Like they say, “A goal without a plan is just a wish”. The goal pretty much remains the same; but if you are having trouble reaching it, it is probably your business plan and not the goal itself.
Creating a business plan is the first step for your start-up and very rightly so. It is the thing you do for yourself and your team, to get clarity on what the venture is, what is expected from it and what it needs to get you closer to your goal.
Without a plan on paper, your business is just a bunch of ideas floating in your head. This week, I am going to share my top tips for creating a business plan. They worked for me and I am certain they will for you too.
- DIY – there are no two ways about it
I have actually heard of organisations you can hire to create your business plan and strongly recommend you do not go for one of these.
As an entrepreneur, no one apart from you can truly understand the DNA of what you would like your company to be. Don’t worry about making mistakes; it is after all the rite of passage for a start-up. Making a few errors with the business plan only ensures that your company continues to evolve.
So, pick up that pen and paper (or open a Word document), gather your core team and just do it yourself.
- List down objectives
This is the most important aspect of your business plan. What is the company trying to achieve and what should be the long-term and short-term objectives – all of this needs to be clearly spelt out. The short-term goals of course will be continuously updated and will be the ones helping you move closer to the long-term objectives.
I also recommend that the objectives have indicative timelines – a bit of pressure is necessary for that extra thrust.
- The organisation and its structure
What is your company, its products and offerings; who are the people who are going to be leading it and what would their individual roles be. These are the questions you need to answer when defining the organisation.
It is also here you mention the key human resources, core team and reporting structures. It will help you visualise the daily operations and ensure there is no ambiguity when it comes to who does what. Additionally, it will also help you identify hiring numbers.
- Do an industry analysis
Analyse the industry you are entering, its opportunities and threats. Then understand the gap your company is endeavouring to fill and where does it really stand against the backdrop of the industry.
Identify the industry bodies of influence and relevant to your business and find out how to get into them.
This is also a great opportunity to do some benchmarking and learn more about best practices.
- Do not leave out the competition
Have a separate section on competition and deep dive into it. Research your competition thoroughly and list out their strengths, their weaknesses, the edge you have above them and vice versa.
Spend some time on this section. Do not limit your research to the internet. Keep a lookout for press coverage in the papers, talk to some of their consumers and if you know some of their former employees, try and talk to them too.
- Create a marketing plan
For this, you will need the inputs of a specialist – it could be your in-house Marketing Head or an external agency.
Identify who your consumers are and profile them here. Add in any data from market research you have conducted. Bring your entire team together and brainstorm on how you will approach your target consumers.
Campaign ideas, promotional channels and product positioning should be clearly defined here.
- Operational milestones
You are just shooting in the dark if your operational milestones are not listed. Everything from where you see the organisation in five years to what you would like to accomplish at the end of the first year should be highlighted in this section.
Very simply, the operational milestones are the plan of action for your business.
- It’s all about the money
In the financial plan for your venture, you need to address aspects like when should you go for external funding, how would you invest this funding, your expenses, expected revenues, break-even point and profit margins for the next five years. If you need to acquire any assets, these should be highlighted here too.
- Keep it WIP
The business plan is not set in stone. As your organisation evolves, so does the business plan. In the beginning, it is imperative that you set some time aside each day to work on it, research new materials and brainstorm with your team.
You will make mistakes and somethings will work, while others won’t. If you allow yourself that flexibility and make your business plan versatile, it will only help you enhance your learning curve.
Remember, writing down your business plan is channelling the thinking and strategizing you are doing for your venture. I recommend that you have it well formatted if the need for others to read it arises. Irrespective, your team must always have access to it.
In the words of Steve Jobs, “Everything is based on a simple rule: Quality is the best business plan, period.”