Business in the times of Corona: Write your business plan
Got an idea? Now is the time to write your business plan.
Times of upheaval – or dare I say crisis, such as the Covid-19 pandemic – are opportunities for reflection. These reflections tend to follow one of two paths; being grateful for what you have or spurring you on to get what you want.
If you’ve got an idea for a product or a service, if you’ve identified a gap in the market or if you have always wanted to be your own boss, now is the time to put pen to paper and develop your business plan.
Do I need a business plan?
Put simply, yes. Every business needs a business plan. It answers the fundamental question, “Why bother?”. This is the question asked by your customers, potential investors and future employees; Why should I part with my money for your product/service? Why should I change from a similar product/service I already use? Why should I work for your company? And sometimes, often very late at night, this is the key question asked of yourself.
It is vital, therefore, that the answer is convincing and evidence-based. This is where your business plan comes into play. Your business plan is a means to research, define and refine your business – that is, your product or service, the market in which you operate, the customer need you will fulfil and the ways in which your business will be funded.
Where should I start with my business plan?
A business plan should be clear and concise. However, before you start, gather as much evidence and information as possible and get it down on a page – it doesn’t have to be pretty. From here, you can evaluate your findings, refine your offering and define the exact process for delivery of services or products – also known as, writing your business plan.
What do I need to include in a business plan?
1. Business snapshot
Despite forming the first section of your business plan, it is useful to write your business snapshot after you have completed all other sections. The benefit of doing so is you will gain an overall perspective of your business in the process of writing the plan. In turn, you will be able to write one or two sentences that define your business – what products or services you offer, to whom, the need you will fulfil and what makes you unique.
As well as a succinct company profile, it is also useful to define your company values here. Your company values need to underpin your motivations and your aspirations.
Why do what you do?
What impact do you want to make?
Why should others care?
2. What you do
This section clearly details your offering. Do you offer a service or a product, or both? And what exactly is involved in that offering?
As we are all too aware, the world is a volatile place – particularly the business world – so it is important to determine how you will adjust and flex your offering to future proof your business.
What do you offer now?
What will you offer in the future? And how?
It’s time to sniff out the competition and identify who else in the market is selling a similar product or service. Determine the advantages and disadvantages of their offering compared to yours – you need to be objective here. Crucially, you need to clearly define your unique selling point:
What sets you apart from your competitors?
Why should a customer choose your product or service over the competition?
Now is also the time to grab that crystal ball and ask yourself, how will your competitors react to a new business in the same market? How will they respond to a potential loss of business? Alternatively, could they be a collaborator or future partner?
To offer a product or service, you need to understand your customers and what influences their purchasing decisions. While determining key characteristics, such as age, sex, location, profession, family-type etc, is useful for strategic targeting, understanding the challenges your customers face, the problems they need to be solved, and their wants and aspirations is essential for communicating the value of your offering.
Who are your customers?
What is their need and how is your product or service going to fulfil that need?
It is also important to consider, are your customers’ needs likely to change?
We’re dealing with people here, we’re a fickle bunch, so as well as cultivating relationships now, your business needs to be able to maintain engagement and develop new products or services that are relevant and desirable.
5. Sales and marketing
You’ve identified your customer. Now you need to make contact, engage, motivate to purchase and determine how you’re going to deliver your product/service to them.
To market your business, you first need to develop your brand’s visual and vocal identity. Although it is not necessary to include logo development, brand palettes and tone of voice documents in the business plan, the brand development process does need to be factored into the funding of your business.
The next step is to outline a marketing strategy and the channels through which you will communicate with customers (from launch and ongoing) – that is, online and offline advertising or direct marketing, physical and digital literature (business cards, brochures, leaflets, publications), social media, website, review sites, events or networking.
Finally, this section also details the operations of your business; how your product or service is sold and at what price. It includes defining your pricing policy, promotions and discounts, cross-selling opportunities, sales outlets and platforms (online, telephone, in person, physical premises, third-parties).
Finances and forecasting
Inextricably linked to your pricing strategy is determining how much money your business needs to make for its and your survival. Here, we need to ask the all-important question, “is your business idea financially viable?”
Identifying cash-flow, income vs outgoings, is crucial here:
What costs are involved in running your business? Set-up costs and annual investments, material costs, staffing, premises and utilities, marketing etc.
What are your personal costs that you need to cover?
In your first year, how many sales do you need to make? Are there any external factors that may impact your first year of trading?
What are your projections for the next three years? Do you have capacity to expand – new or additional premises, onboarding staff, increasing range of services or products?
Writing a business plan may seem like a daunting and time-consuming prospect, but it needn’t be. Plus, for many of us, we have some extra time on our hands. Explore that idea and chase that dream, this may just be the best time to do so.
MENTA’s Start-Up Business training is fully-funded and designed for entrepreneurs, budding freelancers and start-ups in Norfolk and Suffolk. The three-part course delivered through interactive, online sessions, provides invaluable advice for starting your business and writing that plan. So, what are you waiting for? Register your interest by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
For more from the “Business in the times of Corona” blog series, see articles below:
Staying social in lockdown
About the author: Lucinda Sloane is a seasoned communication specialist and founder of Bird Media, a marketing and communications agency specialising in content marketing, brand development and design. Find her on LinkedIn - linkedin.com/in/lucinda-sloane