In today’s greatly liberal business climate, interesting innovations are everywhere – and so are the entrepreneurs who want to make it big with these amazing ideas. As the ease and freedom that’s associated with starting one’s own venture is in abundance, so is the likelihood of failure. With numerous variables involved in the creation of a brand new startup, it’s not surprising to experience moments of adversity that can render a negative impact to your otherwise well-intentioned business.
But it doesn’t have to be this way, if you plan well. While a plan isn’t a guarantee that things will always run smoothly, it’s immensely beneficial for evaluating and mitigating any risks you may encounter in due course. At the same time, addressing some of the misconceptions surrounding startups (especially those in the tech industry) shall be just as insightful to anybody who is aspiring to lead the way.
Before we get started on the intricacies of constructing a plan, let’s address why we even need one in the first place by going deeper into some of the reasons we may be aware about already.
Unless you’re funding your own startup and have more than enough to cater to every requirement, there’s a good chance that you’ll require financial assistance. Whether it’s through venture capitalists and angel investors or from the bank, you’ll need to impress your investors excellently enough to want them to acquire a stake in your newfound business.
If your investors aren’t clear about what sets your business from the rest, who it targets and/or how it will be operated, there’s a fair chance that they will not be interested enough to invest in your business. Apart from business-related technicalities, a concise business plan also exudes professionalism, trust and the capability to candidly articulate complex information – a set of soft skills that can make more of a difference than you can imagine.
Before you invest your hard-earned money and heartfelt effort into materializing an idea, it’s wise to play devil’s advocate a little. Although this may be an uncomfortable move, it is the only way to truly understand whether your business idea is practical in the first place. An idea that is infallible in your mind may not be the same once it is set out in reality. As unpleasant as this sounds, it’s much better to be acknowledged about such technicalities in the beginning, than to reel from forfeits much later in the future.
This isn’t to say that even a single flaw should warrant you to cut loose and move on. Being realistic also requires the logic to scrutinize any obstacles that may lie in your path, and figure out whether they can be alleviated. While this may take more effort on the part of you and your team, it’ll be a foundation that has been strongly set well before you introduce your business to the real world.
A comprehensive business plan doesn’t just give your investors the clarity they need to confidently invest in your business. It also gives you and your team a blueprint to follow, especially during the infancy stage when repetitive effort is required of the very operations that can provide stability to your business.
Considering the high level of diversity that dominates today’s business world, constantly remoulding your plan to suit varying circumstances is essential if you want your business to thrive at the hands of your target customers. However, certain key aspects of a preliminary startup plan can remain static, such as the main objective and overall vision.
Step 1: The Idea
You notice a deficiency in the current market. Something consumers are lacking. You’ve got a great idea on how to close the gap, or fix a fundamental problem in the system. It all seems straightforward and foolproof. But is it really?
As elaborated earlier, your business idea needs to be dissected properly enough to reveal the many technicalities which will have to be addressed before operations take flight. Here are 2 key questions you can ask yourself as well as your team members, when it comes to wrapping your head around your overarching idea.
Answering both these questions in a manner that is detailed as much as possible is assured to highlight any fundamental flaws, if present. Once these have been identified, you can proceed to address whether these flaws can be fixed, and if so, how.
Attaining this idea and delivering it should be your primary goal, across the board. Now that your objective is confirmed, you can take it over to the next phase, and add more working parts to it.
Step 2: The Market
At this stage, you need to lay your business idea against a host of other important variables. This is so that you can assess how each of these variables can be rendered successful, in order to achieve your startup’s primary goal. This isn’t an exhaustible list, and depends on the nature of what you aim to specialise in. As a general rule, here’s what you need to consider:
(i) Audience: Your fundamental idea would have been formed to cater to a specific crowd, no doubt. However during the initial stages of your startup, it’s difficult to determine whether this exact niche will take to your product/service or not, no matter how targeted it may all seem at the moment. That is why it is advisable to introduce your product/service to broader audience sectors and observe who is interested in your product the most.
The results may surprise you. From this point onwards, there are a number of things you can do to improve engagement. For one, you can continue to push your product/service to the audience that is already conveying interest, as these groups can robustly contribute to your company’s revenue if converted.
For the audiences you intended to reach out to but didn’t respond satisfactorily, creating campaigns that approach these folks via alternative strategies is a great way to resonate, engage and eventually convert.
(ii) Competitors: In today’s highly saturated marketspace, there’s a high chance that there may already be another brand that’s selling goods and services which are similar, if not alike. You need to stand apart from the hype and offer something that’s varied or extra to the same consumer base which your competitors are targeting. So how can this be done?
Extending your current business idea to include a value proposition to your consumer base is what will differentiate your brand from the others, because this will provide your consumer base the motive to subsequently choose you as well.
This could be anything from a lower price tag to extra quantity/quality; empathising with your consumers is what will give your brand the breakthrough it needs, possibly with a few trial and errors before you ultimately master it.
(iii) Marketing: Once all the above pointers have been established, creating a marketing plan with these constituents enables greater reach and engagement. Of course, determining your final target audiences and their many perspectives will also require some preliminary marketing, and so will the types of products that will truly relate to your consumer.
In fact, a combination of both product development and business development needs to occur, to ascertain certain non-negotiable characteristics of your marketing plan such as business KPIs and engagement rates on a campaign level. When it comes to marketing on a digital level, many leading mobile app development companies in Sri Lanka focus on delivering a beta version to gauge how receptive users are – not just to the platform, but to the product in general.
Step 3: The Daily Duties
What will take place on a daily basis to attain your final objectives? The tasks you carry out regularly can exponentially add up to greater outcomes, so it’s essential to invest in responsibilities that work to the favour of your startup – both financially and sentimentally. Once planned right, the below circumstances can help nurture a working environment that enables your startup to perform at its peak, while providing the necessary support to tackle any adversities that may come your way.
(i) Employees: Hiring people that possess diverse skill sets, especially those that you don’t have yourself can be a great combination for gathering expert insight that’s resourceful, multi-faceted and actionable on every level. Collaboration is key, and ensuring all your team members have the liberty to voice their opinions for building a startup that still has the option to be open to drastic changes in areas such as product development and marketing is an environment that is geared for success.
(ii) Budget: Last but never the least, understanding the many intricacies surrounding your budget can be tricky, and sometimes even anxiety-inducing. But if you’re realistic about your startup’s deliverable, and minimalistic about the resources you need to do so, then drafting a budget that meets different needs can be done in gradual steps. Here are some tips to adhere to, when planning one:
Sure, venturing out on your own business pathway can be thrilling, but it can also come with certain caveats that can make many question whether the path they chose was a wise one in the first place. And no, it’s not the momentary jitters prior to doing something that is being addressed here – but some of the many difficulties that every startup owner is bound to experience at some point in their business, even throughout.
No matter how organised and detailed your startup is, remember that it is still in a stage of infancy. This means that it will take a significant amount of time for stability to occur in every area – and this includes overall success. It’s not surprising to see entrepreneurs hustle it out for several years before they start to see any profits – a clear sign that time and patience are essential to notice any results.
While the initial surge of passion you felt drove you to begin your own business, the likelihood that this feeling will remain consistent is quite low. In the wake of numerous problems and shortcomings that are imminent in any business that isn’t established yet, that initial spark may now be replaced with the determination to work hard – a quality that will still be tested during trying times.
A startup business plan is a resource that provides more than just a blueprint to what a brand new company entails. It’s a key point of reference for potential investors that determines whether they’ll eventually want to commit to your business or not, while giving founders a bird’s eye perspective on any loopholes in their own business idea.
Once an objective outlook of a business idea is established, conducting a competitor analysis and experimenting with varying audiences (even if you are aware of who you wish to target or who your product/service will relate to) is imperative to understand the dynamics of what you offer consumers. In turn, this can also help substantiate marketing plans that deliver productive results, calculate budgets that can cater to every business requirement and decide who will be a great fit for your team.
While today’s fast-paced business climate always demands adaptability in the wake of disruption, a cohesive startup business plan presents certain qualities that will remain static – and serve as a constant reminder on what makes your startup all worth it in the first place.