Writing a Business Plan for a Small Business
Business Plans. Boy oh boy are they fun. (nope, really, really not).
Love them or hate them, business plans are a necessary evil and something you 100% need to have if you're starting (or thinking of starting) a business. BUT I'm here to tell you that there are also parts of a business plan that are not so necessary for you small biz owners! (Huge relief, right!?)
But we did think about all the strategic things that really matter. And here's the big thing - a lot of the parts of a business plan that are the most important for you, are also the main things a designer or strategist will need to know when working with you on developing your brand.
Consider your brand strategy as the starting point to your business plan, and forget about the rest (at least for now). Things like financial predictions aren't going to hold up for long - you can guess, you can budget, but as a small business with zero investors, you're going to make whatever money you make, and that's all there is to it. Set yourself some monthly, quarterly, or even yearly goals. And then let life happen.
You're a hard working entrepreneur, so you're going to do your best to hit those goals and make money, but predicting more than a year in advance for a small business just seems like a lot of wasted time to me. Come back to it when you have a better idea, and let's focus on the really important things.
What are those things? Well as I mentioned, it's all the things that make up your brand strategy. And this is what a designer is going to need to know if they work on building out a brand identity with you, but it's also a lot of the things that you are really going to need to know about your business if you're going to effectively position yourself in the market.
Your business plan should 100% focus on:
1. THE MESSAGES YOUR BUSINESS WANTS TO TELL THE WORLD
Ok, the first one is possibly the toughest. And I know that, because it took us the longest to figure this one out, plus I'm actually writing this one last. That right there is a big indicator (😂). We do have a blog post on this topic, and the main thing I'll say, is that your key messages might be tightly linked to your values - so start there. Our key messages (i.e what we want to tell the world) is that design doesn't have to be so hard, business doesn't have to be stuffy, and if we do things together, we'll do it better. These messages come from our values, but we aim to enthuse them into our language and the way we run our business.
And that's why they're important to figure out! These messages will become transparent on your Instagram feed, through the captions you choose, and how you treat your clients. You might not ever be shouting them directly, but they will be guiding points for you and a really useful reference to make sure you're on track.
2. THE VALUES YOUR BUSINESS HOLDS DEAR
What do you, as a business, value? Is it supporting others. Is it helping them to be healthier? Is it getting more people active? Good customer service is no longer a real value - that should be a staple in your business. So think on it, get specific and dig deep. If it helps, here's the post we recently wrote on this topic, which includes some great examples to help you get started.
3. WHO YOUR BUSINESSES IDEAL CLIENTS/ TARGET MARKET ARE
Another toughie, and a chance to get really specific - you're going to need to make some sort of personality profile that really explains who this person is. You won't be excluding anyone by focusing on a specific person, and in return you'll be able to better attract the people that will LOVE what you do, and therefore be your biggest champions, your number 1 fans, and your perfect customer. They'll buy from you, they'll rave about you, and your business will thrive because of it! Here's the post on that topic, which includes a free worksheet to help you get started!
4. THE PURPOSE OF YOUR BUSINESS
What are you here to do? What is the core purpose, and mission, behind your business? This one should be a little easier to get onto paper, and can be a higher level answer. For us, it's empowering small business owners through design. That's our mission statement, and every business decision we make comes back to that. To write your own, check out this post that Daphne put together on the topic.
5. WHAT MAKES YOUR BUSINESS DIFFERENT
Also known as your unique selling point, or USP, in fancy biz jargon. This is important in order to recognize how you are going to stand out from a saturated market, which let's be honest, most industries and markets are. It can be a small difference though, and again, you probably already know this, because it is quite possibly the reason you started your business. If you're struggling to identify this one, make it personal. Every one and anyone could be doing what you do, but it's different, because of you. So what about you running this business makes it different?
As an idea, for us, that often comes through in personality and the general atmosphere of our business. We don't like formality, we want to be working with our peers, and that's what makes us different. It impacts every part of our business, but it's just us being our whacky, kooky, sarcastic selves.
6. THE PERSONALITY OF YOUR BUSINESS, AND HOW THAT TRANSLATES TO LANGUAGE
The fun one! yay! Similarly to your ideal client profile, it's great to have a brand personality profile. We covered this topic early on (read that post here) and there's a free worksheet to accompany it too. Grab that one, and you can get digging in! This one is going to feel odd, especially as the owner of your company - as so many times you might think that the company personality is the same as yours, but think about how it differs, what language the business should be using, and make a little avatar for the business. It will help you to separate things out in your head, and will give you a reference whenever you're writing in the brand voice (which will be every day by the way - because your emails and social captions should 100% be in your brand voice).