Turning your business vision into a plan
Whether we want to be our own boss, bring the best idea ever to life, or simply follow in the footsteps of our forebears, Australians are leaders in starting their own businesses. But the real challenge is converting the entrepreneurialism into business success.
Having a passion for what you do is incredibly important, but you also need to be self-motivated and hardworking. In common with most 'start-ups', you'll probably be taking on multiple roles, including:
Unless you’re prepared to demonstrate the courage and resolve to take on all these roles and more, your business dream is less likely to become a reality.
You may have convinced yourself you have a great product or service, and quite possibly you have. However, your prospective business will only be successful if there are customers out there prepared to buy it at a price that’s going to make you a profit. So do a detailed sense check by asking yourself:
Having established that there is a market for your product or service, the next step is to put together a detailed plan on how you're going to bring it to market.
The critical need for a planning process can sometimes be ignored in the exciting rush to launch. But when done well, robust planning can provide clear benefits. The process can be approached in various ways, one of which is a framework called the 7 Ps:
Clearly defining the purpose of the business will provide a foundation for many of the upcoming business decisions. Identifying the values that the business will stand for and articulating those in a ‘Mission Statement’ provides a valuable tool that should help you maintain focus in a busy environment.
Information on your product or service should include not only what it is (and isn't) but should also detail what customer need or want it satisfies, and how. Details of the technical specifications, production and distribution processes also form a valuable component of any business plan.
People are said to be the greatest asset of any business, but they need to be structured and managed effectively. By listing the various roles required, and the skills and behaviours necessary to perform them well, you're better placed to successfully recruit, develop, and retain your workforce.
Choosing the right location for your business can make the difference between success and failure. You need to consider access to customers, to labour, and to suppliers when selecting and maintaining your workplace. It's also becoming increasingly important to have a ‘virtual’ place – a well-designed and mobile-friendly website – as customers generally do most of their research online and often using a smartphone.
This isn’t just about advertising and special offers. Promotion (and marketing) is about how you connect with customers and create a desire to purchase, and most importantly how you build and maintain a good relationship with them. The plan should clearly define who the target customers are, how you're going to communicate with them, and how you plan to retain them.
The price you charge for a product or service will be influenced by a number of factors, including quality, the speed at which it can be provided, the actual production costs, and finally the value placed on that product or service by the customer. When developing your pricing strategy it’s worth remembering that customers don’t always buy on price, but in some commodity sectors they probably will.
The final ‘P’ involves the need to decide how to measure whether or not the business is achieving what it set out to achieve in all of the above areas – from a qualitative, quantitative, and financial perspective. By detailing in the plan what performance measures are most important to the business, you'll be better able to identify issues and opportunities that help you focus on achieving exactly what you set out to do.
Having completed your business plan, now it's time to actually 'put the rubber on the road'. One of the first things you’ll need to decide is the most appropriate legal structure for your business.
In deciding whether to be a sole trader, partnership or proprietary company, you need to take several issues into account:
The paperwork to get yourself legally registered to operate a business may seem cumbersome, however there is plenty of help available online from government websites:
It’s advisable to seek advice from an accountant and/or lawyer before making any decisions on business structure, obligations and requirements.
As essential as planning is, you still need to insure against accidents or unexpected events. You can never underestimate the importance of protection – and determining which assets or processes could be impacted or damaged in various scenarios will help you identify the best types of insurance for your business.
Options available include policies that cover assets, income (and loss of it), key people (and loss of them), and third-party liabilities.
Next up is setting up your business banking. Even if you're a sole trader, there are many good reasons to separate business banking from personal by having separate bank accounts.
The key reason is to simplify keeping track (and separate records) of all business income and expenses, not only for tax purposes, but to ensure your business is making a profit.
Creating a bank feed1 from your business banking facilities to an accounting software package or third-party service provider, can make the whole process easier for your accountant come tax time.
At last, it’s launch day and you can crack a bottle of Champagne over your new business! But how are you going to showcase the business to let your customers know you are up and running? Whether it's a party, a grand gesture, or simply an introductory offer, whatever you decide to do should:
Read our How can I stand out from the crowd? article for some tips on getting your product or service positioned squarely in front of your potential customers.
Turning the dream into a reality can involve a lot of hard work. But by planning well you are much more likely to reap the rewards and enjoy the experience of ‘being your own boss’.
If you’d like some help and support with any aspect of starting, running or growing your business, you’ll find a wealth of checklists, tips and useful articles in the Help for your business pages of this website.