All companies start somewhere. It could be with a tiny thought bubble that spirals into a big idea, a note in your phone, a napkin that is brainstormed into a business concept, or a series of conversations with a friend or partner that become something more. No matter how you founded your business concept, it doesn’t all start and end there – unfortunately, an idea doesn’t immediately turn into a fully-functioning business overnight. Wouldn’t that be something?
The next important step after you have your grand idea is to write it all down in a one-page, strategic business plan. Whittle down your concept and figure out exactly what you are trying to create or build, before you take the next few steps to start your business. Discover what you need, what you want, and who will be on your team. Here are some top tips on what you can discover by creating a simple, one-page business plan – and how it will benefit you in the long-run.
This is also an extremely valuable strategic planning exercise and we do this religiously with our leadership team, followed by the whole company on a quarterly and annual basis. It is also very powerful for building and developing a culture of high performance and alignment throughout the organisation (we have 3 offices across Australia and in Asia so this is critical for us).
Building a one page business plan will allow others, who don’t have lots of time, to understand your business succinctly and it provides a solid overview of the business in a format that’s easy to modify (because, believe me, changes will have to be made!).
- Establish your ‘Why’
Who or what is your company, and where do you want to take it? It’s important to establish a clear vision from the outset, instead of muddling through and potentially missing your target down the track. Where do you want your company to be in ten years? By breaking down your objectives and goals you can establish the ‘why’ of your company – why does it need to exist, why do you want to start it, and why should consumers purchase or invest in your product or service? If you have kids, I’m sure you’ve heard them ask “why” a million times. They intuitively want to know the motive behind something and EVERYTHING. This is how you need to be when starting a business. Knowing exactly why you are doing something will keep you in the game in the long run. It will also help others see your dream.
- SWOT: Figure out your Biggest Opportunities and your Potential Challenges
Does your company have room to move in an ever-changing market, where consumers’ wants and needs develop and change every day? Establish the main opportunities that your business has: perhaps you fit into an untapped niche, maybe you have an idea that will appeal to hot-shot investors, or will your concept be perfect for a digital market?
On the other hand, it’s vital to figure out what your potential challenges are before you begin putting plans into place. Is your concept similar to another business already on the market in your area? Are you lacking in funds? Do you need expert advice in a certain area? Throw it all out on the table and address each opportunity and challenge with objectivity.
These steps are critical. Starting a business is much like dating. You have to get to know every aspect of your potential business to ensure it is a good fit. Tackling your potential challenges now will reduce your heartache in the long run.
To complete this exercise, download the SWT Worksheet. Or you can create your own by dividing a piece of paper into 4 quadrants. In each quadrant you’ll list the corresponding info.
- Rally the Troops
If you already have a team or partner in place for your potential business, are you all on the same page when it comes to the aims and timeline for your company? It’s imperative that each team member is as committed, and that roles are established from the outset to avoid conflict down the line. Having a business plan in place is imperative, but ensuring that your team or partner is there to back you every step of the way is just as important. Establish a shared conviction, and ensure your team is involved in each step of the planning process to ensure no unnecessary hierarchy or divides are created.
The planning period is also a great time to take a look at your team: do you have the right people on board? Do you need to bring on someone for a certain area of expertise that isn’t covered? Who has leadership potential, and who is likely to be the backbone of the team?
Dig into you and your partner’s (if applicable) strengths and weaknesses. Find individuals that are different from you. Hire to your weaknesses, not your strengths. This will ensure your business is balanced from the start. If your strength is in sales but you are horrible at administration, hiring another strong sales leader will certainly bring in a lot of business but what will happen once you’ve acquired the deals? The business needs to have an equilibrium. You won’t be able to use your strengths to their fullest; instead, you’ll be putting out fires. Set your business apart from the beginning.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller
- Establish your Core Values and Beliefs
This goes hand-in-hand with establishing the ‘why’ of your business. As soon as you have established your company’s vision, invest some time and think about what you are aiming for in terms of core values and beliefs. What are you hoping to reflect internally, in the way that your company operates and your team relates to each other? And what are you hoping to project to customers or clients externally? This is the time to figure out the ‘vibe’ of your company. Who do you want to be?
A recent Forbes article says it best:“ Core values are beliefs your business follows in all aspects of operations. They guide decision-making and define what your business stands for. Business values can heavily influence your brand identity, or how outsiders view your company.”
Your core values and beliefs will be the backbone of your company. You won’t pick and choose when to follow them based on the situation. You will use your core values and beliefs to hire employees, to make daily decisions, in communicating with your team and to set goals. Your values and beliefs should be known to everyone.
You can check out our core values here. Yes, you’ll even want to list them on your website. This way everyone knows what you stand for. You should be proud of your core values and never deviate from them. As you design your team, it will be important to share stories surrounding each core value. This will help to reinforce what they are and the importance of each one. To get started, use this helpful vision summary document.
- Figure out your Targets – the ‘Where’
Get your financial situation out in the open from the very beginning to avoid any nasty surprises after your company is established. How much do you have to kick things off, are you going to borrow money or pitch to investors, will you ask colleagues or family to throw money into the pot? Figure out exactly where your money is coming from and how much you will need – then add some – and write it into your one-page plan. Work with your partner or team to create some ideal targets and projections: are you aiming to make a profit in the first year? What would be an ideal profit, and how much of a loss could you make and still keep operating? Once again, be objective, realistic and take all circumstances into account.
This part of the business plan document isn’t something you’ll suffer thru once; it will be ongoing and will help you steer the business. Tim Berry, Business Plan Expert says, “Everyone wants to get involved in the next Google or Twitter, but every plan seems to have this hockey stick forecast,” he says. “Sales are going along flat, but six months from now there is a huge turn and everything gets amazing, assuming they get the investors’ money.” Again, be realistic. “Nobody wins by overly optimistic or overly pessimistic forecasts,” says Berry. Once you have a complete plan, revisit it monthly and revise projections for the future.
- Get Rid of Anything that isn’t Necessary and Establish Quarterly Priorities:
The early years of a new business concept can be overloaded with competing priorities, hundreds of different ideas, and an unestablished vision. Trim the extra bits and pieces from the outset: take a look at what is most likely to succeed and what isn’t and prioritise concepts and ideas. Get rid of anything that is just a floating concept – that is, something that hasn’t been fleshed out or established within your business plan. As you develop your team, work with them to create quarterly goals, and flesh them out to annual and bi-annual priorities. Refer back to these regularly, and you will be able to touch on what is and isn’t working, what can be trimmed down, and if your attention needs to be rethought.
These tips should help you get started on your one-page business plan, and put you on the road to establishing a company that has clear objectives, a collaborative and communicative team, and a positive trajectory. A one-page strategic business plan assists business leaders in taking a step back and painting a clear picture of the business, where you want to take it, and how to get it there. Check out a sample of a business plan here.
A one page business plan is also a good starting point if you need to create a more detailed one later for investors and/or if you try to get a loan, as a longer one is often needed. Once you have the plan completed now it’s time to take it on a test drive. Get your plan out in front of as many people as possible. This is your time to give your elevator speech and accept valuable feedback that can provide alternatives perspectives you may have not thought of.
Eric Ries summarizes it best, “Don’t be in a rush to get big, be in a rush to have a great product.”