The First Step To A Successful Business - How To Write A Business Plan
If you are anything like me, you have a never-ending list of creative business ideas, each
one being 'The One' that will make the most money, be the most successful, and allow a life of happiness and success.
Let's face it. It's not all roses and champagne or glitz and glamour is it. It is hard work. Coming up with ideas might just be the easy part, knowing how to get the ball rolling is hard.
So what is the first step to a successful business? Arguably, it is the preparation of a business plan.
Before you turn away, just hear me out.
You have this incredible new idea. You feel like you are on a winner. You have a strategy in your mind. A vision for its success. Any financially successful entrepreneur will tell you that putting pen to paper and planning out your ideas is the key to making it a reality.
A builder does not just start laying bricks without a plan, an architectural blueprint. Do they?
So don't build your business without one either.
What is a Business Plan?
A business plan is a document which outlines the strategy, goals, target market and path you plan to take to achieve your outcome. It does not need to be a manuscript, yet it should be detailed enough to allow you to stand back and see your idea in full.
Business plans also provide other interest parties (financial institutions, stock providers, business partners etc) an insight into your vision. It tells the world that you are serious about achieving.
Whilst the business plan does not need to be formal, or stick to one rigid format, there are some areas which should be included to ensure that you have at least the basics covered.
Remember to make it as personalised as you need it. This is your plan for your business.
Business Plan Summary
Often referred to as the 'Executive Summary' this is an overall snapshot of your business plan. A sales-pitch if you will. This should include the idea and the benefits it will provide. Make mention of your target market, what sets you a part from the rest and an outline of your goals. You may find that this section is easier if completed once the bulk of the plan is done.
This is where you write all about your business idea. What exactly are you planning to do and achieve. What things do you need to act upon. Use of dot points is OK too if you are making a to-do list of things such as your business name registration, website development, social media pages, stock, staff, roles, responsibilities, financials and so on. If you business is a service business, you will need to outline the details of the service you plan to offer. The scale and scope. If you are a product manufacture or sales business, detail the products you will require and/or sell and how you plan to source the materials. Make mention also of your unique selling proposition - the thing that sets you a part from your competitors.
Target Market and Competition
Chances are your business idea is not unique, but it is the twist or attention to detail that makes your idea yours. To ensure your success, you need to not only understand who your competitors are, but who your target market is. Try to get a feel for the market size, gender, age group and overall demographics. Use the internet to undertake research or get hold of other research studies undertaken to see if you can identify any trends.
A commonly used term you may have heard of is a SWOT analysis. This stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. This is a good exercise to undertake.
Advertising and Marketing Plan
Once you understand who you are aiming your business at and who you will be competing with, you need to take another look at your goals and targets (including financial ones) and make adjustments if need be. These goals and targets can then help you format your plans for advertising, website development and/or social media profiles. Remember there are so many free ways to advertise your business, including online directories so keep your mind and options open.
Long Term Goals
Whilst establishing a long term goal may seem unrealistic and too far fetched, having a vision is something you need to lay out on the table. It can change as the business changes. It can take on a different path. It can grow with you. Do not let it limit you or pigeon hole you but let it give you a focus and a purpose.
Try to limit this to a couple of sentences that describe your ultimate business model. Once this is established you can then take your time to break it into smaller chunks, small short-term 'achievable' goals and then make action plans so that they feel much more do-able.
If you are starting your business from your kitchen table, chances are your finances are relatively tight. That, however, does not mean you do not need to plan. Use this space in your business plan to outline the revenue or money making opportunities for your products and or services on offer.
Make a note of your expenses too; these would include any website development, stock, advertising and insurance (where applicable).
Try to forecast a profit and loss plan, one that covers the first 6 months and first 12 months of your business life. Such plans are also helpful if you are seeking assistance from a financial institution or showing your business plan to an accountant.
Once you have completed the above mentioned sections in your business plan, put it aside and leave it sit for a day or two. Fresh eyes and a fresh mind will help you not only review it but help you ascertain whether you have missed anything, or need to fine tune your content.
As hard and dry as this is may feel, a business plan is the first step to a successful business. Try to schedule a regular review of it too, and adjust it as necessary.
Some say the first step is the hardest, so if you have completed this, well done. You are now well on your way to success.
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