Creating A Business Plan For Your Small Business
Regardless of whether it's just you, yourself, and you again, or you own a multi-million dollar corporation, every business needs a business plan.
The makings of a good business plan rely on having actionable goals that you and your business can achieve, and suitable metrics to measure that success. While it would certainly be easier (in a sense) to have a 'one-size-fits-all' model for this type of plan, in reality, every single business will contain different fundamental elements, that when pieced together, provide an entity that cannot (and should not) be constrained to a default business plan template.
But first things first:
Do you need a business plan?
In the traditional sense, a business plan was primarily used to secure funding from external sources and to show potential investors you know something about where you were heading. However, business plans have evolved in recent years to be more about establishing strong foundations for your business and ensuring you have the right tools at your disposal to make confident strategic decisions.
Do you need to be good at writing?
Business plans can be wordy, and if you’re not great at the written side of things, you’ll likely struggle however, a business plan only needs to be as long as you want it. If you’re struggling for ideas on what content to include within it, then it’s probably not the right business plan for you.
Let's start from the beginning -
Defining you product or service:
It sounds basic, but without a clear picture of what you offer/what service you provide/what problem of your customers you are resolving, the direction of your business will be continually vague. Describe the key features of your product or service and what market category they fall in to. It may be, that you’ve created your own niche market and that’s great! So defining how there are no other markets for your product or service is also important to include within your business plan.
Next, define your ideal customer:
If you could personify your perfect customer, who would they be? What are their goals, their motivators? What is their financial status? How would they typically interact with your organization? Who do they typically shop with? What type of language do they use? Who are their other favorite brands or companies? The list is seemingly endless, but having an idea of the behaviors, opinions and personality of your ideal customer allows you to create a branding profile that speaks perfectly to them.
Decide your business goals (and get excited!):
Deciding where you want your business heading in the next year, 5 years or 10 years is exciting! The sky’s the limit! Go big and go large! However, you also need to make sure that your goals are achievable, if for nothing more than to ensure you get to do a little happy dance when they’re complete. How do you make sure they are achievable? By writing each goal as a SMART one; or what I like to refer to as the BASIC:
- S - Specific
- M - Measurable
- A - Achievable
- R - Relevant
- T - Time Framed
Or what we like to think of -
A basic goal is not intended to be limiting. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Firstly, is it brandable. If your goal is to increase your product line by 200 products by the end of 5 years, what impact is that likely to have for your brand? Will you have to change your brand messaging or the way you interact with your customers? Next, is it achievable i.e. how many steps do you need to complete to achieve the goal, and if it’s too many, then should you perhaps break the goal down to 3 or 4 smaller goals. Is the goal suitable? If your business is creating soaps, having a goal of creating meal kits to supplement your soap may not be the most suitable business direction for you, at this point. But never say never! Are the goals inspiring? Are you motivated to make steps towards achieving your goal, even if it’s spending only 5 minutes each day. And lastly, what change will this goal create for you? More revenue? More followers? Better financial freedom? If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.
Once you've created your business goals, it's time to talk financials:
Understanding how much money you need to make to cover your operating expenses and make a profit directly defines how your business is projected to evolve in the future. Without getting a handle of all of the small transactions, monthly subscriptions, time commitments and regular expenses for your business, it will be difficult to know how and when you can scale appropriately.
Lastly, it’s time to think of your marketing strategy:
How will people know you exist? And how will you keep them coming back for more? The best way to start letting people know who you are and why you matter is picking a social media platform that best suits your ideal customer and start letting your personality, and the personality of your business shine! Again, set some achievable goals and milestones you want to achieve, and then keep yourself accountable to achieving them. A small time commitment each day on a project or activity can have a massive impact on the evolution of your successes.
In summary, while there is no default business plan template that would, or should, be used for every business, being able to put in to words the ‘why’ of your business is vital in knowing where you want to go in the future and what success looks like to you. But it’s important to remember that this document shouldn’t be completed then filed away for the rest of eternity; it’s a living, breathing document that should be frequently revisited to allow for changes and adaptions as you, your customer and your market grows.
But for now? Get excited! This is just the beginning of an amazing future.