If you’re starting a small business, it’s hard to shed that heady feeling that’s half panic and half exhilaration. Whether you’ve walked away from a steady career determined to do things better, or you’re entering the workplace for the first time with a big idea and the backing to make it a reality, it’s uncertain and exciting and you’ll be caught up in the need to make lots of decisions and face many different challenges every day.
In the midst of this maelstrom it can be easy to lose sight of the long term picture. You don’t just need to be thinking about how you can keep the lights on today – the decisions you make quickly now echo in your business for years to come.
Writing a business plan isn’t just a step you need to follow to get investors or banks on board with your idea. It’s a vital document that keeps one eye on the future: the business you want to be running in a year, five years or ten years time, protecting you from undermining that vision without even realising what you’ve done.
Today we’re taking a look at some of the ingredients that go into a good business plan.
There’s no industry, no location that you can go into where you won’t be dealing with other businesses and it’s important to take them into account when you’re planning the development of your own brand. If you have the resources to commission a competitive market analysis, this will be a vital tool, helping you understand the ecosystem you’re entering: which other brands you’ll be meaningfully in competition with and which aren’t relevant to you, as well as insights into how they’re likely to react to you, so you can factor them into your plans.
An understanding of your customers has got to be a part of how you build your business plans. If you haven’t done the basic customer research that indicates the demand is there for your brand, then you could fail just as quickly as you launch. Without research and data your plan isn’t based on anything concrete and won’t be a good guide for you, or a persuasive document for potential investors. If you can, work with a market research agency – thanks to the digital dominance of most media, customers are easier to reach than ever and the cost of good research has come right down.
Structuring Your Business
It’s important to think about what kind of business you want to run and what aims you have for it. The structure you stick to for funding and office organisation has a huge effect on what your business feels like day to day as well as the trajectory it follows into the future. A start-up isn’t just a new business, it’s a specific model based on a breakneck pace of development and regular large funding rounds. As with all business models it comes with a culture and practises that may be a good fit for your ideas and ambitions, but may not, so research carefully.