Asking tough questions helps ensure business plan success. Starting a business is tough and making it grow successful is even tougher. If you took the time to make a plan, you realize good plans lay the foundation for successful businesses. If you want your success to last, get feedback on your plan early and often.
The most objective (and often best) feedback comes from people who know little about your business. I highly recommend you get an objective perspective on your business plan. If the people helping you question your plan aren't asking all of the following questions, they aren't helping you with business plan success. Find someone who will.
How do your goals result in success with your business's mission?
- If you want your business to succeed at its mission, every goal needs to directly support accomplishment of that mission.
- For Example If your mission is, "We make and sell the world's highest quality toothpicks". Every goal that doesn't help you make and sell the world's highest quality toothpicks should be deleted from your plan.
- Your goals should also be organized and prioritized in a way that relates to your mission. Some goals will have a bigger impact. Various goals will have varying long and short-term benefit/results. Some goals will be dependent on other goals. Be sure your plan shows these relationships in a clear way.
Exactly who is your customer?
- There's an old adage saying you can best describe a person by describing the company they keep. You can better understand your company by better understanding your customers. When you bring to mind the company with the most successful line of running shoes, you might picture an image of an athlete poised on the starting block and ready to sprint. This is because that company is all about your customer. Their marketing and advertising shows the company as being the customer. When you buy those sneakers you are a part of what defines that organization. Make sure your business plan describes the following.
- Exactly who is doing the buying? It helps here if you break your customers into groups (aka market segments).
- What does each segment purchase?
- Why does each segment make purchases?
Does your plan identify and prioritize major opportunities?
- Long term prosperity results from farsighted planning that takes advantage of opportunities that are heading your way. Be sure you outline how your company will position itself to take advantage of changes in technology, distribution channels, new/old markets (e.g. labor, energy & commodities). Nobody can tell the future, but many can position themselves to be ready to catch what falls their way.
How does your plan prepare you for threats?
- You're Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunity & Threats (SWOT) analysis is like gold in the planning process. Most people barely need it to paint the happy picture of how they will position for the great opportunities that will make everything work out. However, it sure comes in handy when you need to strategize how you'll compensate for your weaknesses and capitalize on your strengths while dealing with the major threats to your business success.
- Be sure to describe all the immediate threats as well as the major threats/risk that loom over the horizon. Consider things like increased competition, reduced customer demand, ever-increasing regulation, potential de-regulation, economic changes that affect product "elasticity"/"inelasticity". Google the two in quotes if they sound strange.
- If you make a contingency plan, make it one that shows how you'll take those bitter lemons and make lemonade with them. Being aware of what is potentially coming your way will give you an advantage over competitors who don't.
Is your business strategy based on a solid SWOT Analysis, is it flexible, and does it make sense?
- A business strategy is like a game plan. It lays out how you'll conduct your business in a way that accomplishes the goals you have and in-turn your mission.
- Include a description of how your business will be set-up, structured, and operate. In places, you'll have to make assumptions. Identify them as such and make them realistic. All of this should provide a map that you can follow on your journey to success.
What are your competitors doing?
- Have you ever noticed that you almost never find a single fast food chain restaurant all alone by itself? Well competition definitely makes life interesting, it isn't always all bad. Your competitors will surely try win your customers away by offering better deals. They will position themselves in your market funnel (between your company and our customer). If you're aware of your Competition you can work it to your advantage. Make sure that your business plan clearly describes your competition and how you will track their activity.
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