Ah, the dreaded business plan. A frightful phrase for many, the very idea of having to sit down and write a business plan to apply for funding can make one frustrated just thing about it. I guess that's why so many business owners put it off and procrastinate writing one even though they know that it is extremely beneficial to their company's growth.
But what happens when you grow faster that you anticipate or are not growing at all? How do you know where you are going or even how to measure if your moving in the right direction? This is why you can't avoid the business plan. Fortunately, you can use an approach that's productive and interesting. Even if you're never going to apply for financing or simply do not want to grow that big, developing a business plan becomes an important tool for guiding your company. You do not need a long drawn out business plan that has a lot of charts and graphs that really in all honestly are just filled with assumptions that really never tell the real story of your business.
The "Ideal Customer" Approach to Writing a Business Plan
Your business venture is innovative and unique which is why your business plan should reflect that uniqueness. Start with this approach by asking a 3 simple questions:
What is the Purpose of my Business? Who is my Ideal Customer? How do I market/advertise to this customer?
Who is my Ideal Customer?
Every single other piece of content you write for your business plan should be written with the answer to this question. Once you have defined the one perfect customer for your business, then you have a foundation for your market research, your marketing plan, your operations manual, even your financial projections. With a clear understanding of what problem your business solves and who you solve it for, writing a business plan becomes an exercise in how your going to make your ideal customer happy.
Suddenly, a business plan becomes something actionable. Something you can actually use to guide your business and evaluate your progress. It also becomes something focused, specific and clear. It's a breakdown of exactly what your business will do and who it will do it for. Depending on how big you plan on building your business your plan should reflect it. If you don't plan on expanding or need financing then your plan can be smaller. Make your plan based on what your business will look like when it is finished. Then how does a business like that operate. Focus on the customer.
1. The competitive research you do will force you to come up with new and creative ways to outgrow everyone else.
2. Seeing the big picture will let you see the holes in your thinking early on.
3. You will become intimately acquainted with your customer.
4. Brings everyone on the team together to synthesize a unified vision.
5. It is a prerequisite in most cases to apply for funding.
Even if you don't need outside financing or need to submit a business plan to anyone, there are still some compelling reasons you should consider writing one for yourself. Let's say that you are just starting out and you have started an e-commerce store. Writing a plan early on could help you see the bigger picture and chart a more strategic course of action for your future growth.
Or maybe four years into running your business and you're starting to feel stuck and things are beginning to come to a stand still. Having a business plan could help you to look outside of the day-to-day grind of running your business and discover new ways to market it or new products you could be selling to boost revenue. On the other side, maybe your business is trending downward. Writing a business plan in this scenario could potentially help you either change the way your business works as a whole or cut your losses before you're in deeper trouble.
The point is, if you haven't written a business plan, you should take the time to do so, no matter what point in your business's lifecycle you're in.
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