Look, I get it. Some of you reading this won’t have even written a business plan.
A lot of the advice in this article is not particularly practical if you’re starting a small niche business on your kitchen table.
Most of the businesses that I’ve started – I didn’t pay attention to a lot of the advice I’m about to give. One or two of them didn’t even have a business plan in the first place.
However, if you want a successful business, you should pay attention to a lot of this and consider implementing it into your venture.
Because in reality, creating a business plan is only the first step.
It’s impossible to write a ‘one-size-fits-all’ article – because some people reading this may have raised millions worth of capital to get their new business off the ground and are now looking for a team and office space.
Others reading this will be starting their business on a shoestring budget and don’t have the money for anyone other than themselves.
But, you typed into Google ‘What must an entrepreneur do after creating a business plan’, so I’m going to try and cater to everybody.
There are some givens:
I assume you’ve had a business idea
I assume you’ve written an initial business plan (even if it’s just an outline)
I assume you want to run and operate a profitable business.
Whatever your business – large or small, I think we’ll all be on the same page when we say that the business plan is just the beginning. It’s now time to get to work.
Having Finalised Your Business Plan
After finalising your business plan, you’re now sitting there wondering what comes next?
As an entrepreneur, your journey has (quite literally) just begun, and there is loads to do to in order to bring your vision to life.
The first steps after creating a business plan may involve securing finances, assembling a talented team, and setting up essential systems for your new venture.
If you’re sat at the kitchen table with very little start up capital, then you need to be focusing in on the ‘essential systems’ which will prepare your business better for long term success.
Setting up Systems and Infrastructure
Perhaps you’d have put this at the end of the article, but not me.
If you want to run your business efficiently, you need to sell a product or service as quickly as possible.
Whilst business books might tell you that your legal structure, or hiring the right people is important – that’s pointless if your business isn’t selling anything yet.
Make this your primary focus, even if you have all of the money in the world from the very beginning.
It’s crucial that your new business has a website. This is for several reasons:
Your business website will allow you to develop your overall brand image.
You can show visitors that you are an expert in the field.
Website traffic can provide you with a stream of customers to your new business.
Your online presence will become a vital component of your overall marketing strategies.
You should view your website as the hub of your business. From here, you can begin your marketing efforts, run a specific marketing campaign and create landing pages to entice customers and new business.
Here’s how you can set it up:
Register a domain name that represents your business and is easy to remember.
Choose a web hosting provider with reliable uptime, sufficient storage, and affordable pricing. I recommend WPX. It’s a little more expensive than the off-the-shelf web hosting, but the online support and speed that it provides WordPress websites with is second-to-none.I switched to them three years ago and I’ve never looked back. This site is hosted through WPX.
Design a professional and user-friendly website that aligns with your brand and offers valuable information to your visitors. WordPress allows you as the business owner to use many theme and design possibilities.
Optimise your website for search engines, ensuring your target audience can find you easily. Search engine optimisation is an entire subject in its own right and too complex to cover here in such detail.
Even if you have the most solid business plan in the world, I cannot stress enough how much time you should invest into getting to the top of Google with your marketing strategies.
Equipment and Software
To set up your business systems and infrastructure, the first step is to identify and acquire the necessary equipment and software.
If you have the budget, this may include computers, printers, office furniture, a new desk and any specialised tools or machinery needed for your industry.
Make sure you invest in quality equipment and prioritise items that will impact your productivity and efficiency the most.
When choosing software, consider options that suit your budget and provide scalability as your business grows.
Successful businesses ensure that they have robust bookkeeping systems in place – and yours should be no exception.
To set up your bookkeeping system, you should:
Choose a suitable accounting software tailored to your business needs. Look for user-friendly and feature-rich options, such as QuickBooks or Xero.
Create a chart of accounts to categorise your financial transactions, such as income, expenses, assets, and liabilities.
Establish a process for managing invoices, receipts, and payments, ensuring prompt and accurate record-keeping. There are great smartphone apps now that will take care of all of this for you.
Ensure compliance with tax regulations and deadlines to avoid penalties from IRS (US) or HMRC (UK).
Consider hiring an accountant or bookkeeper for professional support, especially if your financials are complex.
Thinking About Financial Details?
One crucial aspect from your business plan may have been to finance your business.
Therefore, you will need to consider exploring various funding options.
This may be: investments from personal savings, friends and family, bank loans, or attracting venture capital from potential investors.
It’s also important to set up a budget, establish a bookkeeping system, and ensure financial compliance.
Building A Team
Should money be no object – or you’re planning on starting a large scale business, then you will want to start immediately building relationships with potential employees.
Focus on finding, attracting, and motivating talent to build a strong team that can help you execute your business plan.
Your team’s collective skills and experience will be instrumental in turning your idea into a successful enterprise.
Remember, your dedication and commitment to your project will inspire your team members, so it’s vital that you lead by example and foster a positive working environment.
Identifying your target market is crucial in understanding who your potential customers are, and what their needs and preferences might be.
As an entrepreneur, this will help you tailor your products or services to cater to your audience effectively.
To determine your target market, you can consider factors such as location, age, gender, and income levels. You can use surveys, interviews, and existing data to gather insights and further understand your target market.
Analysing your competitors is an essential aspect of market research.
This allows you to differentiate yourself from others in your industry and find your unique selling points.
You can start by researching your direct and indirect competitors to understand their strengths and weaknesses.
This can guide you in creating a strategy to counter or leverage their tactics, and establish your own competitive advantage. A useful tool for this process is a SWOT analysis, which can help pinpoint key differences between you and your competitors.
Your target audience plays a crucial role in the success of your business plan, as they are the individuals who will likely buy your product or service.
To engage with your target audience effectively, you need to understand their behaviours, preferences, and pain points.
This will enable you to create marketing materials, pricing strategies, and distribution channels that resonate with your audience.
One approach to defining your target audience is by creating customer personas or profiles that represent different segments within your target market.
This can include details such as demographics, psychographics, and even customer histories.
These are known as customer avatars.
By utilising this information, you can tailor your messaging and overall strategy to better suit the needs of your audience, and ultimately improve your chances of success.
Business Structure and Legal Requirements
After creating a business plan, one of the first steps is to decide on the legal structure for your business. This is crucial as it determines the legal environment in which your business will operate. Some common legal structures include:
Limited Liability Company (LLC)
Consider factors such as tax implications, liability to debts, and management structure when choosing the legal structure that best aligns with your business goals.
Permits and Licenses
Once you’ve chosen your business structure, you’ll need to secure any relevant permits and licenses required for your operations. These may vary depending on your industry and location. Some common permits and licenses include:
Business License: A general permit to conduct business activities in your area.
Health & Safety: If you’re in the food, hospitality, or health sectors, you may need to adhere to specific health and safety regulations.
Sales Tax: Register for any applicable sales taxes for selling products or services in your area.
Professional Licensing: Some professions, like lawyers or accountants, may require specific licenses to operate.
Do your research properly, as many of these are legal requirements that must be adhered to – otherwise you can find yourself in trouble.
It’s essential to protect your business’s intellectual property such as copyrights, trademarks, and patents. This not only safeguards your brand and creations but also gives you the exclusive rights to use, sell, or license these assets. Some steps to protect your intellectual property include:
Registering your business name and logo as trademarks
Applying for copyright protection for original works, like books, software, or musical compositions
Filing for patents to protect inventions or processes
By focusing on these key aspects and following the legal requirements, you can successfully lay the foundation for your business and its operations.
Establishing the Brand
After creating a business plan, it’s essential to establish a strong brand that resonates with your target audience. To achieve this, consider developing your brand by conducting tests and collecting feedback. Listen to your customers and make adjustments accordingly, ensuring you offer a high-quality product or service at an affordable price.
Your brand identity should be an authentic representation of your company’s values, personality, and mission.
To create a powerful identity, first define your company’s vision and mission, and make sure it’s apparent to everyone within the company.
Craft a compelling, consistent visual and verbal identity, addressing aspects like your logo, colour palette, typography, and overall messaging.
In my opinion, every company should have a consistent brand identity. This means paying attention to all of the elements below and being fairly strict in adhering to them.
A few key elements to consider in your brand identity are:
Logo: Create a unique and memorable visual symbol that reflects your business.
Colour palette: Choose colours that evoke the right feelings and convey your brand message consistently.
Typography: Select fonts that complement your brand identity and make your content readable.
Tone of voice: Develop a consistent tone in all communications to help build trust with your customers.
Unique Selling Proposition
A crucial aspect of establishing your brand is defining your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Your USP should clearly communicate the distinct benefits and value that your product or service provides compared to your competitors. To identify your USP, consider answering the following questions:
What makes your product or service unique in the market?
How does your offering solve a particular problem or meet a specific need?
Why should customers choose your business over competitors?
Once you’ve determined your USP, ensure it’s communicated consistently across all platforms, from your website to advertising campaigns, so that it becomes synonymous with your brand. By doing this, you’ll foster a strong connection with your customers and differentiate your business from the competition.
To develop an effective marketing strategy, you need to select the right marketing channels for your business.
Start by identifying your target audience and research the best platforms to reach them.
Relevant channels may include social media channels, email marketing, content marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO), and paid advertising. Remember to utilise a mix of traditional and digital channels to maximise your marketing reach.
Stay up to date with the latest marketing strategies
Once you have chosen your marketing channels, focus on creating compelling advertising campaigns. Develop engaging content that highlights the unique selling points of your products or services. Tailor your message to resonate with your target audience and allocate budget to the most impactful channels. A successful advertising campaign may include:
Eye-catching graphical materials
Informative and educational content
Emotional storytelling that appeals to your audience’s needs and desires
Consistency in branding and messaging across all channels
Monitoring and measuring the performance of your campaigns for data-driven decision making
When it comes to pricing, the key is to strike a balance between affordability and profitability. Consider the following pricing strategies to determine what works best for your business:
Cost-based pricing: This method involves calculating your production costs and adding a profit margin to determine the selling price.
Competitive pricing: Analyse your competitors’ pricing strategies and adjust your prices accordingly to stay competitive.
Value-based pricing: Evaluate how much your customers are willing to pay based on the perceived value of your product or service.
Penetration pricing: Offer an initially lower price to attract customers and then increase it once you have gained market share.
Skimming pricing: Set a higher initial price for premium customers and gradually lower it to attract a wider market segment.
By following these sub-sections on marketing channels, advertising, and pricing strategies, you will be on your way to creating a solid marketing strategy for your business. Remember to continuously monitor and adjust your approach as necessary, using data to inform your decision-making process.
Management and Organisation
As an entrepreneur, it’s crucial to build a strong team that can support your business plan.
Surround yourself with individuals who possess the necessary skills and expertise to execute your strategy.
Ensure your team members have diverse backgrounds and experiences to foster innovation and a well-rounded perspective. Don’t forget to include their roles and responsibilities in your plan.
Felix Dennis, a very successful business person said that you should always hire employees that are smarter than you. I think there’s a lot of truth in that.
Offering competitive employee benefits is essential for attracting and retaining top talent.
Consider providing a comprehensive package that includes health insurance, retirement plans, and flexible work arrangements to cater to your team’s needs.
Additionally, consider offering professional development opportunities to encourage continuous growth and upskilling.
Tailor your employee benefits package to suit your organisation’s unique requirements and values.
A well-structured management plan is crucial for maintaining organisation and productivity in your business. Here’s a brief outline to help you create your plan:
Define your management hierarchy: Outline the different levels of management within your organisation, including department heads, project managers, and team leaders.
Establish communication channels: Choose your preferred methods of communication, such as email or video calls, to ensure a smooth flow of information among team members.
Implement regular performance evaluations: Set up a system for measuring the progress of your team members towards their goals, providing constructive feedback, and identifying areas for improvement.
Create a talent management strategy: Outline a plan for attracting, developing, and retaining talent that aligns with your organisation’s goals and culture.
Incorporate risk management: Identify potential risks and develop contingency plans to minimise their impact on your business.
Measure progress: Keep on top of the decisions that are being made within your team. If you are not part of the key performance indicators, marketing activities and ongoing process – how will you be fully aware of what’s going on in your company?
Throughout the implementation of your management plan, remember to maintain open and transparent communication channels, giving your team the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns.
This will not only foster a positive work environment but also keep you informed of any potential issues that could impact your business’s success.
Financing the Business
Creating a solid financial plan is pivotal for your business’s success. You should start by drawing up a detailed budget that includes all necessary expenses, such as equipment, marketing, and employee salaries.
It is crucial to monitor your cash flow to ensure your business can operate efficiently. By projecting your finances on a 12-month basis, you can keep track of revenue and expenditure, allowing for quick and informed decisions.
Many aspiring entrepreneurs just ‘hope for the best’ when it comes to financial planning, but getting this planning right can be the difference between a successful venture and a business failure.
After finalising your financial plan, it’s time to move on to creating financial projections. These forecasts will help you anticipate your business’s financial performance, giving you an idea of how much growth to expect in your first few years of operation. In your financial projections, be sure to address:
Fixed and variable expenses
Projected profits or losses
Your financial projections will be particularly helpful when seeking investors or applying for funding. Being able to back up your claims with concrete figures can go a long way in gaining their confidence.
There are numerous funding options available for startups. Some popular methods include:
Bootstrapping: This involves relying on your own savings or generating revenue from your product or service to fund your business. It might take longer to grow, but it can reduce your dependence on external sources.
Loans: Taking out a loan from a bank or another financial institution can help you secure the capital needed to expand your business. With this option, make sure to read all agreements and verify interest rates and repayment terms.
Grants: Research available grants for small businesses or innovators in your industry. Grants can provide critical funding without requiring repayments or sacrificing equity in your business.
Investors: Venture capitalists and angel investors might be interested in offering secured funding for your entrepreneurial venture. By convincing them of your business’s potential for success, you can secure financing in exchange for a share of ownership or a stake in future profits.
Each of these funding options has its own advantages and disadvantages. Assess your financial needs and select the option that best aligns with your business’s goals and growth trajectory. Remember to periodically review your financial plan and projections to ensure sustained success in the long run.
Execution and Launch
Selecting the perfect location for your business is crucial to its success. Consider the following factors when choosing a location:
Proximity to your target market
Accessibility for customers and employees
Availability of resources and suppliers
Cost of the area
Take time to research the area and identify your target market to ensure the location aligns with your business plan.
After selecting the ideal location, you’ll need to consider the cost of rent. Here are some tips for dealing with rent expenses:
Determine your budget for rent
Investigate the average rent prices in the area
Negotiate the lease terms and rent with the property owner
Consider factors like maintenance, utility costs, and security when budgeting for rent
Remember, rent is a significant expense, but it is often worth the investment if it means setting up your business in the ideal location.
Creating an effective sales strategy is essential for launching your company. Follow these steps to execute your plan and reach your desired audience:
Clearly define your sales objectives and goals
Identify your target customers and understand their pain points and preferences
Create a sales message that addresses your target customers’ needs
Choose the best sales channels for reaching your audience, such as email, social media, or in-person events
Develop a sales plan that includes well-defined processes and timelines
Train your sales team on the methods, expectations, and desired outcomes
Monitor your sales performance, adjusting the strategies when necessary
Remember, your sales strategy is an essential component of your business plan, so give it the attention and resources it deserves for a successful launch.
Next Steps and Future Growth
Review and Adjust
After completing your business plan, you should continuously review and adjust your strategies to ensure its alignment with your vision and mission statement. Regularly evaluate your progress and make necessary improvements as the business landscape evolves. Keep an eye on industry trends and adapt quickly to stay ahead of the competition.
To foster growth, you must focus on building relationships with key stakeholders. Engage with potential partners, suppliers, and investors to expand your business possibilities. It’s essential to maintain a strong relationship with your team, as they will contribute to the success of your company. Show appreciation and invest in their professional development.
Expand Your Network
Networking plays a vital role in unlocking new opportunities for your business. Here are some ways to effectively expand your network:
Attend industry events and conferences to connect with like-minded professionals.
Use social media platforms to showcase your business and interact with potential customers.
Join professional organisations and forums to exchange ideas and gain valuable insights.
Offer your expertise by participating in webinars, podcasts, or writing articles to establish yourself as a thought leader in your field.
Always be open to new ideas and connections, as they can propel your business towards the next level of success. Keep a forward-looking mindset and seize every opportunity to further develop and grow.
Challenges and Advantages
As you navigate the process of starting a business after creating a business plan, don’t forget to think about both the challenges and advantages that lie ahead.
One key challenge you’ll face is finding a competitive advantage in your industry. Competing with established businesses can be tough, but it’s essential to define your unique selling points.
Some advantages you can leverage include your expertise, relationships, and innovative ideas. Remember that a small business can be more agile than a large corporation, so use this flexibility to your benefit.
Here are a few steps to guide you:
Identify your target market and competition
Develop a budget and secure necessary funding
Build a strong team to delegate tasks
Don’t be afraid to seek external advice
Forbes has published various articles and case studies highlighting successful entrepreneurs who have effectively executed their business plans. Analysing these case studies can offer you valuable insights into overcoming challenges and exploiting advantages in your business journey.
Here are some key takeaways from different case studies:
Innovation: Embrace new ideas and be willing to adapt your business model if required.
Customer Focus: Ensure your products or services cater to your target audience’s needs and preferences.
Mentorship: Seek guidance from experienced entrepreneurs who can provide valuable tips and support.
Persistence: Be prepared to face obstacles and remain persistent throughout the ups and downs.
Remember, as you embark on this exciting journey of starting a business, that being well-prepared and staying adaptable will greatly improve your chances of success. Don’t be afraid to learn from others, and always stay focused on delivering value to your customers.