You may be wondering what is a business plan and why do I need it?
Well simply put, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” -Antoine De Saint- Exupery
You probably have this goal of owning and running your business. You’ve been hit by the bug.
You’re ready to
- set your own hours
- Create your rules to live by
- And make some money doing it
There may even be an idea that is perfect and is ready to launch to the masses. This is a beautiful goal but it will more than likely cause havoc and never reach its full potential if there is no business plan. The number of people who invest time and money in executing a thing that was never truly thought through is surprising. There have been plenty of amazing people who have approached FORWARD Designs to schedule strategy session, brand identity design, websites, etc with no idea what they do, how they do it, and how they will make money.
According to Bloomberg 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start a business fail within a year and a half. Yep, 18 months! I would argue that the reason why so many businesses fail in their infancy is because they launch with the zeal and excitement but possess no plan to make sure there is progress and profit. Don’t let this be you.
Whether you already have a business or intend on launching one in the near future creating a business plan can help you tremendously. A plan will help push you closer to success.
What Is A Business Plan
Think of a business plan as a roadmap on your entrepreneurial journey.
This map serves to give you an overview of where you are, where you want to go, and the best way to get there. A business plan is typically organized by sections that will help to provide details about your business that give insight to yourself and whoever reads it.
Why You Need A Business Plan
There are a number of objections made when it comes to making a plan like
- but its only me looking at it
- its all in my head
- I don’t really have time to write it down
All of the above are excuses that will hold you back. Whether you’re a solopreneur or have a team it needs to be written out. Don’t believe me? Well you should! Writing matters!
It is best to write this plan when you are in a sober minded place. The excitement is there, scarcity mentality hasn’t set in, and you are able to really examine what you are committing to do. It allows you to accurately count the cost of doing business. In general writing a business plan will allow you to
Defining your business is essential to success. If you are unaware of who you are there is no way anyone else will know. Key elements include
- What you do
- Who you do it for
- How you get it done
- What you stand for
Know your why! Why does your business exist? Of course you want to work for yourself and make money. Most do. But really contemplate why.
For example, I am extremely passionate about creating strategy and design. It excites me to brainstorm, write, draw, and create. This is what FORWARD Designs does. But when I dig deeper the reason why I love creating in this way is because it allows me to empower entrepreneurs to live out their dream and serve others. Yes, I get paid. Yes, I get to do what I love. But it is also much bigger than just me and what you do should be bigger than you too.
What you offer should help people live their best life. Find your why. It will help you to push to create a business that truly matters. When you offer value success is inevitable. It leads to better products, services, and relationships.When you offer value success is inevitable.Click To Tweet
When using a map it’s very clear where you are and where you are headed. That’s the entire reason to use a map or GPS system. It gives clear directions, offers the best route, gives an estimated time of arrival, alerts you of detours and delays, etc.
This clarity allows you to have the best experience and prepares you for the undesirable events that may occur.
A properly written business plan gives you that same clarity. It helps you to learn about your target market, how to reach your ideal client/customer, the cost of business, potential barriers.
There is nothing worse than going, going, and going and realizing one day that you are in the same place. It can be downright frustrating to aimlessly wander and that’s what happens when you have no plan.
Progress, on the other hand, is a good sign and powerful motivator to continue to go. To ensure progress there must be a clear indication of where you are, where you want to go and how you will get there. If you are putting in resources you want a return on your investment. To ensure that happens having milestones/goals that are measurable are vital.
Business objectives and goals help to give focus and put action where necessary. No more spending hours on email, social media, meetings, and all the task that take from your time but don’t put you closer to where you want to be.
Now on to what should be in your business plan.
What every business plan needs.
Here is a brief overview of what you need to create a business plan.
An effective mission statement summarizes who you are, what you do, and the values that are upheld. Think in the now.
The vision statement gives a synopsis of where your business is going. Think long term.
This communicates the environment and atmosphere you will you create for your business. What do you value and how is that made evident in your company.
Technically your business doesn’t have to solve a problem. It’s just that most successful businesses do. Look around. What need do you see? Identify the issue and gain a greater understanding of it. If your service and product is more of a nice to have really dive in and see how someone would value it.
You know the problem, now take time to solve it. What can you do to take that problem away? How can you serve this person with this particular problem. What benefit will it give them? How valuable is this to their life?
Make some goals and set milestones. Make sure you’re SMART about it. I encourage people to set short and long term goals. Just saying I want to launch in a year is not enough. Break it down. What will you accomplish? When will you do it? How much time can you commit to making sure it gets done? What determines that you’ve done it successfully?
Look at time increments such as 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, 3 years. Breaking down goals makes them easier to achieve and more manageable.
Who you intend to serve is your target audience.
For example if you create educational workbooks for children to learn to read and write your target audience will more than likely be parents who have children ages 3-5 that actively homeschool.
If we continue with the above example you can get really specific about the person you’re serving. Let’s give it a go.
Sarah is a 29 year old female who earned her bachelors degree in business administration. She is a devoted wife who is passionate about her family and education. Sarah is a stay at home mom and her husband is a software engineer who earns a six figure income. They have a 3 year old daughter Emily who she homeschools. Sarah wants her daughter, Emily, to have a strong foundation when she does transition to school and is willing to pay for a product that will help her teach her daughter to read and write beyond the state standard curriculum.
So far in this avatar we have addressed
- marital status
But it is possible to dive even deeper. Imagining a specific person provides a new level of insight.
What you sell. Simple enough right. There are many ways you can go with a service or product. Things to consider is the cost of making/selling and how you will deliver it.
Be Different! Acer and Apple both sell laptops but they are different companies. It is extremely clear. What makes you and what you offer stand out? How are you unique?
How you look matters. Would you want a 5 star meal on a trash can lid? Nope. It’s much more appetizing on a plate in a restaurant with a beautiful ambience, lovely music, and a clean environment. Sight effects perception.
Be sure to make a great impression.
Your logo represents your business and allows people to recognize who you are. When accompanied with your niche and/or what you offer it assist in building trust. When trust is established it creates a credibility that makes people comfortable with your brand.
This includes business cards, letterheads, and envelopes. These items represent your business and reinforce who you are.
The number of platforms available are mind boggling but millions of people are on sites like Facebook and Pinterest to connect, contribute, and just stay in the know. Engaging properly can increase your reach and echo your brands voice, look, and heart.
Having access to your audience on these platforms is something you should take advantage of by creating a way to effectively engage with them.
Having an established domain that you control is meaningful. Social media and all of these other tools are great but honestly you have no control. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter can change the rules whenever they want because it is their platform. When you own your space you can run it however you see fit.
It’s not always a great idea to judge a book by its cover, but we do. So be sure when it comes to how you present your brand that you put your best foot forward.
What you say AND how you will say it is important. When you know who your customer is you can address them and build a great relationship. Think about it… how you talk to a 2 year old is often drastically different then how you talk to a 35 year old.
We adjust the way we communicate and present ourselves daily based on who we will be around and where we will be. Marketing works the same way. Know who you are talking to and adjust accordingly.
The list above are the essentials of a good plan.
Depending on the scenario more content can be added. For example, if you are securing a partnership or funding it may require more information about you, your background, and experience.
Everyone needs a plan. It allows creation of a clear path.
So get to work. Write it down. This is your plan.
You might be starting small but it’s okay to think big! As you learn and take action, your plan and how you think may evolve. That’s okay.
The key is to get started.
Need some guidance? An accountability partner? Ready to go from idea to reality?
Sign up for our “Unstuck Program” to get, well…unstuck.
Where are you on your business plan journey? Let us know in the comments.