You have a special talent, or you’ve homed in on an untapped market, or you engineered a new device… and you’re ready to roll!
But have you spent the requisite time to properly vet your idea, product or service?
Whether robust business plans are a thing of the past – or not, there is no debate that people looking to launch a new business should dedicate time to planning. After working with several people who didn’t have any sort of concrete plan in place before diving in, we developed this list of 5 steps to take before launching a new business:
(1) DEVELOP A CLEAR VISION: What does success look like to you? What are you hoping to build, achieve? What do you want to be known for, and why should people care? What does your team look like and how do you all work collaboratively? We’re talking anywhere from one paragraph to 350 words. Don’t overthink or overcomplicate it -- it’s not a strategic plan or school essay! Your vision should be inspiring, so spend the time thinking about what will draw people in and excite them to join you in successfully launching this vision.
(2) UNDERSTAND YOUR MARKET: Define your target market/audience. Have you spoken with them? Do THEY feel that the need is as great as you do for your product or service? What will they pay for it? Focus your energy and time on speaking with people in your market, testing your idea, and asking loads of questions to solicit pre-market feedback. As Wade Fulton, contributor to Forbes Magazine, said: “An idea is worthless until someone pays for it!” So, spend the time understanding your audience and what THEY want before getting in too deep.
(3) CREATE A MARKETING PLAN: A Marketing Plan is a strategic roadmap that helps you be competitive and meaningfully plan marketing activities to meet your goals. You’ve got to have one. You already know WHO you want to reach, and now is the time to think about HOW to reach these folks. To be specific, your plan may include marketing objectives, strategies and platforms, brand positioning, messaging and dates… and having this blueprint in place before you launch will give your marketing efforts (and dollars) direction and purpose.
(4) KNOW YOUR NUMBERS! We’ve met several small business owners who haven’t spent time looking closely at the financial components of their businesses. This seems risky. We aren’t suggesting you create a long and complex financial document; however, a basic one-page, 3-year view of your business is a necessity to ensuring good business health. Think about the investment needed to ensure success and where the funding will come from, and develop a basic list of expenses and sales projections to help you understand when you’ll start to see black. This step will boost your confidence in spending money responsibly and in areas that will generate profit.
(5) FOCUS ON THE PEOPLE: Having the right people on the bus is key to turning an idea into a full-scaled business. Each of us comes to the table with strengths and areas where others can fill in the gaps. Take the time to find the most well-balanced team who can support your idea and get the work done. Whether you take them on as employees or hire them out as contractors, you’ll want to consider people with a vast range of skills (think visionaries, doers, creative types, connectors, salespeople and others).
You can’t foresee everything that you may encounter once you put yourself out there so it’s unnecessary to spend the time developing a 20-30 page business plan (unless you’re seeking millions of dollars in funding). In launching a new business, time is of the essence and you want to get to market as quickly as possible. But it’s critical to take these 5 steps to ensure that you have clarity and focus around your new business so you can most effectively hit the ground running. You’ll thank yourself later, we promise.