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The idea of writing a business plan has evolved over the last 10 years. We hear about many different types of plans, ranging from strategic and marketing plans to five-year and overall business plans. Each of these categories requires a slightly different approach. Business plans, for example, are more traditional, while agile or scrum methods require a more innovative approach. But there are still commonalities to be found; each plan (and especially business plans) can benefit from these four steps.
1. Just Start
This one is simple. Don’t wait for a magical moment. If you have an idea, get it on paper and begin. It’s very unlikely that your first draft of the business plan will be perfect. That’s ok. You know what is even less likely to be perfect? No plan at all. Just start writing, add links and don’t worry about grammar. only you will be reading it at first. Later, as you want to start sharing, you can make it more legible.
When I write my own business plans, they start as a list of questions and answers with links to websites, decision trees, quotes, anecdotes, vlogs, pictures, names of possible vendors and clients and competitions. My business plans are a mess. Just let the idea start flowing. It will all make sense — eventually.
2. Analyze Your Competition
Consider your direct and indirect competition and analyze how you plan to do it better. What is your advantage? Is it perceived as an advantage by others?
It is very normal to think that your idea or angle is going to be a home run. Sometimes we are blind through our own research process, only analyzing questions that will provide an answer we are looking for. For that reason, it’s best to run your perceived advantage by other people and see if they agree.
A friend of mine just shut down a company he had invested a pretty penny in. He was under the impression that his market size was larger than it really was. Only once he had invested, started the company and saw it start to fail did he consult with others to find out that his market size was much smaller than he thought.
3. Consult Industry And Non-Industry Experts
Talking to key opinion leaders (KOL) in your industry will not only help validate your idea, it could also open doors to future collaboration. The KOL may introduce you or point you in the right direction. They usually have great insight on how the industry operates, so they can steer you in the right direction to avoid future pitfalls.
Likewise, non-industry experts are also important. Some industries are very archaic and stick to the status quo. Check out how other industries disrupted and see if the same thing could happen in your industry. Or check out how some traditional models within industries that have already been disrupted have stayed afloat — those models have weathered the storm. These KOLs are great leaders and can be even better advisors.
4. Give Yourself A Time Limit
Do proper research, but don’t let it take too long. Otherwise, you could get stuck on one section and fail to move forward. For example, a friend spent almost a year on a distribution business plan, to only find out that his main supplier, now under new management, did not know who he was and therefore was unable to work with him (due to contractual exclusionary issues). It would have set him back almost a year while he found another supplier, so he decided not to pursue it. This product line is a very niche market that only has a handful of suppliers nationwide.
On the flip side, recently I was planning to expand a service line into researching TV data. After doing a very thorough plan, we concluded that it was not a viable option for us in our particular business. Here are a few reflections from the process: We acted quickly and closed this chapter after the numbers did not add up; we had limited losses, mostly time; and we learned from this to expand another service line that provided good returns.
Business plans continue to evolve, and there’s always room for you to add your personal touch. These recommendations are simply what has worked for me with my past projects — I hope they can be helpful for you in the future.
January 7, 2019 at 07:24AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs