In her writing on “The New Entrepreneur,” Amber Chand notes that success in building a business requires, “an inner capacity to assume 100% responsibility for the design of ones life, an ability to rise up above the whining terror of victimhood.”
I began writing my column here at Your Coffee Break by focusing on the inner spirit, because I have learned that it accounts for almost everything, in business. Your level of courage will determine the risks you take. Your vision of where the future will determine the way you walk toward it.
This column marks two years as the owner of my own business. As I wrap up the end of the 2012, I’m thankful that the strength and courage I gained in 2012 enabled me to focus on the future with a clearer vision. Elements such as a strong business plan, financial planning and a well developed team are, I know, the building blocks that will carry me through the next several years of entrepreneurship.
This year, re-working my business plan was one of the strongest moves I made within my business. A strong business plan is like a thesis statement. It determines what direction everything flows in afterward – the relationships you build, the financial decisions you make and what you choose to focus on.
If you’re new to business (or cried through freshman math class like I did), writing a business plan can be one of the most daunting tasks you face. After re-working mine with experts from all different angles, here is a seven question formula I developed for making the task less terrifying:
1. What is it that you like to do?
Taking a good look at what you love will help you distinguish what you’d like to put 150% of your energy into – because that’s what you’re going to have to do, as an entrepreneur. And, chances are that if you like it, you’re going to be better at it.
2. What are you good at?
The beautiful part of creating your own business is that it can play to your strengths. When I created my plan, I knew that it needed to settle primarily on my biggest strength, which was telling compelling stories through media. I also knew that my background in writing had afforded me with strong relationships I had built in East Africa, and the world of African fashion. My plan ended up combining the two.
3. What part of it are you bad at?
To focus on your faults may feel dismal, but its going to help you with the next step of your plan, which is partnerships. In order to find the right people to fill in your weaknesses, you need to know what they are. What is it that you cannot do yourself?
4. Who are you going to do it with?
Now that you know where your weaknesses lie, it’s time to distinguish who it is necessary to partner with in order to reach your goal.
I needed product, I needed appealing design for the product and I needed help with presenting our product to our target customer. So, in my plan, my core team included artisans out of Uganda (thus allowing me to tell their stories – what I wanted to do, and something I’m good at), a stylist who was talented in working with design (a weakness of mine I needed filled) and retailers, who could help me reach the kind of women we wanted to sell to.
5. Who are you going to do it for?
There’s a business anecdote that says you can either cast a wide net, and catch all the fish that might wander in, or you can do your research, bait correctly, cast your net in a strategic spot – and catch a whole lot of the exact kind of fish you were planning for.
The latter is almost always more beneficial.
Knowing what kind of person you’re selling to will help you know the branding language to use, the placement of your product and service and who to approach with your sales or advertising pitch. This is called your “target audience.”
6. How are you going to do it?
This is the part in your plan where you decide what distribution channels you’re going to use to reach your target audience. Are you going to sell through retailers? Online? Are you going to set up pop up shops, take on clients, pitch to companies that need your services?
7. How’s it going to look?
This is the part where you get to share your dream with numbers, names and products behind it. Here, you get to lay out exactly how the answers you have given to these questions are going to pay your bills. So, what is the cost of your goods or services? What kind of money are you putting out, or borrowing/hoping to have invested? And, what kind of money do you project seeing come in and when? Make sure to put down a realistic projection, as well as a worst case scenario and best case scenario to ensure you’re prepared for all the possibilities.