing their services and main commercial terms, such as price, payment terms, and contract duration. Investors are interested in understanding why you've chosen specific suppliers, which may be due to higher-quality products or established relationships from previous ventures.
7. The presentation of the financial plan
The financial plan section is where we will include the financial forecast we talked about earlier in this guide.
Now that you have a clear idea of the content of an independent dog walker business plan, let's look at some of the tools you can use to create yours.
What tool should I use to write my independent dog walker's business plan?
In this section, we will be reviewing the two main options for writing an independent dog walker business plan efficiently:
- Using specialized software,
- Outsourcing the drafting to the business plan writer.
Using an online business plan software for your independent dog walker's business plan
Using online business planning software is the most efficient and modern way to create an independent dog walker business plan.
There are several advantages to using specialized software:
- You can easily create your financial forecast by letting the software take care of the financial calculations for you without errors
- You are guided through the writing process by detailed instructions and examples for each part of the plan
- You can access a library of dozens of complete business plan samples and templates for inspiration
- You get a professional business plan, formatted and ready to be sent to your bank or investors
- You can easily track your actual financial performance against your financial forecast
- You can create scenarios to stress test your forecast's main assumptions
- You can easily update your forecast as time goes by to maintain visibility on future cash flows
- You have a friendly support team on standby to assist you when you are stuck
If you're interested in using this type of solution, you can try The Business Plan Shop for free by signing up here.
Hiring a business plan writer to write your independent dog walker's business plan
Outsourcing your independent dog walker business plan to a business plan writer can also be a viable option.
Business plan writers are experienced in writing business plans and adept at creating financial forecasts without errors. Furthermore, hiring a consultant can save you time and allow you to focus on the day-to-day operations of your business.
However, hiring business plan writers is expensive as you are paying for the software used by the consultant, plus their time, and their profit margin of course.
From experience, you need to budget at least £1.5k ($2.0k) excluding tax for a complete business plan, more if you need to make changes after the initial version (which happens frequently after the initial meetings with lenders or investors).
You also need to be careful when seeking investment. Investors want their money to be used to grow the business, not spent on consulting fees. Therefore, the amount you spend on business plan writing services (and other consulting services such as legal services) needs to be negligible relative to the amount raised.
The other drawback is that you usually don't own the business plan itself: you just get the output, while the actual document is saved in the consultant's business plan software - which makes it difficult to maintain the document up to date without hiring the consultant on a retainer.
For these reasons, outsourcing the independent dog walker business plan to a business plan writer should be considered carefully, weighing both the advantages and disadvantages of hiring outside help.
Ultimately, it may be the right decision for some businesses, while others may find it beneficial to write their business plan using online software.
Why not create your independent dog walker's business plan using Word or Excel?
I must advise against using Microsoft Excel and Word (or their Google, Apple, or open-source equivalents) to write your independent dog walker business plan. Let me explain why.
Firstly, creating an accurate and error-free financial forecast on Excel (or any spreadsheet) is highly technical and requires a strong grasp of accounting principles and financial modelling skills. It is, therefore, unlikely that anyone will fully trust your numbers unless you have both a degree in finance and accounting and significant financial modelling experience, like us at The Business Plan Shop.
Secondly, relying on spreadsheets is inefficient. While it may have been the only option in the past, technology has advanced significantly, and software can now perform these tasks much faster and with greater accuracy. With the rise of AI, software can even help us detect mistakes in forecasts and analyze the numbers for better decision-making.
And with the rise of AI, software is also becoming smarter at helping us detect mistakes in our forecasts and helping us analyse the numbers to make better decisions.
Moreover, software makes it easier to compare actuals versus forecasts and maintain up-to-date forecasts to keep visibility on future cash flows, as we discussed earlier in this guide. This task is cumbersome when using spreadsheets.
Now, let's talk about the written part of your independent dog walker business plan. While it may be less error-prone, using software can bring tremendous gains in productivity. Word processors, for example, lack instructions and examples for each part of your business plan. They also won't automatically update your numbers when changes occur in your forecast, and they don't handle formatting for you.
Overall, while Word or Excel may seem viable for some entrepreneurs to create a business plan, it's by far becoming an antiquated way of doing things.
- Having an up-to-date business plan is key to maintaining visibility on your future cash flows.
- A business plan has 2 parts: a financial forecast highlighting the expected growth, profitability and cash generation of the business; and a written part which provides the context needed to interpret and assess the quality of the forecast.
- Using business plan software is the modern way of writing and maintaining business plans.
We hope that this guide helped you to better understand how to write the business plan for an independent dog walker. If you still have questions, do not hesitate to contact us.
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