As the new year approaches and 2017 comes to an end, the topic of business planning is likely to be on the minds of many would-be (and established) entrepreneurs.
Business Planning is crucial for the success of both new and existing businesses, and it’s an area where the Halton Small Business Centre can help.
Whether you are planning to start a new business or grow an existing business our Halton Small Business Consultants can help you. From financing information to business planning, our Consultants will put you on the path to success.
Over the years our consultants have reviewed thousands of business plans and we have seen what it takes to make a successful plan. Here are five tips to help you turn your plan from good to great:
- Don’t tell.
One of the most overused phrases we see in business plans is “we provide great quality, selection and customer service.” These are important areas to focus on, but simply stating them does not make them true. If you are planning to provide excellent customer service, then explain exactly what that will entail, how you will accomplish it, and why it is an area of focus.
- Take the “what/ why/ how” approach.
Any good business plan template will prompt you for the ‘what’. What is your business name? What is your address? What are your hours of operation? However, the ‘what’ is usually less important than the ‘why’ and the ‘how’.
As Simon Sinuk discusses in his TED Talk: People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.
When you’re working through your business plan, try to communicate things in the what/why/how order. Taking this approach provides context for the reader and also acts as a litmus test for your decisions. If you don’t have an answer to the ‘why’ and ‘how’, then perhaps you should rethink your decision.
“The business name is A+ Flooring Halton, because ‘A+’ signifies best in class and has the added benefit of appearing first in any alphabetical listings. ‘Flooring’ is a clear description of our product and is the word with the highest volume of monthly Google searches in our area. ‘Halton’ speaks to the geographic area where we operate, and communicates to our customers in Milton that even though our address is in Oakville, we will still serve them.”
Start talking to your target audience before you start writing your plan. Your plan should centre on what value you are providing for them.
Regardless of whether you consider yourself to be an Inside-Out or an Outside-In organization, you need to communicate to your customers.
Business planning can’t be done without understanding external factors. It cannot be done entirely in your office and certainly cannot be done in a vacuum. You have to talk to your customers to understand their lived experiences, wants and needs and what drives their purchase decisions. The more you know about your customers, the easier it is to convince them to purchase your product or service.
- Look to your Competitors for key insights.
Business planning is not about reinventing the wheel. Always look for best practices that you can adapt for your business from your competitors. What are they doing really well that you can apply to your own business model? Where are they falling short? How can you come into this space and provide more value? What can you do differently?
Along with your customers, your competitors are perhaps the single most important source of insight to your business. Your supply chain, distribution strategies, marketing channels, pricing, financial projections (and more) can all be improved by understanding what your competitors are doing.
- Be conservative, realistic and avoid being too “salesy”.
Your business plan is not a piece of marketing material. It should serve as a strategic roadmap and validate the assumptions that are central to your business model. Be conservative with revenue projections, liberal with expense projections and make sure your business is still financially feasible if these outcomes play out.
Focus on making a compelling business case and communicating a clear, concise plan that can realistically be acted upon.
Once you have completed a draft of your business plan, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Halton Small Business Centre at (905) 825-6000 ext. 7900, or firstname.lastname@example.org, or drop by in-person at our office at 1151 Bronte Road, Oakville.
Our consultants would be happy to review your plan, provide you feedback and ensure that you are well-positioned to achieve your business goals!