Creating a Business Plan You Won't Ignore
Last week we talked about balancing having the confidence to just take a step with the wisdom to plan that step first. That first step just happens to be more planning. But this is not the directionless, dreamy planning that can prove to be a barrier to action. Quite the opposite. This business plan toolkit will give you direction and purpose in your new self-employed life.
You will learn how to fill in this business plan in a three-part blog post.
As part of this blog post, you now have a pdf of a business plan for you to fill in. This has been developed by pulling information from my Master’s degree business module and the 100s of other blogs on this topic.
The business plan template I am offering is stripped back and simplistic. This is in part to save you the cost of printing an intensely colourful document. However, I am hoping this utilitarian document will encourage you to steer away from perfectionism and design-focus at this point in your planning.
Remember, this is your business plan for the year.
No successful businesses make plans at the start and then set off without returning to and updating these plans. Keep this in mind as you write, it may make the task less daunting.
The first page is your Quick-Glance company overview.
Ignore the Executive Summary for now, this should be filled in right at the end. Start with Situation instead. A business plan is essentially a document asking questions of yourself and your business. To fill in Situation ask;
What resources do I have currently?
What skills do I have currently?
What platform/former knowledge/existing client contacts do I have currently?
Your situation is about the present and what your starting position is for the coming year.
If this is not the first blog post you’ve read, you’ll notice business management is obsessed with acronyms and alliteration. The first thing to fill out should be your marketing mix, this is commonly referred to as the 7Ps.
The 7Ps are:
Product - What do you sell?
Price - At what price?
Place - From where do you sell? Where do you sell to?
Promotion - How do people find out about your product?
People - Who are these people?
Process - How do the people go from seeing your product to buying it?
Physical - What is the physical environment from which the product is sold?
A concise sentence on each of these at the very start of your plan will act as a strong anchor when developing ideas.
Answering these questions will form the structure on which you build your business plan, your marketing plan, and your branding. This is why it is important to keep them on the top page where they are visible at a glance.
From this you can fill in your key products and your key markets, taken from Product and People.
The final thing to fill in today is your SWOT analysis. This is Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. To fill this in, answer the following questions;
Strengths: What do you/your company do well? What training/resources do you have?
Weakness: What do you/your company need to improve? What is a limitation to you?
Opportunities: Are there markets or areas that are underserved? Is there a need for your product? Is there a chance for media coverage or networking?
Threats: Who are your competitors? What stands between you and success?
Each of these steps require careful thought and time put into it. Don’t rush it. As I said, this page forms the structure on which you build the rest of your plans for the year. This is not to say it cannot be altered later on. However, starting with this structure being strong is going to benefit your planning.
By the time you’ve put thought into these details you’ll be ready to move on to the second page of your business plan. Next week I will cover Objectives, Strategies, and Tactics.