While embarking upon a new venture, or even reviewing how your company is faring, it’s important to have a frame of reference with which, you can see if you’re on the right track. Most businesses have to grapple with so many variables while operating, which is why having a ready reckoner is important. Such is the importance of a business plan, in ensuring that your business achieves the success it deserves. An ideal time to put together a business plan is essentially before beginning a new venture or while planning for the next financial year, or even before applying for a business loan.
In a nutshell, a business plan needs to be created by conducting a SWOT analysis, by putting together a list of questions and priorities based on your long term plan, and what short-term plans need to be set in place, to achieve that long term plan.
Before you set out to create a business plan, you need to ask yourself where you are right now, how you got there, what has worked and what hasn’t and where you plan to be. Based on these questions, you can effectively zone in on your goal, the resources needed to achieve that goal and the things that might have, or will come in the way to achieving it.
- Analyse your company’s business offerings – You need to ask yourself about the unique quality of your business, the one that will help you succeed. List down all the products/services you offer, the ones that are doing well and those that aren’t and based on that, what products/services you plan to offer in the future.
- Understand your target audience – One you know what your mission and goal is, you need to ask yourself who would be interested in what you have to offer, how big the market is, and what their needs are.
- Identify the factors influencing the industry in which your business is based – A trend analysis is key. You need to understand the factors governing your industry, the changes taking place and the trends that stand to impact your industry in both, the long and short term.
- Keep an eye on your competitors – What does the competition offer that you don’t? What are their strengths and weaknesses? A competitor analysis will help you gauge where you stand in the game and how you can stand to gain a competitive advantage.
- Focus on marketing – This step is a direct result of the previous steps. At this point, you can put together a plan to have your target audience avail of your products/services, while factoring in the market scenario in which you are operating. Identify the price at which you are going to market your product, the brand positioning and the marketing and sales channels you are going to use.
- Plan your resources – In order to thrive in business, you need a winning team to help you achieve your goals. You should thus put together an organisational chart to plan your key hires and the kind of profiles you would need, to set up a robust resource base.
- Put an operational plan in place – This is where you need to decide what processes, technologies and additional resources you are going to need, to set the business in motion. You can define a list of milestones you’d like to achieve, and the timelines within which you’d like to achieve them.
- Set up a financial plan – Once you’ve put together your business plan, you can determine the finances required to build your business. At this point, you should also be asking yourself the means by which you can acquire the financial backing you need as well as the projected revenues and profits you hope to achieve over the next year as well as the next 3-5 years.
One important thing to bear in mind is that it’s not enough to merely create a business plan, you need to review and revise it on a constant basis. Given the ever-changing market scenario in today’s day and age, adaptability is key. This is why you need to consistently map the milestones achieved at the proposed timelines against your business plan, and incorporate the required changes needed to thrive and prosper.