If you are anything like me, the thought of writing a business plan will make you want to run for the hills screaming.
I remember having to do one for my GCSE Business Studies many moons ago and have been put off ever since. The words ‘Business Plan’ conjure up images of dusty documents created just to please bank managers, with cash flow projections and figures plucked out of the air.
This is NOT what I am talking about.
What I am talking about is more a ‘plan for your business’. It’s a living, breathing, working document – that you refer to every day or every week, that you scribble on and amend, and that is kind of the blueprint to creating the business and life that you want.
It’s about spending some time getting really clear about what it is that you do or want to do, why you want to do it, and how you are going to do it. These sound like really basic questions, but as business owners, or someone passionate about driving a project forwards that will create positive change, it can sometimes be too easy to get swept up in the passion and the cause, and to forget about these real fundamentals.I’ve got a really useful exercise that I use with clients, to help them to create their business plans (or their plans for their businesses!) and I’m going to share it with you below. So grab a pen and some paper (the back of an envelope will do!), a beverage of your choice, and spend a little bit of time thinking through, and brainstorming some of these questions.
- What is it that your business or project does?
- What products or services are you offering? Do you sell ethical fashion like Imagine Goods, or sustainable wooden badges for events like Bough to Beauty Bespoke? Or do you have a message that you want the world to hear via a blog or podcast?
Try to really nail this in just one or two sentences that really drill down into the essence of WHAT you do (not how, we will come to that later) clearly and concisely.
- What is the business planning to do? What are your goals and aims for the business? What do you want to be doing in 1/5/10 years time, both in and out of the business?
- What is your business model?
This is another term that makes me shudder, but it basically boils down to ‘what are your revenue streams’?
So a blog or a podcast is not a business model in itself – how do you make money from it (if indeed that is your goal)?
- What is your Mission Statement? You don’t need to have one, but they are a great way to get clear about your ‘mission’ i.e. what you want your business to achieve.
- What is your ‘value proposition’? More shuddery business terms, but basically why would someone use your services, or buy your products? Business people often also like talking about USPs (Unique selling points) – so what is it that sets your business apart from similar ones – for ethical businesses, it is often the ‘ethical’ bit that sets us apart from ‘normal’ businesses, but what specifically is unique about the way you do things?
- What is your definition of success?
For some people it will be to sell their business for £1million in 10 years time and retire, and for others it will be being able to do work that they love that fits around their family and allows them to contribute to the household income. Knowing what it is that is important to you in terms of what you want the business to achieve is vital to make sure you keep on track.
I’m a big fan of Why! I wrote a post about it a few weeks ago, and I think it’s so important to get really clear on this one. Knowing our why helps to keep us motivated when things get tough, it helps us to keep on track, and it helps us to convey our message and our story to our customers.
- Why do you do what you do? Is there a cause that you are really passionate about? Do you want to change the way people shop? Do you want to prove that it is possible to create beautiful, affordable clothes with a transparent and fair supply chain?
- Why do you want to run your own business rather than work for someone else?
Do you like/need the flexibility? Do you want to work from home? Do you enjoy working on your own, or heading up your own team?
- Why should someone buy from you?
- How does the business do what it does? What are your processes? How do customers access your products or services?
Do you make products yourself, or do you buy them in?
- How do you promote the business and let customers know about you?
- How do you ensure that you are being as ethical and sustainable as you can be across all areas of your business?
- How do you measure your ‘ethical-ness’?
- How do you measure your success? Is it turnover? Or profit? Or social impact?
- How do you know your business will work? What are the possible challenges? What similar businesses are already out there? What is the demand?
- Who is involved in the business? Is it just you? Do you have any employees currently? Do you want to have any employees at any stage in the future?
- Do you/could you outsource any of the roles, e.g. accounts or social media?
- Who do you know who could support you in your business? Family, friends, local business people, a mentor, a coach?
- Who are your role models? Who is doing ‘Good Business’ really well?
- Who are your investors (if any?)
- Who are your customers? Who has already bought your products or services? Are they the people you expected? Where do these people hang out – online and in real life? What are their challenges? What problems do your products or services solve for them?
- Where is your business located? Do you work from home? Do you have/would you like to have office space away from the home? What co-working spaces are there near you?
- Where is your online presence? Do you have a website? What social medial platforms do you use? How can people find you online?
- Where are your customers? Are they local? Are they in the UK, or international?
- Where can you network – both in ‘real life’ and online?
- If you are starting up a business, then the ‘when’ can be a launch date, but if you are already established, then the ‘when’ is still just as relevant, as putting some timeframes to our goals is vital. Having some deadlines can be hugely motivating, and helps us to break down larger goals into smaller, less overwhelming steps. It also keeps us on track and helps us to stay accountable!
- If you have sales targets, or a specific outcome/social impact you want to achieve, when do you want it by?
And then what are the steps you need to put in place (and when) in order for you to reach those milestones on time?
Phew! This has ended up a as a bit of a monster of a blog post, and this is by no means an exhaustive list of questions. I hope though that it gives you some food for thought about the kinds of things you need to be thinking about, and the kinds of questions you need to asking, as you start and grow your ethical business, and will help you to create the positive changes you want to achieve.
If this is something that has really got you thinking, and you’ve more questions, or want to brainstorm your answers, then do hop over to Facebook and join the #MakingGood community – it’s a brilliantly supportive and friendly place for ethical business owners, social entrepreneurs and anyone making good stuff happen!
Or if you’d like some more specific 1:1 support getting clear on your plan for your business, then book in a free discovery call here – I’d love to chat about how we could work together.