Start by replacing the old clunky business plan with your own success strategy. It is shorter than a business plan and it is much simpler too. When you start a business or want to strategically grow your business you must have a plan. The best business strategy starts with answering a long list of questions.
Here is the first and most important question every entrepreneur should answer:
What does the ideal business look like to you?
You have to be very specific here. Nobody else can really answer this question for you. You know who you are. You know your own personality. You know what is important to you.
As you think about the ideal business for your, think about details such as:
- What does the perfect day look like to you? Let me give you an example. If you have a hard time showing up on time for meetings and be at a certain place at a certain time, you probably don’t want to build a business that requires a lot of face-to-face interactions. I know that in my business I don’t want to be sitting in meetings with clients. I prefer to take care of business online through email, chat, txt and social media. I understand this about myself and it helps me build the business that supports that.
- Does the business you are trying to build allow you to live the life you want to live? If you want to be able to travel, you should build a location independent business instead of a brick-and-mortar business.
- Do you want to build a company with employees or would you rather have a virtual team? There is no generic right or wrong answer here. With employees, it is difficult to scale up or scale down. It is tough to lay off people when business slows down and it is even harder to hire the right employees. For me, a virtual team is a dream come true. I like the flexibility it provides me and the members of my team.
- How much money do you need? This has to be an exact amount. Be honest with yourself and calculate the exact amount your business has to make to support your lifestyle.
After you honestly answered the above questions, it’s time to move on to developing the strategy that will get you there.
Don’t copy someone else’s business plan.
Your business is unique and the road to success will be unique too. Each entrepreneur is different and each business is different too. It is true that there are similarities in business, but you must be able to develop your own unique business strategy. Avoid using business plan templates.
Who is your customer?
You can’t finalize your product, set your pricing, define your marketing strategy without understanding your customer. One of your first tasks as an entrepreneur is to create an accurate customer profile. Understand who you want your customer to be. It will influence everything about your business from product development to packaging to pricing and sales.
The following will help you understand your customer and create your customer profile:
- Who is your customer?
- B2C – (demographics and psychographics) age, gender, location, income, education, occupation, buying patterns, values, beliefs, perceptions, lifestyle choices, etc.
- B2B – vertical, industry, business size, the number of employees, total revenue, location, maturity, the number of years in business, products or services offered, etc.
- How big is the market? Again, this must be a number.
- Lifetime Value (LTV) – This is an actual dirham amount or a range. Understanding this number is necessary so you can determine how much money you can afford to spend acquiring a new customer.
- Understand customer pain points.
- What is their buying process?
- What website(s) do they visit most?
- How does your product would improve their lives or businesses?
Keep in mind that your customer profile will change over time. Your customers’ interests, needs, and pain points will also change. Constantly monitor your industry and its relationship to its customers. It will help your business stay on track.
What is your product?
Successful entrepreneurs build products with the customer. Entrepreneurs who fail to create products without the customer. They have an idea for a product roll up their sleeves. They are doers. They want to take action. Taking action without the appropriate thought process is a waste of time.
To answer the question “What is your product?“, you need to start with asking some questions:
- What problems does your product solve?
- What makes your product unique? Do you have any patents?
- In what ways is your product superior to your competition?
- How much does it cost to manufacture your product?
Who are the competitors?
Entrepreneurs can learn more from the competition than any consultant, book, or advisor. Your competition has already figured out many of the questions the keep you up at night. Understanding your competition is one of the most important parts of building a successful business.
Describe how and what you will be offering:
- Cheaper or more expensively
- Faster or slower
- Larger or smaller
List your competitive advantages.
Create a comprehensive competitor analysis:
- Who are your competitors?
- How many of them are there?
- What do they do well?
- What do they do poorly?
- What do their customers think about them?
- What can you do better than your competition?
- What is the likelihood of getting customers to switch from a competitor to your business? What are the costs involved? How long would it take to get customers to switch?
How are you going to sell and market your product?
You can’t build a business without figuring out a way to profitably get more customers.
You must answer questions like:
- How will you reach your customers?
- What marketing/promotional channels will you utilize?
- How will you determine the price of your product/service?
- What brand positioning do you desire?
- Are you going to develop strategic partnerships?
How much money will you need?
You need money to develop your product, sell it, and support your customers.
Answer questions like:
- How much money do you need to build your business?
- How will you and on what will you spend?
- What are the projected revenues for the next 6-months, 1-year, and 2 years?
- What assets must you acquire and how much will they cost?