Business Planning 101: A Simple Checklist to Ensure Success

Business Planning 101: A Simple Checklist to Ensure Success

Do you have a comprehensive business plan? If you don’t have one in your drawer, you should get to work!

I’m a big believer in planning ahead. A business plan can give you direction, something to aim towards throughout the year. If you already have a well-thought-out business plan, then the new year is a perfect time to update it with your new goals for the new year! If you are thinking about starting out on a new endeavor, then figuring out a plan for your proposed business is a must. Here is my personal updated 8-step process, along with my free business plan template to get you started:

Step #1: Summarize Your Business
When you first started your business, what was your ideal outcome? When you closed your eyes and thought about your business, what did you picture?

Over time, the reasons why we became an entrepreneur in the first place can get muddled and forgotten. You can lose sight of what you originally wanted your business to become. By summarizing your business with a mission statement, you can remind yourself of the big picture and make a plan to move forward from this point onwards. Your business summary should be your vision of success.

Step #2: Ideal Reader/Dream Client Summary
In your heart of hearts, who is your dream client? What makes them ideal for your business? How can you help them?

These are questions that you need to ask when figuring out what segments of the market you want to target. Who are they? How old are they? What do they do for work?

Step #3: Business and Brand Goals
Every successful business needs a successful brand. It’s time to figure out exactly what yours is. You need to figure out the vibe of your brand, your brand objectives, and begin to map out a way for all of that to happen. This can include developing a style guide for all of the more abstract ideas about your brand, including colors, images, and fonts.

By developing a memorable brand, you will be better able to connect with your clients and customers. It will also enable you to start to create branding collateral, such as your logo, fliers, freebies, signage, and much more.

Step #4: Offerings and Monetization
Your goods and services are at the very heart of your business, it’s why people come to you. You need to make sure you are completely clear on the types of services that you offer and the products that you plan to sell. Maybe your product/service line has lost some of its focus over the years and it is time to simplify. If so, the New Year is the perfect time for it!

This is also where you want to start looking at the other ways that your business can bring money in, through affiliate programs, cross-promotion, and sponsorships.  

Step #5: Financial Details
It’s time for the most exciting part of your business plan: the MATH! What kind of an entrepreneur doesn’t love to do math, right?

Yes, we know it’s boring, but it is also absolutely essential to your business’ success. You need to develop a detailed financial plan for your business, looking at your monthly expenses over the last year (which will give you a good idea of what they will be in the upcoming year), your monthly income (so you know how much money you have to work with), and the variety of payment options that you use on a daily basis (credit cards, PayPal, etc.)

Step #6: Social Media Promotion and Marketing
It’s time to get the word out! Online marketing has revolutionized the marketing world and made it easier than ever to advertise your business to huge audiences. But you do need to know exactly what you are doing.

Social media offers you a chance to directly connect with your clients and engage them in a dialogue. You can also use social media for content marketing purposes, such as posting blogs and infographics that your company develops. And that isn’t even including the many, many advertising avenues offered to you by companies like Facebook.

Email marketing is another cost-effective way of reaching out to your entire client/prospect base at once. Once you’ve developed your email list, you will have an invaluable resource to connect with them. Now, you just need to figure out what kind of content you are going to send out. Ezines and newsletters are both popular options to keep your customers informed about any big news regarding your business, including promotions, and new products.

Step #7: Business Guidelines
Now that you’ve figured out everything that you need to do, it’s time to figure out how to accomplish it! This is where you map out the day-to-day workings of your company, from refining your daily workflow, to blog and social media posting schedules (using a program like Hootsuite), to all of your written policies that have to do with your business. In this section, you want to be as detailed as possible. If you don’t have the answers yet, then you know where you will have to focus your attention over the next few weeks to months.

Free Business Template

Step #8: Continuing Your Education
As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that you can never stop learning. When I think about all of the tiny mistakes I made early on in my business, well, I just shake my head. But I needed to make those mistakes to learn and grow!

Learning from experience shouldn’t be your only entrepreneurial “classroom”. There are tons of small business courses out there, videos about entrepreneurship on YouTube, and you could also always reach out to someone who already has an established small business to discover what you can learn from them. When you are forging your own path, you have to keep learning and improving every single day and then apply those new skills and knowledge to your business.

The lovely thing about a business plan is that it can be as detailed as you want it to be. Maybe you feel comfortable simply sketching out a plan and keeping it in your desk drawer to check every few weeks, to make sure you are on track. Maybe you want to develop a detailed plan, with checklists, milestones, and measurable goals. Either way, my free 8-Part Business Plan Template will give you everything you need to start a plan that will help you successfully reach all of your goals in the New Year. If I can do anything to help you achieve these goals, please, feel free to connect with me. We can talk about small businesses, entrepreneurship, and how a virtual assistant can help you with every single aspect of your business.

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