If you have a solid vision for these seven business tent poles, the remaining details should be much easier to handle
When writing up a business plan, there are dozens of factors you’ll have to consider and decide on. The task can be daunting, as it requires hours of research, an intimate knowledge of the industry, and usually some advice from other sources. But before you lose yourself in the tiny details that will eventually become the foundation for your company, try to zoom out to get a higher-level perspective of your idea.
There are seven core aspects you’ll need to decide on and create for your company, and from there, the rest of the details should fall into place much easier:
1. The mission
The mission is the purpose of your company. It usually has something to do with your industry, products, and services, but could have to do with something much bigger. Coming up with a succinct mission statement can be difficult, especially for entrepreneurs who want to do a little of everything, but it’s a necessity if you want a concise way to describe what you do and why you do it. Your mission will inform multiple other considerations here, so prioritise it.
2. The core product
Your business might offer several different products and services, but you’ll need to determine a “flagship” product that will attract a great number of people to your business, and will have the most prominent influence on your reputation. Pick a product you’d love for people to directly associate with your brand and feel confident standing behind. Obviously, you’ll have to improve this and add other products over time, but your main product will serve as an ideal starting ground.
3. The customer
Determining a target market is difficult, but too many entrepreneurs avoid this decision and instead try to target everybody. This may seem like a decision that widens your potential audience, but in reality, it’s far better to be very relevant to a few people than barely relevant to all people.
Pick the demographic that research indicates has the most vested interest in your core product, or conversely, choose a demographic with ample market potential, and tweak your core product around them. From here on out, everything you decide about your company must work in harmony with your other decisions, so think carefully about how this decision will affect the others.
4. The operation
You know your company’s mission, core product, and customer, so how are you going to operate? This is a big, vague, open question for which there is no right answer and there are hundreds of considerations. For now, answer the biggest questions. How are you going to attract new business? How are you going to deliver your product? How are you going to retain customers? Where will you be located? Decide everything you need to serve your first line of customers—the rest you can figure out later.
5. The brand identity
Brand identity is more important than many new entrepreneurs realize. Selecting the right logo, colors, voice, and overall persona can have a massive impact on what your target demographic thinks about your brand. Just as importantly, it can bear a significant impact on how prospective employees see your brand, giving you a greater or lesser talent pool accordingly.
6. The culture
The culture doesn’t affect much in the way of customer relations or even operations, but it does complement your brand and can deeply affect both the productivity and retention of your team. In a startup, your team is going to make or break your idea, so you need to build a culture with staying power—and find the right people to hire to keep that culture alive and thriving.
7. The growth strategy
Finally, you need at least some direction when it comes to the future of your company. It’s hard to tell exactly what will happen when you launch, but make a few assumptions and plot the potential courses of your business from there; for example, what happens if you immediately sell out of stock? What happens if your first three years show reliable steady increases in sales? What happens if consumer interest is below your expectations?
If you have a solid vision for these seven business tent poles, the remaining details (which should still be planned out) should be much easier to handle. Logistical details, like whether or not you’ll need outside funding to get started and where you should set up shop, will also make more sense in the context of these seven institutions—for example, your growth strategy will dictate your financial schedule, and your operation will dictate the average space you need.
Think carefully about these seven institutions—you’ll have the opportunity to tweak them, but don’t rush into anything without thinking it all the way through.
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