You’ve decided to start a business. But before you make the big announcement, you need to do some preliminary work to make sure that it will be successful.
You have more questions than answers and your excitement is being replaced by overwhelm. But, even though at this very moment, you feel like giving up on the idea, you know that you really want to make this dream come true.
Many people start a business while neglecting some the foundational steps that will make sure the business succeeds.
Jessica started making diaper cakes for friends who had new babies. When she took a diaper cake to a baby shower, she received ohhs and ahhs and other friends asked her to make them one. She continued getting requests and soon she was making diaper cakes on a regular basis. That’s when she realized that she could probably sell them for more than just the cost of the materials and could make money at it. A business idea was born.
For many a business just happens accidentally. But when you start your business this way, you go from idea to production without much thought to planning. You just start making stuff and selling it. You may buy business cards and even set up a Facebook page.
This is the most exciting phase of a new business. But the fact that you forgot to plan can eventually destroy your business.
I’m not discouraging the idea to “just do it.” In fact, I encourage that you start this very day. But just because you’ve started a business doesn’t mean that you can’t take the time to create that foundation that is so necessary for success.
A business plan is like a foundation for a house. If you just build a house on the bare ground, it will be attacked by termites from the ground and be eventually destroyed. But a strong foundation can protect that house you love so much from destruction by termites.
The same is true of a business. The plan is the foundation. But, unlike the house, it doesn’t have to be in place before the business is started. You can create your plan as you keep running your business.
The plan gives you the steps to get the results you want.
Sometimes with a new business, you don’t even know what you don’t know. Your plan will help you make the most of what you already know but it will also point out things that you had not even thought of. It helps you see the big picture so that a bad day isn’t really all that bad.
A business, like a house, is built in order. You can’t put the roof on the house until you build the walls. Just like that house, the foundation is the most important element.
You can’t get someplace if you don’t know where you want to go and have some idea how to get there. Likewise, achieving success is knowing what it looks like and having some idea of what it will take to achieve it.
Why do you even want to start a business? Even if it was accidental as a result of people asking you to make gifts for them, why not just continue making those same gifts for your cost or even for free and the pleasure of helping your friends?
You decided you wanted to turn those requests into a business. Knowing why you made that decision will help you tell your story later when you are ready to market.
Your plan will include not only your goals for what you want your business to look like but also how to you want to build your business around your life as it is now and as it will look in the future. There are a number of things to think about as you begin your business. We will talk about these in more detail in other posts but here is a list of some the basic things to include in your foundation.
How much time and money will you spend on your business? Where, in your already busy schedule, are you going to fit your business?
Where will your business be located? Starting it as a homebased business makes a lot of sense but how much space can you allocate to it? Mary Ann Jacobs (who owned the successful business Gifts to Go in Tucson, Arizona and has since retired) started her gift basket business in a laundry room. I started mine in a spare bedroom.
What products will you offer and who will you sell them to? There are all kinds of opportunities but you can’t be all things to all people. Trying to sell to everyone is a mistake that many beginning business owners make.
How will you price your products? This one decision will affect whether you will be profitable or not.
How will your deliver your products? Can you provide hand delivery in your area or will all your gifts be shipped? Do you know the techniques for packing your gifts so that they aren’t damaged in transit?
Are you going to just sell locally or use a website to sell online as well? Even local businesses, in today’s world, need a platform online to look professional.
How will people pay you? Do you charge upfront or upon delivery? What do you do if you get an expensive order and the person then cancels after you’ve bought the ingredients and started preparing the gift?
How will you track your income and expenses? A shoe box or an empty drawer just won’t do.
Who is your competition? It isn’t just who you think it is.
Your customer base is going to have to expand beyond just your family and friends. Who is your ideal customer, how will you find them, and how will you let them know what you offer? This is what we call marketing. But not all marketing is effective. You need to know how you are different from everyone else and how you are going to focus on that difference.
I will be walking you through each step so that you can create a plan that works for you. But once the plan is created, you have to actually use it. We, as creative people, prefer the fun of making the gifts over the business aspects of creating a successful company. But that doesn’t work. You can’t just put it away in a file and forget about it. And each year that you are in business, you need to review the plan and make any needed changes.
But first you have to create a plan. Not a plan for a bank to get a loan but a plan for yourself. And I am going to help you do that.
I am going to introduce you to one of the easiest and fastest ways to create a viable plan for your new business so that you can get it off the ground quickly. It is so easy that I call it the One Page Business Plan.
Even for existing businesses, it is a simple way to look at where you are now, where you want to go, and what it will take to get there.
Go to the next article “The One Page Business Plan” and let’s begin.