Over the weekend, I was invited to deliver a workshop at Workfest to a room full of women who are interested in starting a business.
Many believed that they absolutely MUST write a business plan. And it’s a myth that I wanted to debunk.
Putting together a business plan just for the sake of saying that you’ve done it is waste of time.
So often, the traditional, lengthy documents are incoherent, full of assumptions and never get looked at again.
But PLANNING in business is critical and should be done regularly when you’re starting up.
So rather than wasting your precious time, follow these steps on how to write a fool proof business plan. One that makes sense, helps you find clarity on what you’re doing and how you’re going to do it, and is believable.
have a clear vision
The first step is to really think about the type of business that you want to create. Each of us will have different dreams and aspirations, and that’s absolutely okay.
Do you want to create a business that fits around your lifestyle or your family?
Do you want to create one that grows massively? Expands internationally? Takes on a large amount of staff?
Do you want a business that earns you a lot of money?
Do you want one that you can sell on to someone else in the future?
Understanding your motivations for starting and running a business is critical because it will influence the future decisions that you make. So being clear on this from the beginning will help you decide amongst options and will keep you focused on your end goal.
describe your ideal client
Nothing frustrates me more than a business owner who says “we help everyone” or “anyone can buy our products”.
While it’s true that people can stumble upon what you do and want what you have to offer, you do need to focus on your ideal customer. Because when you’re just getting going, you need to find THEM and not the other way around.
Put an image to that person. Is it a man or a woman? Is it a particular age group? Are they in a specific geographical region? What common traits do they all have?
You can always change your target market later, but you must start with something specific.
For example, in my business, I focus on both men and women between the ages of 27-45 who are less than 18 months in starting an ethical business. They already have their idea. They just are struggling to turn that idea into reality.
This doesn’t meant that I won’t work with someone younger nor older, nor that I’ll turn down someone who is a bit further along in business if the fit is right. But I don’t spend my time, marketing efforts, or networking looking for those people.
Being specific will allow you to narrow down your focus and allow you to be more productive in your decision-making.
Plus it’s absolutely crucial for the next steps.
articulate the problem that you solve
Your product or service must address a specific problem or need that your ideal client has. And you need to be able to articulate what you do and how you help people.
The best way to get really clear on this is to start having conversations with your ideal customer and be really inquisitive. Don’t try to push your idea on to them, but do try to understand exactly what life is like for them currently.
Let’s say you want to start an eco-tourism business. Rather than saying “I’m going to launch this eco-tourism business that allows travellers to make a minimal impact on the environment while pooping in a compostable toilet and connecting with local people”, you should be asking them questions about how they currently travel.
- What frustrations do you experience when you’re traveling?
- How do you feel about the impact that you make on the environment?
- What’s most important to you when visiting a new place?
- What travel companies have you used before?
- What did you like / dislike about that experience?
- How much do you typically spend on your holidays?
- How often do you travel?
And so on.
But at no point during that dialogue did you push your idea on to them. Your goal is to listen for their problems and then….
create a must have product or service
Once you’re clear on the problem or need that your ideal client has, you can create something just for them (and others like them). Having something that takes away all of their pain or frustration or dissatisfaction is the key to making future sales.
It doesn’t matter if there are other people out there doing something similar to you. What matters is that you’ve put your own unique stamp on your work and that you’re solving the challenges that your ideal clients have.
Once you have this figured out, start small, test often, and make changes where necessary.
don’t hide from your numbers
When starting out, you don’t need to make a huge 3, 5 or 7 year projection of your revenues. It will all be BS anyway because you won’t really know how much stuff costs until you get going.
But you do need to understand the basics. How much money do you need to SURVIVE on a monthly basis? How much is going in and out of your business on a monthly basis? And how are you going to fill any gaps?
It’s okay that your business may not make any money for awhile. And it’s okay that your business may start to make money but not cover all your costs for awhile. But it is absolutely not okay to hide from these facts and just hope for the best.
For example, if you know that I need to sell 15 units a month to cover all your costs yet this month you’ve only sold 10, then you also know that you need to make up that shortfall and shoot for 20 units next month.
It’s not a problem. It’s just an understanding of reality.
Understanding your finances is absolutely crucial, so please don’t bury your head!
over to you
I always love to hear from you, so do share your experience below in the comments. What steps in planning for your business have stumped you in the past?
sort out your business plan this summer
There’s a lot of advice out there on how to make your business work, and that advice sounds like A LOT of work! Trying to do everything will get you NOWHERE. Because you’ll start to feel overwhelmed and you’ll start to lose focus.
So instead of wasting your summer on a million things that you don’t need to do, let me help. Book in a free 30 minute consultation here, make REAL progress (and have time to play a bit too!).