The Business of Surveying: Creating Your Firm’s Business Plan

Last month, I wrote about business planning in general. This column is specifically about a business plan.

Whether you are the principal, owner, or partner of an existing survey practice, or your about to start a new business, taking the time to write a business plan is a worthwhile investment of your time.

In 2016, David Gardy, LS, a Virginia surveyor and a past President of the Virginia Association of Surveyors, was the instructor of a seminar on “Starting Your Own Surveying Practice” at the fall conference of the Maryland Society of Surveyors. He noted, “there are numerous resources available to help in developing a business plan. Your business plan will be an invaluable tool in developing your thoughts and presenting your ideas for the business to potential business partners”.

In a blog on the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) website, Allen Gutierrez, Associate Administrator of SBA’s Office of Entrepreneurial Development provides reasons for a business plan, including to help steer the business; set milestones, benchmarks, and metrics to monitor growth and goal attainment; and obtain funding from banks or other investors. The blog also includes links to numerous SBA resources.

A business plan need not be voluminous. It should not fill a three-ring binder or be so cumbersome that upon completion it sits on a shelf never to be seen or used again. There are some advisers who advocate a one-page business plan, with one simple sentence for each category, or using a “GPS” method of stating an overall goal, three priorities to reaching the goal, and five strategies items for each priority. But a more thorough plan can easily be less than 10 pages in length. Some of the sections of a business plan could include:

  • Mission statement
    or value proposition
  • Market need
  • Your solution
  • Competition
  • Target market
  • Sales and marketing
  • Budget and sales goals
  • Milestones
  • Staffing
  • Capital investment
    (equipment, software, etc.)
  • Key partners
  • Funding needs

In an existing firm, development of the business plan should be a team effort, including all employees or, at a minimum, senior staff. It can be compiled by in-house staff or with an outside consultant and facilitator. Assistance is available from several SBA programs, such as the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) or a Women’s Business Center. There are several SBDC offices throughout the United States. There is also online SBA assistance on writing a business plan.

Upon completion, it should be shared with all employees. Most importantly, it should be reviewed on a periodic basis with an analysis of how well the firm is doing in meeting the plan.

The 12 elements of a business plan need not go into great detail. Next month, we’ll discuss creating a strategic plan, which is a supplement, not a duplicate of a business plan.

John Palatiello is Executive Director of the Maryland Society of Surveyors (MSS) and Virginia Association of Surveyors (VAS), and Vice President Miller/Wenhold Capitol Strategies, a public affairs consulting firm based in Fairfax, VA, providing government relations, public relations, association management, strategic planning, event planning, and management and marketing consulting services to private firms, associations, and government agencies. He is also national government affairs consultant to the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS). He has more with 30 years of experience working in the architecture and engineering; geospatial, mapping and GIS; information technology; construction; transportation and infrastructure, and land use sectors. This article is an edited version of what first appeared in the MSS and VAS newsletters.