Creating a Business Plan sounds complex, perhaps even scary, and it's true; it can be. But for many people, this can be a really simple and efficient way to begin. For most businesses, it is a matter of having a cohesive set of goals, principles, and practices.
When approaching any business or marketing plan, I like to start with an incredibly easy and effective method, you probably remember from grade school, "The W's." The W's take you to your most fundamental business objectives simply and efficiently. Your "W" words are: WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, and WHY.
Start with WHAT: What type of business are you? What are you selling? Is it a service or a product? And, what differentiates your business from other businesses like it? What are your views, your goals, your expectations? What is your vision?
WHO: Knowing "who you are" as a business is essential, of course, but beyond your own identity, who are you selling to? Who do you imagine buying your product or service? Knowing your demographic is absolutely essential to any business.
WHEN: Knowing when your business will open and creating a timeline is important; finding a way to stick to that timeline is essential. Many businesses open their doors when they are unprepared to make a lasting impression, and based on my observations, it can often be devastating in a small, local community like Fredericksburg when a business opens before it's "ready." Know what you need as far as setting up a limited liability corporation, a corporation, etc., as well as any federal, state, and local permits and licensing needs, and make them a priority. When opening a business in Virginia, you will need a federal permit for serving food, alcohol, or firearms, and for any other licensing services, check DPOR.com. You will need to create your company, get a tax ID number, set up business accounts, have any inventory or tools you might need, and schedule any real-estate related needs you might have, a "grand opening" is often a great tool locally, and timing all of these things properly is more important than just about anything. What is it they say? Timing is everything....
WHERE: Location of your business is obviously a very important factor. Learn about the basics of commercial real estate (which I will be posting shortly, btw) because if you plan to do anything besides work from home or online, you will need to know quite a bit more about real estate than your average homebuyer. Commercial real estate and Residential real estate are often separated for a good reason; they are fundamentally very different, and not understanding your real estate terms can make the process of opening your business that much more difficult. Some things to consider as far as your particular business are based upon your type of business and how you plan to gain new customers. Visibility is naturally a big concern, and for certain types of businesses, is something that will make or break you. Retail businesses, tourism-related industries, and certain service-based businesses need visibility more than others. If your business does not have the same level of demand for visibility, choosing real estate that is a little more out of the way can save a small fortune, and that money can be used instead to bring customers or clients in through alternative methods (like social media;)) But that is something you will need to think about in particular depending on multiple factors. Also, pay close attention to what other businesses are around you, and make sure you're not putting yourself at a competitive disadvantage.
WHY? Ask yourself, Why would I use my business as opposed to another business? Why do I feel there is a need for this business? What are you trying to accomplish? Is it all about profit, or are you trying to make a statement, share something new and different, or change your community? Or maybe you just don't want to work for anyone anymore, and that's okay too. The important things are to understand why YOU personally are opening this specific business, and why someone would patronize your business. The answer to this question is where you start your marketing plan and the place from which you build your "brand."
AND..... the one "w" that has never fit in, and yet carries so much of the weight... How?
HOW? How do you plan to start your business? Do you have cash, do you need a loan? Financial planning is key, as well as creating a company structure and management methods from finance to day-to-day hiring, logistics, and management policies. Start with the list you created with your "W's" and go about finding out how to accomplish each individual task. Prioritizing is absolutely essential!
-Anne Morgan Pates, March 28, 2017
Anne Morgan Pates was born and raised in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She attended Chatham Hall Preparatory School, Sewanee: University of the South, and University of Mary Washington. She graduated with a B.A. from U.M.W. in English Literature. She has worked in local real estate and marketing for seven years.