As Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” Continuing the business start-up series that began last week, this week I’m covering various elements of business planning. If you missed the first post of the series, check out: To Be or Not to Be…A Business Owner.
There is a lot to consider when you start a new business. If you don’t take time to plan different aspects of your business, you could quickly hit a stopping point that hurts your success. Here are some of the most important areas to think about as you begin to launch your business.
Developing a Business Plan
Many times, you’ll want to start with a comprehensive business plan; this can be a tremendously helpful tool for getting clarity on what your goals are. But, investing a lot of time into this plan isn’t always necessary. At a minimum, you should think through some of the most basic elements of a business plan, and create what I call a Slimmed Down Business Planning Toolkit.
- Free Sample Business Plans, Bplans.com
- How to Write a Business Plan, Microsoft Small Business Center
- Write a Business Plan, Small Business Administration
Outlining Your Marketing Activities
One of the biggest mistakes new businesses make is skipping over the development of a documented marketing plan because they underestimate the importance of it. The best way to start planning your marketing activities is by creating a marketing strategy (a high-level overview of your marketing goals), then drilling down into the specifics of a marketing plan (a detailed look at the actions you will take to execute your marketing strategy).
Depending on the type of business plan you create, you may have already identified many of these elements in your business plan, but here are the most important marketing-related areas to make sure you are covering somewhere:
- Your USP
- Your marketing budget
- Information about your target audience
- An outline of the benefits of your products and services
- Information on how you will position your products and services in the market
- An outline of the marketing methods you intend to use
- How to Create a Marketing Plan, Entrepreneur.com
- Simplified Marketing Plans for the Real World, Small Biz Survival
- The Key to Marketing: The Marketing Plan, About.com Small Business Canada
Creating a Business Budget
It should go without saying that you need to have and maintain a budget for your business and have a in-depth understanding of your finances before launching. This is a big one, so I will cover business start-up finances as a separate post later in the series.
Planning for the What-If’s
When you take the step and become self-employed, you take on a whole new set of unknowns. While you can’t plan for every potential challenge or change in your business, giving some thought to the what-if’s can help prepare you and reduce the transition stresses.
One major area to consider is business continuity planning. What will you do to maintain your income if something happens and you’re unable to work for a period of time? You may not be able to create a complete plan now, but giving this some thought and taking the initial steps to have appropriate systems in place can be invaluable.
Next, what if your business takes off faster than you ever dreamed? It’s possible, so you need to think about how you will manage the growth of your business, even just in terms managing the long-term impact of a growing small business. Will you hire employees, outsource to subcontractors, or only grow to the capacity you can handle yourself?
Lastly, take time to consider your long-term goals. Do you intend to reach a level of success and then maintain it until you are ready to retire? Do you want to grow your business until it is saleable? What are your ultimate goals, in five years, 10 years, 20?
- 60-Second Guide to Managing Growth Over the Long Haul, SCORE
- Grow without Growing Pains, Entrepreneur.com
- How Do I…Make a Succession Plan, The Washington Post
- Planning Your Exit Strategy, My Business Magazine
What part of business planning has been your biggest challenge?
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