Despite what your average MBA will tell you, you don’t need a huge 100 page business plan in a giant 3 ring binder to start making money.
In fact, many business owners I know don’t even have a business plan but they’re very busy making real money.
However, to make sure you’re on the right track, you need to have a basic plan of attack to make sure your business is sound and most importantly, will be profitable.
Too many people get an idea and then start a business without thinking it through or having a solid plan.
The result is that their business usually fails. They might have to return to a job or think that owning your own business doesn’t work.
Owning your own business DOES work! And creating a lifestyle business can free you up to do whatever the heck you want.
But you’ve got to put some initial thought into it before working like crazy to get it going.
You’re Creating a Lifestyle Business
The reason you don’t need a huge 100 page business plan is because you’re not starting the next Google. You’re not trying to appeal to VC’s or applying for business loans.
You’re just starting a lifestyle business that provides the income you want to do the things you want.
With that said, you do need to know the basics of who, what, why, etc. You need to be clear on your target market, need, your particular solution, and stuff like that.
Let’s Get More Specific
Listed below are key questions for you to answer. If you jot down your answers to these questions, then you’ll have a great rough draft of your business plan.
You can do this all in about 10 minutes.
My recommendation is to do it all quickly without thinking too hard about it. Just write what comes to you.
Then in a day or two, come back to your notes after thinking some more about your business idea.
Maybe even spend that time really digging into seeing what others are doing. Then think of how you can be different, better, more niche, etc.
Spend some time thinking about it and refining it. This will be the foundation of your livelihood for the next few years. Make it good!
Below I’ve listed the key components to a solid, concise business plan. Go through the questions and jot them down.
When you’re done, type them up and print it out. It should all fit on one page. Stick your business plan next to your computer or on your mirror or wherever you’ll see it often.
The Big Picture
Questions to answer: What do you really want? How do you want to spend your time? Doing what? With who? Where? How much money do you need to do it? Why are you starting a business in the first place?
Explanation: You need to answer the big why of setting up and growing your business in the first place.
You also need to decide how much money you need or want.
Example: Let’s say you cannot handle another day of office politics. Your core desire is to work online, from anywhere. Your big why is to have income that allows you to have time with your family to travel, to explore, even to live in another country.
You decide that $100,000/year is what you want and need.
Questions to answer: What’s your business idea? What problem are you solving? What makes you think there will be people (or businesses) that will buy your product/service?
Explanation: This is key to starting a business. There must be a real need (or perceived need) in the market place. Too many people start a business because that’s what they themselves love to do – it’s their passion.
The market place might not care about your passion. You must do something that the market is asking for. As they say, “Find a need and fill it”.
Identify what that is and zero in on your exact offering. Be clear about what you’re offering. Be able to explain it in 30 seconds or less.
Example: You notice that many small business owners are desperate to drive more business online but they have no idea how to do it.
You just happen to have spent the last decade refining your marketing skills including marketing online. You decide to take your expertise and help the many business owners that you already have contacts with.
You create a specific set of packages that will help companies get found online and grow as a result. When your buddy who owns his own business asks what you’re now doing you reply, “I’ve set up a company that helps businesses like yours increase their revenue through marketing effectively online”.
Or something like that!
Question to answer: What will be the name of your business?
Explanation: The shorter the better. If you can, try and build the benefit right into the name like, Super Fast Bookkeeping or Reliable Pool Cleaning. If not, you might be able to take care of it with your tagline. If your business name is ambiguous then your tagline is very important.
Avoid using your own name. You may want to sell this business later on and it’s best to avoid something that sounds small. “Johnson Enterprises” sounds amateur.
Example: You know business owners are most concerned with getting found online. You call your business Online Marketing Gurus (this is just an example – if there’s a real company out there with that name, here’s some free exposure J).
You brand your business with a little genie like guy that holds Google in his hands. Or whatever! You get the point.
Questions to answer: Who are your ideal clients or customers? Where are they? Where do they hang out online?
Explanation: You need to know exactly who will buy your products/services from the start. In fact, the more specific you get, the better. You can niche down to one industry or vertical. This will help you develop an expertise in the field and will make your marketing efforts more effective.
Example: You decide that most of your experience professionally has been with lawyers. You know exactly what they’re looking for. They definitely have a need to be online. You target the lawyers you already know and then start marketing online in the places where other attorneys are.
Questions to answer: How much do you want to make? What will a successful business look like to you? How will you need to charge for your products/services?
Explanation: You need to set your financial goals based on what you want to make. Price your products/services accordingly. Start with your annual goal and then break it down to monthly and even weekly goals. You’ll need to ramp up so factor that in the best you can.
Example: If you want to make $100,000 a year ($8,300+ a month) and your main service package costs $500. Then you know that you need to sell at least 17 packages a month to reach your target.
This will help as you set up your sales system. Adjust these numbers based on multiple pricing/packages and if they’re recurring monthly.
Questions to answer: Who is your primary competition? What are they doing well? How can you offer something better? What can you do that’s an improvement in some way? Different? Cheaper? More expensive? Higher quality?
Explanation: I personally don’t care about competition the way most people do. Competition is a lack mindset that’s destructive to innovation and leadership.
To me, there is always something you can do that’s better, more unique, or more useful. The world is wide open to those who can see the opportunity, even in a crowded market place.
However, when getting started, it’s useful to see how others (those who are successful that is) are doing things. Think about what’s working well for them and then how you can improve or distinguish yourself.
This is called your Unique Selling Proposition or USP. Why would I buy from you instead of your competitor? Be specific and convincing.
Example: You notice that some of your “competitors” have great websites. You also notice that they don’t have very many resources available. Because you’ve heard enough lawyers wondering where they could find more info on marketing online, you create your website and all marketing materials based on that.
You become a go-to resource for the industry. (Side note – this alone could lead to other streams of revenue when you do webinars, speaking, even spin-off products).
Questions to answer: Who are the main players in your company? What would you like your primary role to be? What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
Explanation: Think about your business as if it’s already operating at your target revenue goal. Do you need more people? Chances are you will need some key positions like a bookkeeper, accountant, and so forth.
Set up your company diagram as if you already have your ideal revenue. Chances are it will be your name in most of the spots at first. But as you move forward, you’ll quickly swap out your name for contractors or employees.
Identify your strengths and only do those from the start. It’s best to “hire your weaknesses”. The sooner the better. Your business will grow so much faster when you’re spending your time doing only what you’re good at.
Example: You set up your company org chart with your name at top. You realize you’re pretty good at connecting with people so you leave yourself in the sales spot. You’re horrible with bookkeeping so that’s the first position you fill. You contract with a lady you used to work with for part time help.
As you move forward, you fill all of the other spots with experts. This includes contracted or outsourced help. Eventually, you create a sales process and hire your first sales people.
Questions to answer: How will you market & sell? Will you have a sales force? Affiliates? Just your website? Will you meet with people in person? Can you sell remotely?
Explanation: Hands down no matter what, the number one job of a business owner is to increase revenue. In other words, to sell! You might want to spend your time making widgets or processing checks but this is not how a business grows. It grows when sales are made.
Your #1 job is to make sure sales are happening. How is another question entirely. Sales can (and should) come in through your website. You might also consider adding a human sales element to it.
It will be you at first pitching to real people. After that, you can quickly scale by hiring/contracting a sales team or create an army of affiliates (based on your business).
Example: You sell for the first few months tracking everything. You also set up your website in such a way that with some of your own online marketing, you’re able to generate leads and even orders.
With some hustle, you realize your online efforts are quickly outdoing anything you could in person. This aligns perfectly with your Big Picture which is to work entirely online.
Now it’s just time to scale.
Questions to answer: How will you know when you’ve made it?
Explanation: This now comes full circle. You’ve got to make sure the target numbers you’re reaching are in line with your Big Picture.
Example: If you decided you wanted to make $100k/yr, then you’ll have reached your goal when you hit that number.
As you jot down the answers to the questions above, you’ll create your own fully functional business plan.
We can of course go way deeper on all of this, but this is plenty to get you started.
Don’t get caught up in the details like what colors you should pick for your company logo or what business card company you should choose.
Just sell, scale, and start living the dream!
The most important:
- Make sure you have a product/service that people are already paying for
- Sell the snot out of it
- Get other people to do the work immediately
- Work incredibly hard and smart until you hit your goal
This stuff works. In case you didn’t already know, the example I used is very similar to what I did myself to set up my own lifestyle business.
It’s been a fun ride. The payoff is getting to do whatever I want to do all with my family.
Now it’s your turn. Make it happen.
Answer the following questions…
1. What do you really want?
2. What’s your business idea?
3. What is the name of your business?
4. Who are your ideal clients or customers?
5. How much do you want to make?
6. Who is your primary competition & how are you different?
7. Who are the main players in your company?
8. How will you market & sell?
9. How will you know when you’ve made it?