Businesses, like buildings, require a blueprint or a design plan. Could you just start building and putting up walls? Sure, you can start enthusiastically and creatively, but there will come a point where parts aren’t coming together as they should and your efforts begin to feel unproductive, confused or even wasted.
Entrepreneurs begin businesses in many ways based on their personalities and belief systems. Some need detailed, well researched plans. Others jump in, get clients and are rolling before they’ve even decided what business they choose to be in. Then there is everyone in between.
For some, planning dampens their enthusiasm, for others, it’s an absolute necessity. Regardless, the planning process itself is a great exercise, pushing the business owner to develop clarity and goals in key areas.
Where it gets interesting in my opinion, is after the plan is finished. How is it used? Is it used at all? Does it prove to be a guiding light or a rigid limiter?
For one to adhere to very detailed plans, the business owner, the organization and the plan have to be well aligned. The plan should be reviewed and revised regularly, quarterly or monthly, so that congruency remains intact.
For the non-planner types, a business blueprint provides vision, structure and general form. It’s a useful framework, providing structure, direction and purpose, while leaving plenty of room to shift and create over time.
Here are some key components of a business blueprint that can serve as the foundation for your developing business:
1. Your Vision – There is something you envision when you go into business. Capture that vision on paper. Why are you driven to be in business at all? Who do you serve and how? At its future best, what does it all look like as it plays out?
Specificity in your vision is key. This is the “down the road” snapshot that you hold in your mind as the prize. The plan is designed to help you reach this vision, so the clearer the vision, the more helpful the plan.
2. The Why – Document and regularly remind yourself of why this vision matters to you. Your “big why” is any reason you have that is meaningful enough to drive you through challenges and difficult times. Identify your most significant reasons for being in business and remind yourself of why you are willing to do what it takes to recommit each day.
3. Unique Brilliance – Your unique brilliance is that special life force that you bring to your business that makes it authentically you and gives it power. If you examine what you have always loved (from childhood), attach words or qualities to it, you have something truly special that brands and differentiates your business because of the qualities you bring.
Your brilliance isn’t a technique or skill, it’s a talent that emanates from you and permeates your work. For example, a unique brilliance statement might be: “I spark innovation.” Keep it simple yet powerful. Think of Walt Disney. I believe his childlike imagination was his unique brilliance, and look how that played out.
4. A Stand – What is an overarching principle of your business? Are you taking a stand for something in your business that transcends the products and services? State what you stand for that is expressed through your business. For example, “I am a stand for people communicating effectively to make the world a more harmonious place.”
5. Expertise – What are you an expert at? This is still aimed at the business owner, but is more related to the work he/she is doing. What expertise do you have (and should your team have) that will drive the business forward. An example might be, “I am an expert at making people beautiful.” This expertise will be used in the business and in the branding.
6. Brand Values – Identify the brand promise you are making to the market you serve. This is the promise of an experience they can expect to have when working with you regardless of the product or service. What values are necessary to provide that consistent experience? As an example, consider Four Seasons Hotels and the experience you have there whether you stay in a suite or just have dinner in the bar.
7. Target Niche – Who specifically is your ideal customer? Choose as narrow a niche as you can so your marketing can be very targeted and specific. This is not intended to turn people away, but to give you as clear a picture as you can get of the client or customer who is best served by what you have to offer and your expertise. These are the people you need to speak to in your messaging as they will be most willing to engage.
8. Products/Services – Define and describe exactly what you are offering to your niche audience. What products or service does your business provide and why? What is the intention for each one? What results should customers expect from what you offer? What differentiates your products and services from similar ones on the market?
9. Marketing and Sales – Provide details of how you will market your products and services and what your sales process will look like. Regular attention should be paid to the optimal ways of reaching your audience and turning them into paying customers. Identify mechanisms for tracking what works and what doesn’t. Great communication and consistent branding is key here.
10. Delivery System – How will customers receive the products or services being offered? From beginning to end, there is benefit to designing and implementing good systems for efficient and high quality product/service delivery. Consider detailing this out for every category of service or product.
11. Operations – What are the front and back office activities that make the organization work seamlessly and efficiently? Who are the players? There is a flow of production, communication, information, transaction, and follow up that happens in every business. Design the best operational systems for each area of your business and document the desired flow and the team necessary to make it work.
12. Pricing – Identify pricing structures for your goods and services that cover costs and provide reasonable profit margins. This requires that you do your research into the cost structure of your business in all areas, as well as gaining an understanding of the range of comparable pricing in the marketplace.
13. Financial Goals/Tracking – Every business must have financial goals to strive for and ways of tracking key financial targets. Identify five to ten key revenue drivers and set up tracking and reporting mechanisms to see where you are headed and if your strategies are yielding results.
14. Personnel/Team – Whatever your current size, plan how your organizational chart will look when you reach your goals. In your future vision, how many people are working in the organization and in what capacities? Assign a value to your time as the business owner. If you can hire someone for less than the value of your time, you want to work to that end. Continue that analysis throughout the organization. Prioritize future hires, and plan how delegation can take the business to new levels of growth.
A plan, written in this manner, will automatically combine critical mindset pieces with more practical business strategies. This gives you a solid foundation from which to ramp up. It’s your best shot at building a solid, sustainable business. At that point, you will be rewarded with the opportunity to add those creative details not shown on the blueprint.