Business plans aren’t the most exciting thing you can be spending your time on, but like eating your veggies and walking your ten thousand daily steps, they offer a payout that makes the effort worth it.
Why write a business plan?
When a great idea strikes, it’s tempting to get right down to business without any preliminaries. But taking the time to plan ahead – in this case with a business plan – is worth it.
Even the simplest business plan gives essential insight and understanding for what you’re trying to achieve.
A business plan:
- Provides focus and clarity for your business
- Lets you set goals for your business
- Helps you understand your market
- Outlines where you want your business to go
- Outlines the strategy for getting there
- Identifies investment costs
- Identifies potential problems and challenges
- Helps measure the progress of your business.
A business plan doesn’t have to be:
- Long, formal and full of graphs and academic references
- Set in stone with no room for change
- Seen by other people.
In this article we're not referring to a business plan that would be created for banks or investors, but a document to help you understand your business and your market so that you can make most of your hard work.
Below are some resources that will make things even easier for you.
Templates, tools, and classes, oh my!
Using someone else’s template might get you an F in class, but in business it’s a gold star idea. Why reinvent the wheel?
The internet’s bursting with handy tried-and-tested business plan templates, including informal overview-type plans and plans handily tailored to specific business types and sizes. These can be as simple or complex as you want – it all depends on your needs.
For a seriously streamlined, user-friendly option, try LeanStack, a single-page visual ‘canvas’ display that lets you create a solid, easily navigable business plan in under twenty minutes – and adjust it in future as needed.
If you’re not sure where to begin, you can spend a bit of time studying up on all things business and business-plan related with a tailored online course through Udemy.
All according to (your own) plan
If you want to get right to it, you can simply work through the following list of essentials every business owner should know. By addressing these points you’ll create a solid overview of your business as it stands, and where it’s going.
Your plan can take any form you want: a document, a mind-map, a flowchart, or even Post-It notes pinned to a whiteboard.
Remember that the goal of the plan is to deepen your own understanding of your work and your business’s current and future possibilities.
- What do you do?
- How, why, and when did you get started?
- How has your business changed or grown since it began?
- What do you want your customers to feel when they engage with you?
- How do they currently feel when they engage with you?
- What sets your brand apart from others?
- Who are you selling to?
- Who is the one particular individual who is your “perfect” customer? Describe this person – and then identify ways to make your brand speak directly to them.
Products and services.
- What products or services does your business offer?
Keep things niche and focused to begin with – what is the ideal product for your ideal customer?
Tip: Don’t forget that your product isn’t just the item being sold, but everything associated with that transaction. This includes things like personalisation, gift wrapping, and shipping options.
Challenges and opportunities.
Looking at your responses to the above, identify any challenges or opportunities your business plan needs to address.
Eg: Challenge. Quick customer growth for a very small business can result in production delays. Opportunity. Low supply or bespoke production can result in increased demand and a perception of luxury.
Tip: think laterally to turn your challenges into opportunities or benefits.
All businesses have risks. The goal is to identify and mitigate them. For an eCommerce business, your risks might relate to:
- Production costs
- Turnaround times
- Selling abroad
- Customer satisfaction.
Finances and projections.
Money makes the world, and business, go around. To stay in the black, you’ll need to consider all of the costs that go into your product:
Tip: Once you’ve tallied these, head to our pricing strategy article for thoughts on what to charge for the result of all of your hard work.
Hit it out of the ballpark with an elevator pitch
Having completed all of the above, you should be able to sell your business idea to someone in less than the time it takes to ride from the ground floor to the director’s suite.
You have thirty seconds to tell an influential stranger about your business. What do you say?Consider the following:
- What problem are you solving?
- How are you solving it?
- Why should they care?
- What impression do you want to leave?
- What do you want them to do at the conclusion of your pitch?
It’s time to hop to it!
Now’s the time to outline your business strategy, craft a pitch, and make your business grow – all according to plan.