So, you’ve locked in on your business idea, but now you’re looking to bring it to life. You’ve come to the right place. A successful business starts with a plan; whether that’s for you, your co-founder, or investors, you’ll need to get things down on paper.
In this article, we’ll run you through the eight steps to a successful business plan for a small business and share some best practices along the way. Let’s jump right in.
Before we even dive into the eight steps you need to know for a successful plan, it’s well worth considering that you’ll most probably need to present this plan at some point in the near future.
Whether you’re presenting to your team, new hires, your investors, or just your family, make sure you build your business plan with a presentation in mind. Use an easy slideshow maker to keep your ideas organized and ready for any set of eyes.
There’s nothing worse than having to shift through pages and pages of research at the last minute, to try and throw something together. So, stay one step ahead of the game and build your business plan directly into the slideshow. It’ll help you compress your thoughts and messaging and come out of the process with a more complete and launch-ready plan. Another business aspect in which you could save yourself a lot of hustle and bustle is the hiring process by using an applicant tracking system.
Right, now you’ve got your platform sorted, let’s jump into the steps you need to take to bring this small business to life.
First up, you’ll want to put together an executive summary of the business. Of course, this is going to be for anyone reading the plan. However, this exercise is also great for you as a founder.
Your executive summary is your elevator pitch.
Some people choose to write this section last, once they’ve done all the research and the below seven steps. However, having an executive summary as a constant reference throughout this process keeps you on track and enables you to quickly circle back to what you want your business to be.
Next up, it’s time to run your research. This includes your competitor analysis, brand alignment research, and audience/user research. Let’s break these three things down.
This is probably the most straightforward of all these types of research. You’ll most likely have a firm idea of your competitors, but there are also probably a few out there that you’re yet to discover and playing the field in different markets.
Your competitor analysis should look at the following things:
It’s a lot, and this is a huge part of your business plan, so take your time with it.
This is an interesting one and can prove incredibly useful when you’re ready to brand your business and bring this product to life. Which brands do you admire and would like to be a positive influence on how your brand is perceived?
Identify those brands that draw you in and figure out their secret sauce.
Brand alignment research doesn’t need to be brands with similar products to yours—or even in similar fields. Consider any brand that has left a positive impression on you and dive deep into how they’ve managed to do that.
"This part of your business plan is also crucial in understanding your demographic and how you’re going to build a business they love, a product they use, and inspire them to join you on your journey" and in order to do that you need to create a ux research plan.
Get savvy with how you conduct your audience research; you may want to run usability tests on low-fi product mock-ups, and maybe you’ll want to conduct qualitative or quantitative surveys to gather opinions and insights that guide your business build.
By the end of your audience research, you should clearly understand who your audience is—broken down into demographic segments—and outlined in user personas.
Step number three! Get your mission and vision clear as day. This section of your business plan is the shortest, second to your executive summary. Only once you’ve conducted the research listed above can you really nail your mission and vision statement. Let’s clear up what these are.
Vision: is how you see your business affecting your users/customers and the world.
Mission: is how you plan to achieve your vision.
Note: Your mission does not need to be your marketing strategy; it’s more of a holistic idea and overview of the values and culture you’ll create to bring your vision to life. Your business tagline is often the brainchild of your mission and vision statement.
Check out Nike’s:
So, you’ve done your research, you’ve got your mission and vision statement down, now it’s time to outline your product or service. We’re not looking for a finished product or service here. That’s all part of the process of creating a business. What we are looking for is a solid idea of what you want to create.
You don’t have to outline how you’ll create it, just what you want it to be able to do. Don’t let yourself be limited by the technical aspects of creating your product, we’ll figure that out on the way!
All of this will draw you to develop a product marketing strategy. For the most part, you’ve already identified your audience and where you can find them. So this stage is pulling that information together into a plan of action that will get people knocking on your door.
It’s a good idea to focus on demand generation above other marketing strategies. You can’t expect to have people knocking on your door from day one for a new business. Instead, you’ll need to find ways to generate demand for your brand and product, and from there, you can begin your sales flows.
In your product marketing strategy, you’ll want to include things like:
Next, you’ll want to get your numbers secure, especially if you’re betting on an investment round to get your business ball rolling. This stage in your business plan should cover the budget you need to build your product, build your team, and go to market.
Here, you should also include your expected turnover in your first year, three years, and five years. Psst. It’s totally okay if your numbers are in the red. A new business’s time to profitability is typically between two to three years. As a heads up, founders don’t typically withdraw a salary from the business in the first year.
Make sure you’ve got all of your numbers on paper, alongside your predictions, profits, and loss. This will be the section of your business plan that investors pay the most attention to.
Your penultimate section only applies if you’re planning on applying for funding. This section of your business plan can outline proposals for potential investors. If someone decides to invest in your business, and more so in you, then what will they get in return?
How much of your business are you willing to share for the right amount? Outline a lucrative offer on the table to grab an investor’s attention. Of course, only offer what you’re comfortable letting go of, and keep in mind that a potential investor may push for more. Give yourself and your negotiations some wiggle room.
Last but not least, it’s time to wrap everything up. Conclude your business plan and leave your reader with some final thoughts. What do you want them walking away from your business plan presentation thinking? How do you want them to feel about your potential business on the table?
Fill your words with empowerment and promise. Remind people of why and how this business will be such a success. If you still have no idea and don't know how to achieve a successful business check out Lee Duncan Business Coach
With that, we’ll close out this article on how to create a successful business plan. Hopefully, you’ve found this article useful and have a clearer idea of the steps you need to take to create a business plan that will get things off of paper and into people’s hands—or on their screens.