Commit Your Business Plan to Paper
As the old entrepreneurial saying goes, “A plan that hasn’t been written down is nothing more than a business wish.” In order to turn the gears of progress in a positive direction, you’ll need to formulate your thoughts for bringing your business from concept to reality.
You might think that it’s too early in the game for a business plan—but even if you have no plans of starting your business until next year, you should start your planning now. Research conducted by Harvard experts reveals that the prime time to create a business plan is 6–12 months after you’ve made the decision to launch a business and well before the date that you ultimately want to begin operations.
“Entrepreneurs often have to pivot their business once it becomes clear that their original customer is not the right customer or when it turns out that their product or service fits better in an alternate market,” explain the study’s coauthors, Francis J. Greene and Christian Hopp. “Because of these realities, business plans written at the start end up nothing more than a fable.”
If you’re not sure how to put your business plan together, it can be helpful simply to answer specific questions. With each answer, you’ll be able to identify the content that will comprise your business plan. Here are some key questions to get you started:
- What’s your main objective?
- What are your key strategies?
- What’s your mission statement?
- What have you learned from your industry analysis?
- What have you learned from your market analysis?
- What have you learned from your competitor analysis?
- How will you structure your business?
- What are your projections for the business?
- What are your financial needs at this point?
Some of these answers might come quickly, while others could be unavailable because you haven’t yet done the research necessary to obtain them. That’s why these questions are important. They help you realize, for example, that if you haven’t yet done an industry analysis or projected the finances for your business, you’d better get on the ball. Launching a business won’t be effective without understanding these crucial elements.
“Research and analyze your product, your market, and your objective expertise,” insists a business plan analysis from The Balance Small Business. “Consider spending twice as much time researching, evaluating, and thinking as you spend actually writing the business plan. To write the perfect plan, you must know your company, your product, your competition, and the market intimately.”
As your business plan takes shape, you’ll naturally begin to see the next steps for your business. For example, once you’ve identified the structure for your business, you can begin to make that structure a reality. And if you know what your financial needs are, you can start looking for funding sources.
Balancing Your Time Effectively
Now that your business plan has provided your marching orders for the foreseeable future, you’ll need to think seriously about the impact your business endeavors will have on your current job. Remember, the goal is to continue to be a consistent contributor at your current job. You want to make sure to proceed in an effective and ethical way.
Thankfully, technology has improved, providing you with lots of awesome resources. The goal of all these new apps and software solutions: to maximize your available time so that your business-building initiatives won’t require you to be a lousy employee or a night owl who never gets any sleep.
“Is the saying ‘time is money’ true?” asks a time management guide from the experts at the Small Business Administration. “If your business runs out of money, you always have the opportunity to get more. More money is ‘simply a sale away.’ On the other hand, once time has passed, you can never get that time back, nor can you add more hours to a day. Yes, poor time management can cost you and your business tremendous amounts of money. Realize, however, that the better you manage your time, the more money you can earn. With time management, business owners maximize how much they get done each working day.”
It takes more than just motivation to get all your work done effectively: you also need a strategy. Here are some ways you can use your strengths, and the occasional technology solution, to get everything done.
1. Lead With a Plan
Just as it takes a business plan to start a business, it takes an action plan to begin each week on the right foot. Write out your weekly goals in advance—this way, you’ll know what needs to be accomplished and how you’re going to accomplish it.
This micro-goal approach is essential to efficiency. Not only will it reduce wasted time, but it allows you to track your progress and measure the results. It also sets a healthy precedent for how you’re going to run your business once it’s ready to launch.
2. Eliminate Distractions
Things can get downright demanding when you’re working a day job and also trying to develop your own business. It’s important to have outlets so that the stress doesn’t overwhelm you.
Knowing how to reward yourself is a powerful tool for any entrepreneur. Maybe it’s going for a quick walk in a nearby park, playing a level of your favorite video game, or watching your all-time favorite episode of Friends. What matters: allocating meaningful time for yourself.
There’s a huge difference between rewards and distractions. Rewards are consciously chosen to improve your impact, while distractions are just low-quality pastimes that derail you from your goals. You already know what your most common distractions are, so take steps to eliminate them from your day.
3. Utilize Technology
Don’t be afraid to let apps and software help you to track your time and stay on task. RescueTime is an excellent app that lets you monitor online activities and set goals to improve your habits. The Workflow app helps you to streamline recurring tasks and better manage your to-do list. And Timely lets you track projects and determine in advance how to maximize your workweek.
Once your new business is up and running, you should check out the bookkeeping services provided by Sunrise. We offer a free version that gives you unlimited customized invoices, unlimited bank transactions, detailed cash flow reports, and various accounting tools. For a reasonable monthly fee, you’ll also get assistance from one of our expert bookkeepers, monthly closing of books, and a host of other benefits.
4. Learn to Delegate
The fact that you have a day job and are also trying to build a personal business shows that you’re not afraid of hard work—and you likely prefer to be in control of all the important aspects of both these endeavors. In order to preserve your sanity and succeed at your goals, however, you’ll need to turn over the wheel to others from time to time.
Take a moment to list the tasks that could easily be handled by someone other than yourself—there are surely a handful of such tasks each day. Strive to clear your schedule of as much clutter as possible, allowing you to continue to excel at your day job and effectively build the foundation for your small business.
5. From Time to Time, Say No
Entrepreneurs are hardworking individuals who focus on finding opportunities wherever they might exist. Given these traits, it can be hard to turn things down. But if you want to succeed in your pursuits, you need to learn to diplomatically decline tasks and requests that aren’t important or relevant enough to qualify for your time.
Each time you turn down something unnecessary, you’re buying yourself more precious time—and, given your situation, that’s something you can never have too much of.
Whether you’re leveraging technology or delegating tasks, following these time-management tips will free up more time for getting your side business ready for the big time.
Leverage Your Network
As is often said, no entrepreneur is an island. You simply cannot succeed in your small business pursuits if you work alone. Look first for financial assistance and willing hands from those in your immediate circle: whether it’s a spouse, sibling, parent, or best friend, find ways for those who are capable and willing to move you further along.
Next, extend your reach to business connections who might be able to assist you. The best exchanges are truly symbiotic, where you’re providing value equal or greater to what you’re receiving. But in the early days of your business, don’t be afraid to ask for a favor.
“Wealth is made through connections,” says Forbes. “Growth is accomplished through connections. Rich cultures are birthed through genuine connections. Simply put, behavioral economics is one of the leading intangibles that helps identify new cycles of progress…Networking is almost viewed as a dirty word in some circles, causing uneasiness with many folks. However, not embracing this powerful resource could result in dead-weight losses in many of our current career roles.”
The best part about networking: it builds momentum. Every time you establish a productive and respectful relationship with someone, you create opportunities to connect with other professionals within their spheres. In this way, you continue to grow in the right direction.
No matter who else you include, 2 key components of your network should always be an accountant and a mentor. An accountant can help you to identify potential hurdles in the building of your business and then recommend proactive solutions. Additionally, they help to ensure your finances are handled in the most empowering way. Tax season is always more enjoyable when you have the assistance of a reliable accountant.
Finally, don’t even think about starting a business without a mentor. This mentor should be someone you trust: an expert who’s already walked the entrepreneurial road and can guide you to the most effective routes. Your mentor should be someone who can give you candid feedback freely. This conduit to entrepreneurial know-how is an essential way to rise above the chaos of running a small business and find lasting success.
If you don’t already have a mentor, consider options within your business contacts. Is there someone you already know who has the experience and personality required of a good mentor? If not, browse LinkedIn to identify a potential mentor. If you’re still struggling to come up with some solid options, you can usually find mentorship and resources from SCORE.
Begin Establishing Your Online Presence
Even if the official launch of your business is several months away, now’s the time to lock down your preferred domain name and start securing the right social channels. Domain names can get snatched up quicker than you think, so don’t risk losing out.
You should also create social accounts with the corresponding name for your business. Don’t worry about having a presence on every social channel. Rather, you should return to the research you conducted in developing your business plan. It’s likely that your customer base frequents only a few of the main platforms. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, or TikTok, take the time to learn your audience and then target your efforts to where they spend their time online.
You might realize down the road that you won’t be using one of your business’s social accounts for one reason or another. No bother—it’s always worth the effort to create an account because you’ll ensure that nobody else will take your name on that channel for their own purposes.
Figure Out Your Financing
Running a business requires a steady stream of money. Potential expenses include permits, licenses, rent, insurance, supplies, equipment, vehicles, and marketing. You’ll need to invest some of the cash yourself, then look for other sources. Many small business owners borrow from their friends and family members, though this approach can be fraught with peril. If you decide to pursue loans from loved ones, make sure to outline the terms clearly and in advance to minimize the chance of hurt feelings and misunderstandings.
One of the most popular sources for small business funding is financing. Revisit your business plan to identify how much money you’ll need in the coming months. Then develop an attainable timeline for acquiring those funds. The specifics of your financial needs will help determine which type of loan is ideal for your business. Here are 10 of the most sought-after financing products:
- Business credit cards
- SBA loans
- Business term loans
- Short term loans
- Business lines of credit
- Commercial mortgages
- Accounts receivable financing
- Startup loans
- Equipment financing
- Merchant cash advances
Feel free to lean on your accountant and mentor for advice as you seek financing. They can help you to identify which loans will provide the right amount of money and present you with the most realistic repayment terms.
By using this same collaborative approach on all your business decisions, you’ll pave the way for a successful future for your business. It’s always going to be a gradual process, but every step forward you take now will take you closer to where you ultimately want to be.