A new business is often so frenzied simply keeping their machine running that they don’t take the time to create a business plan. But without a business plan in place, these businesses won’t have a road leading them into the future, which makes it hard to deliver on goals.
I drive to work at the same time, in the same direction and to the same office every morning, but I still put the address in my GPS when I get in the car. Why?
- The GPS always tells me what time I will be arriving, and knowing this allows for coffee stops.
- It plans ahead for me; if there is traffic, the GPS gives alternate routes to the destination.
Yes, I’m an obsessive planner. But it’s important to note how a plan isn’t about the final result, it’s about the trip. The same principle applies to business. Having a well-structured plan in place will help you achieve your businesses goals; even if you hit some bumps in the road or find yourself at a standstill.
Entrepreneurs and business owners alike are encouraged to write a business plan before starting on their long, exciting venture. But often, this falls to the wayside. Ideas come quickly and smart people act fast; if things kick off really well you can easily get caught up in the whirlwind of success.
“The journey not the arrival matters.”
– T. S. Eliot
A business plan is like a GPS for your business. It maps out objectives. It makes it easy to see the big picture and communicate business goals to employees and customers. And it serves as a reference point when making decisions – removing the emotional influences borne from long nights of blood and sweat.
There are four important considerations for anyone wanting to write a business plan:
1. Use a map, outline the journey.
There is an abundance of business plans and models on the internet. It can be confusing to find the right one for you and to decipher how best to tailor it. Regardless of your model, the key elements you need are:
Who are you? What is the reason a customer would turn to your business over your competitors? Your Value Proposition will state why a customer might choose your business over another, solving a particular customer problem or satisfying a need in a unique way.
Who are they? Define the different group/s of people your business aims to reach and serve, and divide these groups into Customer Segments. Your business model needs to be crafted around each customer segment; you want to satisfy each of their individual needs. From mass market to niche market you need to understand who you are talking to.
How will you communicate with them? You will need to let your customer segments know what your value proposition is through specific communication, distribution and sales channels. This is your interface with your customer. It will be how they find out about your business, how your business adds value to their lives, and how you can keep in touch with them after purchase.
2. Check the traffic report, know your environment.
Do your research; know what’s around you.
A S.W.O.T analysis is a useful and widely used tool with which to analyse your environment. It involves specifying the objective of the business and identifying the internal and external factors that are favorable and unfavorable to achieving your objective.
You will also want to know who your competitors are. A competitive analysis includes looking at your competitors’ areas of operation, services offered, messaging, points of difference and website presence.
3. Set up your profile, have a clear brand identity.
We’ve written many blog posts about brand identity but, essentially, your brand identity is a set of associations that reflect the nature and capacity of the business, expressing its personality both emotionally and functionally. A brand identity must be carefully developed by mapping the business’s attributes against the perceptions, needs and wants of customers and should be tested to ensure it is unique when placed alongside competitor companies. Brand identity is not an easy thing to get right, but once it is right, it will define the way your business interacts with the world.
4. Listen to your GPS, stick to the plan.
Your plan is there for a reason. Keep it available and visible. Refer back to it when you question where you are going, when you hit a road block, or when looking for your next opportunity. Your business plan is your source of information and inspiration. Revisit your business plan every time your business grows so you can update your path into the future.