I am currently writing a business plan for one of my clients and thought I would write an article for each piece.
The articles relate to most common steps required when writing a business plan, be it for a startup or an existing business. I did not invent any of these steps, but can share my experience based on them.
I initially started my first company without a plan and as I have learned since this is not uncommon.
Business plans are useful for a number of reasons:
A useful tool to steer a company on its chosen path
Measurement and keeping yourself honest
Predicting the future
I recommend by starting with the executive summary. Naturally, this first draft will be refined as your research and work give you more information, but it gives a good base on which to start from.
What will your company do and what is the problem it is solving? Make sure your solution is not the same as a thousand others.
What market are you operating in? Do you have a segment that you can specifically target? Will that change in the future as you grow and diversify? What is the size of that market and do you have the data to support this?
Do you have a clear unique selling point? What have you done to prove that? Is there a clear differentiation between your company and the competition? Remember, competition doesn't just mean someone doing the same thing as you do, but can also mean competition for the same budget or users head space.
Who and how are you going to market your company? Do you know who your customers are and where they inhabit? Think about both physical and virtual places. Never forget about the real world, especially if you're a startup.
How are you going to sell your product or service? Do you know who is going to sell it? Think about which people you will need and the potential sales channels that exist, or that you need to create.
Who are you working with now and are their talents truly right, both now and in the future? I recently wrote this article on the subject. Which positions do you need to fill in the future? Map them out and start looking start away.
What is your pricing model and how do you justify it? Do you have a rough forecast that you can add into your executive summary? What kind of investment do you need, or not as the case may be?
When you have nutted out your summary, you can start to put the meat on the bones of your plan!