by Granville Triumph
For a startup, carefully formulating a business plan will provide you with a basic framework that explains who you are, what you do, what goals you expect to achieve and how you plan to achieve them. For an established business, creating or re-evaluating a business plan can help you refocus, reprioritize and evolve in order to operate more efficiently and effectively.
When you sit down to create your business plan, there are key factors to consider that will help to put you on a path toward long-term, sustained growth.
Identify the problem your business solves or the need your business fills. People don’t want more products and services. They want solutions to their problems. Conduct research to determine whether or not there is a real need for what you’re offering.
Make sure your business has staying power. You can’t build a business around a fad or a flash in the pan. If the need you plan to fill is likely to go away soon, or a better solution than the one you’re offering might be on the horizon, you may do well temporarily, but that success will be difficult to maintain for the long haul.
Validate how your business is better or more desirable than your competitors. You don’t necessarily have to be unique, but you have to do at least one thing better than everyone else if you want your business to succeed. Don’t just say you have the best customer service or the most knowledgeable staff. Validate those claims by explaining how and why you’re the best.
Explain your process for finding, acquiring and keeping customers. Too many businesses have great ideas but aren’t sure who will buy them and why. Who is your specific target audience? Where do they live? What influences their purchasing decisions? What can I say that will make someone hand over money for my product or service? What kind of experience do I need to provide to earn their loyalty?
Calculate realistic financial projections and be prepared to defend them. Optimism and lofty goals are great. Inflated numbers that fail to account for capital and operational expenses can lead to the downfall of your business. The best way to establish realistic numbers is to use realistic math and strategy – math and strategy that you can then point to when questioned.
Build a network of advisors. Who can help you with legal issues, marketing, sales, human resources, financial planning and other areas of your business? You don’t know everything and you can’t do everything. Don’t be afraid to lean on people who can help.
Create a summary to send to investors, not your actual business plan. The best business plan in the world can’t answer every question, and a misinterpreted plan will lead to missed opportunities. Provide a summary with a few key bullet points that explain the “who-what-when-where-why-how” of your business. Schedule a meeting, make a personal connection and answer questions clearly, naturally and thoroughly instead of trying to cover everything in advance. Send your business plan only after an investor has expressed legitimate interest in your plan.