Once you’ve decided to start a business, you’ll need a plan of attack. You don’t want to go into this blind, but think through how you’ll approach various tasks and run the business. This comes in the form of a business plan. The form of the plan will vary based on the needs of your business. If you’ll be looking for investors or partners, you’ll want more structure and detail in writing, compared to a solo gig that will be a small operation. Include enough detail to make informed decisions and enough strategy to know where you’re going and how you’ll get there. This will also be a living document that you should review and update over time as your business develops.
Start off with what you’re selling, and who you’re selling to. If you have several ideas for businesses you’d like to start, pick one and focus on it. If you try to juggle several different products or services, or try to serve different types of customers, you won’t put enough energy behind any of them and won’t make significant progress. You may add products over time, or expand into new markets, but start with parameters small enough that you can get your full weight behind.
Next, do a market analysis. How many customers are out there, and how much volume would they want to buy of your product or service? What competitors will you have, and how do they operate? Learn about your competition, what they offer, and how you’re different from them, so you can explain to potential customers why they should buy from you instead of the competition. Maybe your product or service is slightly different, or you’re able to provide better customer service, or better customization of your product in order to meet a customer’s needs.
What will your staffing needs be? Figure out what tasks you’re not able to do, and hire employees or contractors to offload those tasks to. In a small business, you may need employees who are able to do a bit of everything in addition to the thing they’re in charge of. When you’re ready to hire, be clear of what you expect from each new hire, and determine fair compensation.
Develop a marketing strategy. Define who your target customers are, and where you’ll find them. Where you advertise, and the form your marketing takes, will depend on what you’re selling and who you’re selling it to. Figure out what media outlets and publications your customers read, what social media platforms they use, etc. and target those outlets.
Make a budget and financial projection. How much will you need to invest up front? What will your sales and expenses be? You don’t want to get halfway into a project and realize you don’t have enough money. You may also realize that you need less than you thought, and maybe this will be the thing that motivates you to start. Once you’re up and running, you should continue preparing budgets, at least for each upcoming month, so you can manage your cash flow. Don’t forget long-term planning, such as large purchases that you’ll need to save up for over the course of a few months.
The purpose of your business plan is to help you develop your strategy and make informed decisions. Make it a practice to pause and think strategically, even when you’re in a busy season, so you don’t get tripped up by foreseeable issues, and so you can take advantage of new opportunities. If you get started in your business, or a new project in an existing business, don’t be afraid to adjust and improve the plan if something doesn’t work as expected.