The early years of any business venture require a lot of detailed planning, reevaluating, and planning again. While you might have to go back to the drawing board several times before you come up with a business plan that will work, there are a few elements that are necessary for any business plan. If you are starting a small business, keep reading to learn about the essential elements that make up a potentially successful business plan.

A Realistic Budget

Managing expenses is one of the most important tasks a business owner undertakes in the daily, monthly and yearly operation of a business. This is why it is essential to formulate a realistic budget from the beginning so that you don’t run out of money due to mismanagement of funds. Because conditions can change rapidly with a new business, the owner must monitor and adjust his or her ongoing budget frequently to ensure that expenses are kept in line and that revenues continue to increase to support it future growth. This is why a realistic is an ongoing element of any business plan. Yes, you might have to make estimates in the beginning, and leave some “buffer money” for surprises—but you should itemize your budget and be as accurate as possible. Nothing stops the dream of starting a new business quicker than the lack of a proper budget to guide every decision.

A Focused Marketing Plan

While there is a typically limited fund for marketing and advertising in the early years of a small business, a focused marketing plan is still a crucial part of the business plan. Some business owners pick up marketing tactics and practice a “self-taught” method of advertising and promotion in the beginning. This can be an effective way to target your customers if you know your audience well, however, as your business grows, you’ll likely need a little professional assistance. If you can’t afford to hire a marketing firm to handle your promotion, you might consider hiring a marketing professional who can work in-house for you. Whether marketing is done in-house, or by a third party, the owner must invest the time and money to ensure the implementation of an effective marketing plan to assist in company growth.

Thoughtful Product Development

When a business starts out, they might have a quality product that is in high demand, but it is important to ensure that the company will have purchases that continue into the future. This requires thoughtful product development that will anticipate changes that could occur within the industry, with customer needs, or with the popularity of the product. Product development will affect all other elements of the future business plan—your budget, marketing, logistics, etc., which is why it is important to think about it in the beginning. Developing new products for the future should be an intrinsic part of every business owner’s business plan, or the company could go under before it really has the chance to get going.

Controlled Expansion

Growth that occurs too quickly and that overtakes current revenue can be a disaster in the making. Although you may have the credit necessary to take advantage of these opportunities, give them careful consideration before making a commitment to expansion. Market changes or economic conditions can change rapidly, causing you to extend yourself too far to cover normal operating expenses. The best way to control your expansion is to make a detailed calendar where you strategically schedule things like product releases, store openings, and company events. Give your customers time to get to know you, and keep an eye on the industry (locally and nationally) before you spread yourself too thin.

Efficient Logistics

Effective logistical management is a critical factor in making your business a success both on paper and in real life terms. When putting together your business plan, you’ll need to do research and comparison that will help you pick the best vendors and services that will fit with your budget and your needs. As your company grows, you will need a logistics manager who oversees all transport of goods and can quickly handle problems. Even after you have a detailed plan that includes vendors, shipping methods, and costs, you should always look for new ways to improve the logistic capability of your company. Ensure that products come to you on time and in proper condition and that your customers receive their orders promptly. Poor planning for logistics can mean losing customers or money when something goes wrong.

Effective Branding

It takes most companies a while to present a unified and distinguished brand, but branding strategies should be written into your business plan from the beginning. Making your company recognizable to the public can help ensure more customers in the future. Think about what makes your company different and how you can fill customer needs more fully—these factors can be part of a branding campaign that ensures your company’s success. Consider things like slogans, logos, color schemes, and other branding components that you want to use to represent your company and make it recognizable. Then, work these elements into your business plan so that you are building your brand at every turn.

Careful management of these six areas of your business in the early years will allow you to position yourself for growth in the future. You will be able to avoid some of the traps that often hamper the success of new businesses. You can consider a few of these categories to create the outline of your business plan, and then add your own flair and ideas to the plan so that it is tailored to your vision for the business.