So, you have a great business idea and a basic foundation of your vision. Your next step, before pitching to investors or even thinking about launch day, is to write a solid business plan.
A business plan serves as the guide to your business’s beginnings by laying out potential stumbling blocks and fielding your target market. However, crafting one isn’t always as easy as it seems.
Below, nine members of Young Entrepreneur Council explain what they wish they’d known when they were writing their first business plans and why that would have helped them.
1. Learn About Marketing And Get A Mentor
I started my first company out of desperation and never wrote a business plan. My goal at the time was survival. I learned through experience and figured things out as they transpired. While it worked out well for me in the end, it would have made for a much better journey for me had I known more about marketing, advertising and the need for a mentor. I eventually excelled in these skills and others, but only after much trial and error, which can be costly with respect to time and money. – Thomas Minieri, Minieri & Company
2. Develop Multiple Revenue Streams
You can’t have too many potential paths to revenue. Spend a significant, dedicated portion of time brainstorming off-the-beaten-path, outside-the-box revenue streams—events, promos, white-labeling services or products, whatever it is. Just open up possibilities beyond your original plan so that the framework for evolution can be there. – Tyler Bray, TK Trailer Parts
3. Be Willing To Pivot
I wish I knew how much things would change between my first five-year plan and reality. You don’t realize how quickly you can pivot to a new direction and end up scrapping a significant portion of your plan. My best advice is this: plan with flexibility in mind. Things will not always go your way and plans will change. If you can anticipate the changes before they happen, you’ll have a better chance at creating a successful business plan. – Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights
4. Don’t Worry About Making The Business Plan Too Long
I wish I would’ve known that my business plan only needed to be a few pages to act as a blueprint for launching and for the initial stages of growth. Instead, my first business plan was over 50 pages with detailed financial information I never used. My advice is to keep your business plan short and focused on what you need to launch and hit the first few milestones. You can always add more later. – Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC
5. Serve Customers Before Writing Your Business Plan
No matter how good you are, you can’t predict how customers will use your product or interact with your business. There is so much you can only learn by actually serving customers. You should serve customers before writing a business plan. Put up a quick little prototype and try it out. Meet with and talk to your customers before you hypothesize about them. At Bounce, we put together a really basic website in an hour or two before we did anything else. This got us in front of customers, and we got to see how they used our product. We were talking to customers on day one, which gave us a much better idea of how they would use our product, instead of waiting months to write a business plan and then find customers. – Cody Candee, Bounce
6. Consider Failure In Addition To Success
When I was writing my first business plan, I focused only on the positive side of it. I never considered failure, so my plan was all about its success. Now when I look back, I regret doing that. Instead of thinking that all my strategies would work for the best, I wish I had a backup plan for each of them. Doing that would help me in two ways. First, I wouldn’t fret so much whenever my plans failed. Second, it would help me make better decisions and reach my goals faster. It’s a major lesson that I learned as an entrepreneur. – Josh Kohlbach, Wholesale Suite
7. Base Your Plan On Customer Needs
One of the lessons I learned early on is that every aspect of your business should be based on your customers’ needs. If you keep this in mind when building your business plan, it can alter almost everything you do. You’ll choose different tools, assign different leaders to teams and plan your marketing according to what’s best for your audience. Mentally, keep thinking back to your customers and what helps them most. It’s when you remember their needs that you’ll make the best decisions. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
8. Flesh Out Your Brand Vision Fully
When writing my first business plan, I wish I took more time to really flesh out the vision I had for it. I had dipped into branding a little, but didn’t spend a lot of time defining it to where anyone would know what it was. Creating a business also means creating a brand, and many new entrepreneurs fail to realize that. You need to create a brand that accurately represents the vision you have for your company so you can build it the way you see fit. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
9. Remember That Your Plan Is Just A Framework
I think it’s important to know that your plans for the future are all within a framework, not concrete. In other words, you may not end up exactly where you anticipated at the end of your first plan. However, this shows that it’s possible to be successful without everything going exactly as anticipated. – John Turner, SeedProd LLC