We get hundreds of inquiries each month. People come to us to help them build a roadmap for their business idea, and after completing that task, communicating the business and investment benefits of the idea. The first question that we always ask is, is this idea something that can actually become a sustainable business? For this post, let us set aside the more mundane task of preparing a business plan and financial forecast to fund the purchase of a franchise or developing a vacant piece of land or to satisfy the requirements of an immigration visa. Instead, we will focus on the development of an entrepreneurial idea into a money making, tax-paying business enterprise.
Where to begin? In a surprising revelation, we will tell you that your business plan is not the right place to begin. As important as the business plan is for the startup of your business and its successful operation, there is much to do before you begin to create a business plan that you can actually execute. Here is a step-by-step approach:
- Define and describe your idea in as much detail as possible, knowing that, along the way, as you learn more about the market, the competition, the business model, and other factors, the details of the idea may change and become even better. This would be a good time to list the features and benefits.
- Having done that, you had better look in the mirror and ask yourself what you know about the industry in which you will participate. Do you know anything about the product or innovation that will evolve from your idea? It is critically important to remember that having success in business in very difficult and if you begin without industry experience and knowledge, you are obviously at a disadvantage.
- Keeping in mind that your idea might be a product, an innovation, or a better way to do something, you will want to clearly define the problem that your idea will solve.
- Now you are far enough along to decide if you are fulfilling a legitimate market need. In other words, you need to do serious, in-depth market research. Answer these questions:
- Who is the target customer?
- Where is the market?
- How large is the market?
- How does the customer currently meet the needs to be addressed?
- Do some primary market research and ask potential target customers if they would buy your idea once it becomes available. If yes, why? If no, why not?
- This would be a good time to consider and evaluate the competitive landscape. Analyzing the competition is a good way to confirm that there is a market opportunity. Your analysis will help you identify who your direct competitors will be and how you will create competitive advantages.
- In some cases, it might be time for a prototype. Something that you can look at and show other people. If possible, your prototype will actually perform or do what you think it should do.
- So far so good. It seems as if this idea has some legs. Perhaps your next logical step might be to decide on the most appropriate business model. There might be a proprietary nature to your idea. In other words, you know something or have something that someone else would benefit from and therefore, this might be something that you would want to license and let the licensee worry about hiring, operations, marketing, meeting payroll, etc. On the other hand, with your operating experience, you might have a clearly defined business model that accommodates your manufacturing and distribution strategies.
- The next step before you begin to consider your business plan would be to do a SWOT analysis. It can be simple or very detailed and complex. Make a list of what you consider to be your future company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. You might want to think about how you intend to mitigate the weaknesses and threats.
- If you have gotten this far, now it is time for a business plan that will provide you and others with a compelling and credible roadmap that takes your concept from just an idea to a product or innovation and then how the execution of your business model will result in the success of your business. Your business plan will include all of the elements that we have described above as well as a well-developed financial forecast that considers capital requirements, sales results, profitability, and cash flow.
Following these suggestions will take time, a great deal of effort, and probably cost some money. Do not cut corners. If you do not have the talent, skill, experience, or other resources necessary to turn that idea into a successful business, then stop and get help. One practical suggestion would be to visit our website and after reviewing our capabilities, have one of our consultants contact you for an initial discussion.