Making a Business Plan

Vol 6 - Issue 3 Making a business planIn the final article of the home business series, Noorjehan Arif explains the why and how of a business plan.

Before establishing a home business, it is imperative that you create a sound business plan. A business plan is not just a concept, but it’s a way of life. It defines the why, how, what, where and when of the home business you are going to set up. The idea is to create a path and define the pros and cons of your business, along with the route you should take for developing and expanding your business.

Why Create a Business Plan

A business plan can help in various ways. A business idea is born in the head, while a business plan incubates that idea, inking the advantages, disadvantages, financial requirements, human resource requirements, projections and products and their features, among other things. Thus, your plan helps you pave the road that will help you successfully launch that idea. A business plan is also created for users other than yourself. For example, you may want to obtain funds from any large organization. In that case, the organization would like to know how sensibly you have planned out the usage of their funds. In such a case, a business plan is going to be quite helpful.

Components of a Business Plan 

A business plan consists of the following elements: 

Executive Summary 

An executive summary is going to be helpful if you want to present your plan to another person or company. It will define and summarize the very essential elements of your plan and present them in a succinct manner for those who want to glean only the basics of the business. 

Description of the Business 

This includes such details as what is the business about and why it is going to be undertaken. Analysis of the market and competition; products and services, delivery, placement and pricing; organizational structure and personnel, structure of the business (whether it is a sole proprietorship, partnership etc.); plans for marketing and advertising, financial details and production of the products or distribution of services, all become an essential part of this section.

Financial Planning

For financial planning, you would have to make different budgets, incorporating your expenses and revenue. Then, you would have to make cash flow statements to see how much in actual cash you would expect to earn and utilize. At the start of the business, startup costs and maintenance costs along with other financial aspects of business would have to be analyzed. This planning will help you evaluate the difference in the budget and the actual earning and expenses for a particular year.

Plan of Action 

Considering the range of items included in the business plan, you would need to assign a timeline to the items in order to get them done. Such time lines need to be realistic, but ambitious to help increase efficiency of the business. Additionally, it will help in streamlining the sequence and phases of the activities that need to be done.

Industry, Market and the Offerings 

It is generally helpful and interesting to conduct a small industry research on how receptive the market would be towards the service or product being launched. It may help in avoiding negative surprises later on.

The Final Word

A business plan, be it formal or informal, can be a very essential tool for establishing and running a business successfully, depending on how well it is structured and researched, and how much effort is put in it. If done properly, it can become the ultimate guide to the future of your business.

Tackling the Glitches

In the second part of the home business series, Noorjehan Arif discusses how to tackle the problems, which inadvertently crop up every now and then

Running any business from home is never a smooth sailing, to say the least. There are a myriad of problems which pop up, and at the end of the day, you might start wondering, if you have bitten off more than you can chew. The good news is you can manage it. What’s important is to know the issues and how to tackle them.

Kids, Kids Everywhere

A business cannot be run from home, if you are constantly involved in why Ali snatched candy from Sarah. However, it is helpful if you entertain the idea of employing your own children in your home-run business. Have you ever played house with your siblings? Then why don’t you teach your own children to play office? Children love to act like elders and mimic them. If you pick up the newspaper during your morning tea, will Ali do the same? Hasn’t Sarah always yearned to pour tea for you? This is, then, the best time to teach your children some business management skills.

In cases, when you do not want your personal and professional life to clash, because Ali is misbehaving, while you are discussing a critical project with one of your customers, you can bring them as partners instead, or ask your spouse to take some of the work responsibilities. Even your maid could work part time for you, filing and taking some phone calls you want to avoid, or you can take in young interns, who are ready to do all sorts of odd jobs for you.

If all else fails to enlist good help, technology can be your next best friend, or perhaps in this case your secretary and employee all in one. You can use an answering and caller identification machine to capture your calls, a laptop to take your work along when you have to wait for your child’s school to be over, a personal digital assistant (PDA) to keep track of meetings, reminders, calls to make and other odds and ends. You have several other options available as well, like a virtual assistant online that can do all sorts of documentation and typing work.

Take the example of Shahnaz, who had a partner in her business, and, hence, responsibilities could be shared. However, in partnerships one needs to be careful and vigilant, particularly in cases, where money is directly involved. Irfana had her sister working with her, who eventually took over the management of the parlour, while Irfana could be more proactive in terms of the strategic planning of the business. But Irfana was still extremely careful, as she used an auditor friend to audit the revenues of the parlor every year.

Once the business is running, the autopilot is set and all things are smoothly proceeding, with everyone knowing their responsibilities, it becomes easier to take on the ‘curveballs’ in a more headstrong manner. Curveballs, such as Ali being down with fever, or Sarah sick with measles, can easily be overcome, if things are running smoothly. However, there are several problems that need to be addressed, before a newly launched business can be run smoothly.

Financial Glitches

Financial aspects of the business have to be well thought out and a complete budget needs to be set, before embarking on the business. The primary reason for a budget is the fact that financial elements make or break the business. Improper management of cash and revenues may result in bankruptcy in an adverse scenario, and micro managing cash to meet expenses in a less adverse condition. The Internet offers several books and websites with templates and help material for the purpose of creating a budget and evaluating it.

Demarcating Work and Personal Life


Another problem one encounters, when running a business from home, is juggling work and personal life. Boundaries tend to merge, when, for instance, Ali has to be picked up from school and a customer wants to have a meeting at the same time. Time management is often an important and, at times, the most critical element. Shahnaz and Irfana both had a separate business outside of their house, but their overlapping suggestion was to have defined time blocks for work that takes higher priority. If one has a driver to pick up children from school, then the next priority is the customer’s meeting. But if a driver is out of the question, the priority will be the children. Such times can be blocked and made non-negotiable on the table, when dealing with customers.

Stress, motivation and efficiency problems can also result in cases, when a loved one is sick, or when children have vacations or when other personal and family issues crop up. Defining a time boundary, when you plan to work solely on your business and allocating the rest to personal life, can help define and set limits to the interruptions that are allowed during ‘business hours’. It can also reduce the amount of stress and guilt that one may feel about neglecting family life.

Moving on to issues regarding setting up the business, incorporating it, registering brands and trademarks, there are quite a few organizations that one has to go through and deposit guarantees and cash in order to get things going.

Marketing your Business

Marketing and publicity are another element in one’s business that involves a lot of effort and hard work. Even though Ali, Sarah, the spouse and the nosey neighbour mean well, when they go around claiming your business and your work to be top class, marketing is much more detailed and hectic than that. Networking comes into play, when one has to promote the business and make it top notch.

Shahnaz and her partner are socialites and love to socialize with all sorts of people. They decided to put their networking skills to good use, when they opened their boutique, and promoted it with the use of the business cards, which they sent out to each and every person they knew. In a very short time, the boutique had customers raving about their clothes and handbags.

Irfana, on the other hand, utilized the locality in her favour and sent each and every house near the parlour a flyer to market the services being offered. Marketing worked – the place was thronging with women of all ages. Depending on the circumstances and the type of business, there are various elements of marketing and publicity one can employ, from publishing an advertisement in a newspaper or magazine, to utilizing a social network, to simply putting up a web presence. Using a small website, or even marketing through online advertisements can bring in a good amount of sales and publicity.

In the next issue, we will take the financial aspect of a home business a little farther and discuss how to make a business plan

Setting up a Home Business

Vol 6 - Issue 1 Setting up a home BusinessBy Noorjehan Arif

When both parents are working, it is difficult to figure out where the children should go and how they should be managed. When one is single, he or she does not have to worry about nagging children, the house falling apart, dirty laundry and what not. In quite a few cases, both men and women decide to have a home setup where they could work, earn money and still keep the house sane.

Home Business Options

There are various opportunities that women, especially of today, can explore to set up a home business: a daycare center, spa or beauty salon, or a boutique. However, there are various other options, which can also be considered:

Catering services – one can run a catering business from home to serve small gatherings and parties, such as business lunches in offices. Unique food combinations like Chinese and Oriental options are appreciated by people nowadays because of their health benefits. Regular options of Biryani and Haleem can also be an alternative. Of course, the service would run as a made-to-order arrangement to avoid waste and the hassle of storing extra food.

Grocery purchase services – due to the growing number of working women nowadays, grocery shopping has becoming a trying chore. To serve the need, one can advertise grocery purchasing services. You can earn commission and enlist the help of your children as well, making it a fun-filled family activity, rather than a business.

Event planning services – if one lives in a metropolitan city, there is always something happening. Even small cities always have weddings, engagements, Nikahs, business dinners and other social events that need to be organized. One can become a specialized business event or wedding planner, or a generalized event planner and organize various aspects of such events. Word of caution though that only the most social and outgoing people can pull this off.

A home-based business is ideal for those busy mothers who have children to look after, a home to cater to and a demanding husband. This kind of a setup, however, has its limitations because people might not take the business seriously and instead, consider it a hobby. There could also be personal interruptions like Ali snatching candy from Sarah or Sarah waking up from a bad dream.

Setting up a Home Office

To avoid mixing home and business, a part time or even a full-time office can be set up in a portion of one’s house. This, of course, depends on the type of business you have decided on. Setting up a separate office requires lots of work and involves obtaining the necessary office furniture, stationery and equipment.


Finding premises in a suitable location can be tough, considering the various options and critical factors to evaluate:

First and foremost is the cost of the location. If the rent space is costly, it may create a cash flow crunch too early in the business, which could prove detrimental to the business. On the other hand, choosing a cheap location might create a negative impression about you and the business setup.

A suitable community is also very important. If you have a problem adjusting to your surrounding environment and community, it will be very difficult to work in such circumstances, and most probably, your business would not flourish.

Another factor is competition. If the surrounding area has similar businesses and offices that are catering to a similar target market, it might become difficult to get established. You might infringe on the rights of others or spend most of your time fighting against the competition to obtain a limited number of customers.

Accessibility is another major factor to evaluate, when choosing a suitable location for the office. If customers will be visiting the office, it is important that it is visible and easy to find.

How did they Start?

Shahnaz runs a boutique that she established with a friend, who was her partner in the business as well. First, she established contacts with various people, who could help her in marketing the clothes and handbags she was making herself. Her partner would get all the material that would be required for the clothes and bags (fabric, beads, threads, etc.)

“At first, there was a nervous energy in both of us, because we were going to establish something of our own that we had to run profitably,” she said. “Then, this feeling turned to exhilaration when we made our first sales. But our target was maintaining healthy cash flows. Of course, a business needs cash coming in more than cash going out. Running on credit can create big problems, and we did not want to do that. After five years in business, we still run on cash and quite profitably.”

Irfana is an enterprising woman, who is currently settled in Australia. She owns an apartment in the posh area of Defence. She started her own beauty parlor ten years ago with the help of her husband and her sister. To start off with her own parlor, she needed to know the basic functions and tricks of the trade. Hence, she took various expensive courses across the city to learn the professional ways of makeup and beauty care. She used her knowledge on her clients and also employed a professional makeup artist for her parlor.

However, one must consider prayers as the only means of achieving success in any endeavor – without Allah (swt) being on our side, nothing has any worth.

Now that we have set up our business and prayed to Allah (swt) for its success, in the next article in this series we shall look into marketing and administrative issues to manage our business successfully, Insha’Allah.

Gleaning Ideas from the Web

The World Wide Web is a wondrous option to search for business ideas, articles and material to help setting up any kind of business. Here are some helpful links:

One of the most helpful sites across the web is It has various links and articles on how to set up a business and help material on managing it.

Another website similar in content is with scores of helpful articles and links.

Other helpful sites include: and Various business ideas and helpful material can be gleaned from these websites. Of course, one can use Google to search for other options and further help.

Top Home Business Options

  • Boutique
  • Hair and beauty salon
  • Daycare center
  • Food catering services
  • Grocery purchase services
  • Event planning services
  • Life coaching services (including tuitions)
  • Magazine and article writing
  • Landscaping
  • Interior decoration
  • Arts & Crafts

Top Must-Have Office Items

  • Business cards
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Stationery items
  • Files, papers and binders
  • Filing cabinet
  • Internet connection
  • Chairs and tables
  • Photocopying machine
  • Phone and fax line with a fax machine and answering machine
  • Computer and printer