If there is one piece of advice that I cannot stress enough to budding and established entrepreneurs alike it’s this: write a business plan. Even if you aren’t actively looking for investors, a business plan is a fantastic exercise to help you understand your company inside and out, as well as its position in the marketplace.
Here are a few tips to help you get started with your business plan to make 2017 the best year ever.
DO: OUTLINE YOUR BRAND’S VALUES
The most successful brands in the world have clear and resolute values that guide their entire operation. Establishing your values will connect deeply with your company’s mission, purpose and intent. What makes your company stand out? What makes your brand connect with your audience? What does your brand stand for? These are essential points to consider.
DO: KNOW YOUR COMPETITION
Outline your competition in detail. What kind of information are you looking for? Competitors’ price points, services, marketing campaigns, quality of product, location, social media numbers, etc are all invaluable details that you need to be aware of. Then establish how you plan to assert your business within that competition.
What strategies do you plan to use? Why do you plan to use those strategies? Outline every aspect of your plan in as much detail as possible, as though you were explaining it to somebody who was hearing all about it for the first time and needed convincing. This section is not about competing with others, it’s about understanding your brand’s niche and place amidst a sea of other existing brands.
DO: EXCELLENT MARKET RESEARCH
Dive into the research element of your business plan so that you understand the market you are entering or involved with. Is your targeted marketplace growing or shrinking? What demographics operate within it? How do you plan to enter that market? How do you plan to stand out in that market? Why will your ideas to stand out work? What trends should you be aware of? Who exactly is your target demographic and where are they located?
Reference case studies, newspaper articles, speak with experts in the field – the more resources you can consult the better you can understand your business’s role in the marketplace.
DO: IDENTIFY POTENTIAL OBSTACLES
You can reduce a lot of stress by doing your best to pin point potential business obstacles so you are prepared. For example, if you are launching a print magazine, acknowledging the pitfalls of traditional publishing is a must, as well as a detailed proposal for how you plan to overcome that.
What forecast trends could negatively impact your brand? Put together a list of potential problems that could impact your company and idea for how to overcome them. It will strengthen your overall strategy.
DON’T: MAKE GRANDIOSE STATEMENTS
Avoid saying things like “My product will be the best in the local market” or “I expect to be the most in demand stylist in the city” unless you have solid proof that it is true (no, your personal opinion is not proof. Neither is your mum’s…). Have proof for every statement that you write about your company and your team.
Not only will this help to keep you realistic about your business expectations, but it will force you to think of a more authentic way to describe your company to the public. The more authentic and genuine the communication between business and audience, the stronger the connection between the two. In fact, avoid adjectives as much as possible. Stick to the facts.
DON’T: OVER ESTIMATE YOUR PROJECTIONS
Be conservative with your profit projections and sales goals. While you may truly believe that you’ll sell 50% of your inventory, for example, in a coming year, it is always better to hope for the best, but plan for the worst.
Build your business plan around the expectation of selling only 15% off your inventory. This will help you to prepare for worst case scenarios in a profitable manner and fortify your business to function well with that level of cash flow. Still set that 50% projection, for sure, but as a stretch goal and if you hit it, pop the bubbly!
DON’T: FORGET TO DO THE MATH
As much as business is about heart and purpose, it is also about numbers. Run your numbers multiple times to ensure you have an accurate idea of your business’s financial health. How much will you need to invest this year? What is your expected return of investment and why? What expenses do you anticipate? What will your cash flow be like? Run all of these numbers and embrace the math – your business will run infinitely smoother for it!
DON’T: SKIP OVER THE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The Executive Summary is essentially your entire business plan presentation boiled down to a few clear and concise paragraphs. Think of it like the overview of a story on the dust-jacket of a novel. Your Executive Summary needs to capture attention, be informative and encourage someone to continue reading. This part of your business plan will become a touchstone for your pitching and further proposals, so definitely don’t miss it.
A business plan is a blueprint for your brand and when written well, will become one of your most valuable assets. Good luck with yours and feel free to reach out in the comments or by email if you have any questions!
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