Every business begins from a thought. A thought or idea can only become reality when expected actions are taken. When an idea is conceived, the logical corollary is that such ideas need to be written out, in black and white and on paper; or else the idea will fade off when the enthusiasm that the thought initially brought subsides. Hence, having a written business plan is pertinent if your business is to stand the test of time.
Now, what is a Business Plan?
One definition, according to entrepreneur.com, is that a business plan is a “written description of the future of your business; a document that indicates what you intend to do and how you intend to do it.” If you notice a paragraph on the back of an envelope describing your business strategy, you have already started a written plan, or at least the first draft of a plan. The business plan itself consists of a narrative and several financial worksheets.
The very act of planning helps you to think things through in a systematic and thorough way. Study and research your market niche if you are not sure of the facts, and look at your ideas critically. It may take some time now, but helps to avert costly and disastrous mistakes in future.
In this article, I want to provide a very brief look at the steps involved in planning a business:
1. Identify Your Passion: Knowing what you love doing, even without making money, is the stepping stone in starting any business. Most people enter into a business they know nothing about, and stop after only few months. Some get tired of their businesses simply because they are not happy with the activities involved in running the business anymore. According to Sabrina Parsons, (CEO of Palo Alto Software) “Know yourself, and work in a job that caters to your strengths. This knowledge will make you happier.”
The reason why many businesses fail in their first five years is because the entrepreneurs do not find fulfillment in running their business anymore. Hence, they tend to move on in search for happiness.
You must look within by evaluating yourself and identify what you are good with. If what you are good at gives you happiness, think of how you can monetize it and make it a business. You do this by sharing your passion with others. However, passion alone is not enough in starting a business. You need to plan, set goals and above all, know yourself.
2. Conduct Intense Market Research: As stated above, passion alone is not enough in determining the type of business endeavor you should get involved in. You need to be sure if there are people who are really interested in paying for what you have to offer. Apart from that, you need to identity the category of people who can afford the prices of your products or services, and in what quantity.
You also need to determine how to attract your prospective customers. How do you intend to reach your targeted customers? How do you intend to distribute your products to your targeted customers? How do you know the actual price that potential customers are willing to pay for your products? These and many other things are what you should know before investing your money in starting any business.
3. Write a Business Plan: A business plan is a written document that describes your business idea. Your business plan will give you a sense of direction towards achieving your business goals and objectives. It describes what you want to do, when to do it, where to do it, and how to do it. A written business plan can also be used as a guide running your successful business.
Writing down your plans helps you to anticipate the future of your business. Anticipating your business helps you to identify and possibly avoid any challenge that may bedevil your business in the future.
4. Register Your Business: After you have written down your business plan, you must register your business so that clients will take you serious. Apart from that, registering your business makes your business have a life of its own. It separates you from your business. Any serious minded entrepreneur must have his business registered.
The most common type of business is that of a Sole Proprietor. You run your business yourself and keep accurate books (for tax purposes). You deduct your expenses and pay taxes on the gains. This is the simplest type of business to open. It is also the most vulnerable to having your assets taken away by an angry customer who would file a law suit against you for whatever reason. This is one of many reasons that business owners opt for one of the other types of business set ups.
A Partnership is a type of business where two or more people enter into a business arrangement. Two friends, etc. decide to open a business. If you decide to enter into a partnership, you need a document that details how the business will be divided if the partnership is broken up. It may sound crude to plan this before opening the doors, but it will save a lot of heartache and expenses in the end. Besides, if you never dissolve the partnership – the document is never needed. This is one of those “it is better to have it if it’s needed rather than need it and not have it” moments.
Corporations: There are several types of ways to incorporate. I am not going to get involved with a detailed discussion here. My recommendation is if you are planning on incorporating your business – hire an attorney with expertise in this area. There as several types of corporations and your attorney can evaluate the facts surrounding your business and guide you to the most appropriate type of corporation for you to use.
5. Get The Necessary Capital: This is the most difficult aspect of starting a business. Getting the capital to finance a business is the major factor that discourages most entrepreneurs from moving ahead with their plans.
There is no doubt that most businesses start through self-financing. The reason for this is clear – Nobody believes in your dream until there is a physical manifestation. As a potential business person, you must learn to save aggressively in order to meet the financial requirements of operating your business while taking care of your family at the same time. You can also opt for loans from friends, family or corporate bodies (banks, saving and loans, etc.).
A general rule of business states that, in addition to your start-up costs you should also have at least six to twelve months’ worth of your family’s budget in the bank. In order to finance your company, you will need to match the company’s needs to the appropriate financing option. You should seek the assistance of a good accountant in this area. The accountant will be able to advise you what is best in your situation and also offer assistance in tax planning.
6. Taking Risks: Once the financial aspect of starting a business is settled, what risks you should take should be the next line of action. You should keep on testing different things to be able to ascertain what works well for you and your business plan. By accurately listing the acceptable risks you are willing to take before hand (in your business plan) and in what situations these risks would be taken, will give you valuable guidance when obstacles occur (and they will occur).
By having your plan of action already in place, it will be very easy for you to refer back to your well thought out plan and decide on the course of action to take concerning a pre-identified obstacle to your business success.