“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
As fatalistic as it may sound, Mr. Franklin does have a point. When it comes to starting a business, ‘winging-it’ really isn’t the brightest option. Now we’ve all heard miraculous stories of businesses that fell into overnight success. The sad truth is that rarely happens. We can’t all be temporarily embarrassed millionaires. (If it were that easy, would we really be here blogging about it?) The point is, it doesn’t matter how great your business idea is unless you actually plan for it to succeed.
Which brings us to the first step of starting a business: Planning Your Business. Time to start taking your business ideas and putting pen to paper. Set goals. Research the business climate and your planned industry. Make a (realistic) timeframe and stick to it. Keep in mind that in the early stages of planning your business, your Business Plan will be quite flexible and change frequently. Your million dollar business idea isn’t worth a dime unless you have a plan to actually implement it. Think of this process like a road trip. Your goals are the destination and your Business Plan is the road map. Neither works well without the other.
Writing Your Plan
There are plenty of ways to write your Business Plan. So many in fact that us spelling out a detailed template would be rather counterproductive. Most Business Plans start with an Executive Summary, or basic overview of the plan. This explains your Business Concept, basic introductory information, products and/or services, finances, industry information, potential customers and goals. From there, you can delve into each topic in greater detail. Really get down to why your potential business is better! That’s the basic format, but nothing can replace the experience of actually writing your plan. So get out there. Get writing.
To finish, we’d like to touch on a rather interesting debate that comes up when planning your business. Most business plans come from the concepts of either Blue Ocean or Value Added. Blue Ocean strategy is a term stolen from fishing. It refers to the idea of seeking out ‘blue ocean’ or an untapped market with potential customers. Value Added Strategy assumes that the market is already saturated with products and services similar to yours and the only way to succeed is to stand out by adding value competitors cannot match. Of course, there is a bit of a debate over which of these schools of thought is ‘better’. Frankly, we feel that each idea has its own merit and can succeed in different situations. The line between the two is not always clear and Business Plans can incorporate elements of both.
The downside of Blue Ocean is actually figuring out where and how to reach your untapped market. In many ways, this strategy works better for entering a new or emerging markets or geographic areas. (Although it is worth noting that success can arise from Blue Ocean in a crowded market, much like Cirque du Soleil.) On the inverse, the challenge of Value Added is actually determining the differentiating factor with your business. You really have to drill down to it— ideally your value added strategy can turn into Core Competencies later.
Let’s say you want to be a real estate agent. It’s a pretty saturated field so you plan your business around the idea of value added. In this case, you want your value added to be customer service. Be more specific! How are you going to provide said service? What does said service entail exactly? Really figure out what your difference will be.
I hope that helps you get started with your Business Plan. Do take note that planning will take different forms for different people. Best of luck and feel free to contact us with any questions.
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