creative zone

Is your business plan firing on all cylinders

Successful startup founders don’t leave growth to chance. That’s why you need a business plan.

The right business plan gives you a powerful structure to define your ideal customers and pinpoint your value proposition – and to achieve explosive growth.

So what does the right business plan look like? Here are some key factors:

  • Differentiate
  • Be concise
  • Evolve
  • Know your numbers

Find your differentiated value proposition

A good business idea isn’t enough to ensure success. That’s an important truth.

What you need is a compelling point of difference.

Put yourself in the position of your prospective customers for a moment. To turn them from prospective customers into actual customers you have to answer two main questions:

  • Why this product or service?
  • Why is it better than the alternatives?

To answer those questions, you have to understand what your company does well, and how they relate back to your specific market. The combination of all those things, matched to your audience’s pain points, is your unique point of difference.

It’s what you do better than anyone else.

An example: Let’s say you sell running shoes. Lots of people sell running shoes, but that doesn’t preclude having a point of difference. Because you don’t just sell running shoes.

You help customers confidently choose footwear that engineers optimum performance in their sport, which you’re good at because you have in your team professionals from various sports.

It’s your story. Your ‘why us’ and ‘why not them’. It’s the bedrock of any successful business planNone of the bells and whistles are as important as this one foundational truth.

Keep it concise

A business plan is something everyone knows they should have. Which means it takes on the near-mythical status and often becomes this vast document that’s certainly comprehensive but not actually useful.

Your business plan isn’t just a thing you have. First and foremost, a business plan should be a reference document that you regularly read, refer to, and use to guide business decision-making.

A business plan should help:

  • Clarify your ideas
  • Highlight (and address) potential problems
  • Lay out your goals
  • Set criteria to measure your progress

If it’s too large it becomes too unwieldy for that purpose. Which defeats the point of having one.

Distill your business plan down to these key areas:

  • An executive summary
    • What’s your business all about?
    • What are your goals?
  • You
    • What’s your background and experience?
    • Why are you the best person to run this business?
  • Your products and services
    • What do you sell?
    • Will that change over time?
  • Your market
    • Who, in detail, do you sell to?
    • What motivates those people to buy?
    • How big is your potential market?
  • Your competitors
    • Who else sells to your market?
    • What do your competitors do well – and not so well?
  • Your marketing strategy
    • What’s your go-to-market plan and why?
  • Your operations and logistics
    • How do you produce your services?
    • What equipment, premises, and transport do you need?
    • Which people (internal and external) will be involved?
  • Your financials
    • What are your current financials (costs and sales)?
    • What are your financial forecasts?

Also, think about readability. Page count doesn’t matter so much as being easy to read and digest. Think bullet points, headings, whitespace – anything that aids easy skimming.

Adapt and evolve

For business owners, the ability to adapt and evolve is absolutely critical to success. Being able to react fast to change; to be nimble. To pivot quickly to take advantage of new market opportunities, or overcome new market challenges.

It’s one of the main opportunities for SMEs to disrupt legacy enterprise because you aren’t burdened by the huge silos and structures that hamper the ability to react quickly. That’s something your business plan needs to reflect.

A business plan is only a useful document if it adapts with you, to reflect the current landscape and challenges you face. It reflects your strategy for handling changes:

  • A competitor undercuts you on price
  • A competitor brings a new product to market
  • You develop a new product or service
  • You hire someone crucial who brings new expertise
  • You secure funding
  • You’re on track to comfortably exceed your targets
  • You’re on track to miss your targets

Those are all common changes your business will face – and your business plan should adapt accordingly.

For instance, if you secure funding then your go-to-market strategy might include more marketing spend, with a heavier focus on established advertising channels.

Know your numbers

The financial section of your business plan is important to:

  • Winning over investors with a credible business case
  • Having peace of mind that your business is a good idea
  • Knowing how to assess your business’ success, so you can react

If the numbers don’t stack up, you won’t secure funding. And you might waste time, money, and energy chasing something that simply doesn’t work. Or, more common, miss the opportunity to make intelligent changes to your business to be more successful.

If you don’t know your business numbers, you don’t have the data to prove your case or assess your success. That’s the bottom line.

But what numbers do you need?

This is about forecasting, which is an educated best-guess at your future numbers. As opposed to reporting on past numbers, which is how traditional accounting works.  

A comprehensive financial forecast needs:

  • A sales forecast
  • An expenses budget
  • A cash flow statement
  • Income projections
  • Assets and liabilities
  • Break-even analysis

The break-even analysis is vital because it helps you set an exit strategy, so you avoid wasting time, money, and effort chasing an ever-receding goal.

Your business plan is a powerful structure because it arms you with the business intelligence to make smarter decisions, to drive growth, and also to recognise quickly when growth is no longer viable.

It’s time to start writing.

Steve Mayne | Managing Partner – CREATIVE ZONE

Steve Mayne is a founding Managing Partner of CREATIVE ZONE – Dubai’s largest company formation firm, established in 2010. He brings more than 26 years of experience in sales, business consultancy, corporate leadership, and entrepreneurship to his many commercial and community endeavors. 

He has also worked with a number of global organisations specialising in logistics and process engineering. With his expertise in workspace solutions and company formation consultancy, he has played an integral role in providing support and advice to many startups and incubation centres.

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