Contributed by Daniela McVicker
The difference between an entrepreneur who succeeds and one who doesn’t is often in the planning process. To get your startup off to a good start, you should create a step by step business plan. Think of a business plan as a road map. This road map will help you maintain your focus as you work as well as prove to investors that your business is a great idea.
There are plenty of templates which outline the most common business plan steps but, unfortunately, these don’t take your unique needs into consideration. There is no one size fits all solution when it comes to preparing a great business plan. Use the following seven steps as the framework for your business plan.
1. Identify Your Business Plan Goals
Every business needs a plan, but one of the first steps to writing a business plan is identifying your goals. Is your plan simply going to help you stay on track as you launch your business? If so, then your plan really needs to be tailored for you.
On the other hand, if you’re going to attract investors or get a business loan, then your business plan also needs to give them the information they need to make a positive decision. You’ll need to include information that proves that you have a marketable product, a qualified team, and the ability to carry out your plan.
2. Know Your Audience
Who is going to receive your business plan? What can you include for them specifically?
Your team will definitely be part of your audience. Your business plan will help them understand their roles and responsibilities.
Investors may also be part of your audience. Who are your investors? What are their concerns? For example, are you approaching young, tech-savvy venture capitalists, or older more conservative lenders? You’ll need to tailor your business plan to that audience.
3. Understand Your Market
Before you start a business, or lay out your business plan, you will need to answer the following questions:
- Who are my target customers?
- What are the locations in which I will sell my products?
- Are we going to launch online only or launch a brick and mortar location?
By answering these questions you will lay the foundation for finding your audience and marketing to them.
4. Identify Your Needs And Roadblocks
One of the important steps in making a business plan is anticipating problems your business might face, and identifying what you need. After all, as you approach investors for funding and other sources of help, you have to know what you want from them. More importantly, you’ll need to show that you’ve planned carefully and have anticipated potential problems.
5. Know What Sets You Apart
There are very few, truly unique businesses. Chances are, other businesses will sell the same products and services. What will make your business successful, what will keep your team members excited and engaged, and what will prove to your investors that you have a viable business? This is what makes you different. For example, are you offering something that is:
- Geared towards a specific lifestyle
- Targeting a unique audience
- Less expensive than your competitors
- Has new or innovative features
Writing The Plan
6. Create The Summary
The executive summary is a traditional lead in for a business plan. It provides an overview of the information that your business plan will contain. It should give readers a sneak peek of the information that the rest of the plan will provide in detail.
Remember that this sets the tone of the entire plan, and should be exceptionally well-written. You might consider investing in professional business writing services if you are going to provide your business plan to investors or potential associates.
7. Introducing The Team And Product
Every successful business has a great team. If your team has the right combination of experience and skills, and can work well together, you are off to an excellent start. To make sure this happens, your business plan should introduce your team.
This will help cement the role that each team member plays and showcase their responsibilities. It will also give others a clear and convincing picture that you are starting your business with people who are capable of making it succeed.
Finally, you’ll need to introduce your products and services. Your business plan should contain product images, descriptions, schematics, and any other information that will increase understanding of your offerings.
Ultimately, learning how to write a good business plan requires a thoughtful analysis. Once you have a firm grasp of your target customer, your team, and you understand the needs and concerns of your investors you can begin to customize your business plan. When you complete it, you’ll have the document you need to provide direction to your business.
Daniela McVicker is a career educator with recent experience in student-centered learning strategies. She is an advocate of student-directed learning in all its forms. She is an arduous supporter of the use of technology as a “tool to think with”. Moreover, she is a writer and editor at TopWritersReview.