How to write a plan for your small business
When you're starting out, it's important to have clear ideas of what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it. By writing a business plan you can make sure you stay on track and always keep growing.
The five key areas to think about when writing your business plan
What is the need you're addressing?
Your business is designed to fill a gap somewhere and you'll need to figure out what that is. Define the problem that your business is solving and make it so simple and clear that anyone can take a glance and immediately know what you're all about.
Once you know the problem, you can then create a solution. How will your business be that solution and how well will it do it?
Who are your potential customers?
Once you work out the problem and the solution, you'll need to determine who is going to care. That means customers. Where will demand for your business come from and what exactly will motivate them?
Market research is your friend here. If you consider your business to be large and commercial or if you're aiming to celebrate how niche it is, it will always pay to do the groundwork to see what people want and why they're going to want to get it from you.
Understand your competitors
Know your enemy! Even if you believe your business is unique, there's a good chance somebody is doing something similar to you. You'll need to understand what they're doing, why they're doing it and most importantly, how you can do it better.
This is all about having an advantage. You're not keeping an eye on the competition to copy what they're doing, you're just figuring out the easiest ways to stay ahead of the game. Which will result in a better position for you now, and in the future.
Plan your finances
Money is the only way you'll keep your business afloat. If you spend more than you make, you'll be closing down before you know it. The best way to avoid this is to get a clear idea of three financial areas: Starting Out, Costs To Operate and Future Projections.
Always take the time to write down everything you'll need to pay for. Tools, licences, permits, equipment, rent, insurance and more. As your business evolves and grows, any unexpected cost & revenue surprises will be taken into account instead of emptying your bank account.
Market your business
Get the word out! Whether you're a storefront, online marketplace or something in between, the only person who's going to sell your business is you. Work out the best ways to do this that fits your business and your industry.
Stay informed of the latest marketing trends, online media and commercial opportunities so you can always be active and have your finger on the pulse. Otherwise, all your hard work will just sit there waiting to gather dust.
Top writing tips
Now that you know what areas to think about when writing your business plan. Here's a few tips to make the actually writing easier.
Brainstorm before you write
It's tough to write a whole business plan from scratch, so take some time to brainstorm first. Make rough notes and general ideas about the key areas we mentioned earlier and then when you've explored all the areas you can start to write up a clearer, more structured business plan.
Revisit your budget as your write
As you start to write your business plan you might discover new areas of your business that you hadn't budgeted for. So make sure you revisit your budgets regularly and refresh your calculations if you need to.
Question your business plan
As you write your business plan ask yourself these questions. If your plan doesn't answer them clearly you might to do a bit of rewriting.
- Why does your business exist?
- What are the core beliefs of your business?
- Who are your customers?
- Who are your competitors?
- How is your business going to be different/better than your competitors?
- How much money do you need to get started?
- How much money do you need to run your business?
- What are your short- and long-term business goals?
- How are you planning to achieve your business goals?
- How are you going to measure your success?
- What are the deadlines for your business goals?
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