For would-be entrepreneurs, there’s no hope of turning a dream into reality without a plan. Many dream about starting their own businesses; not as many make the leap from dreaming to executing. “The challenge for most people is two-fold,” relates Jenn Houser of UpStart Bootcamp, a website for budding entrepreneurs and a columnist for Inc Magazine. “The first question is ‘Is my idea good enough?’ and the second question is, “If it is, what do I do next?”
Writing a business plan or entering a business plan competition is far from the first step. While a business plan is a necessity, a plan that is adaptable to change as circumstances dictate is what is needed after some beginning and intermediate steps are completed, Houser says. Would-be entrepreneurs first need to answer several fundamental questions about their business idea: what are their goals for the business, what are their life goals and how do they see the start-up business fitting into their lives.
Other questions to consider include:
- What is the environment like for your start-up’s industry?
- What financial goals do you have for the business?
- What feedback have you gotten from potential customers?
- Do you have a prototype of your product?
- How do you plan to market your product to early adopters?
- How much funding will you need to get the business off the ground?
- How do you plan to raise that funding? If you don’t have the funds yourself, how do you plan to solicit them?
Many would-be entrepreneurs fail because they aren’t comfortable selling, Houser notes. “If you aren’t a salesperson, you need to find a partner who is, because your business won’t make it if your product or service doesn’t sell,” she says. “And partnering with others or hiring staff creates a whole other set of issues that many idea-people aren’t experienced in dealing with.”
Once you’ve considered these issues and are ready to move into a more formal stage of proceeding with your business idea, it’s time to write a plan, Houser says. “We recommend drafting a power point deck that covers 15 key topics relevant to investors, partners and customers,” she says.
Writing a plan is important because it forces you, the would-be business owner, to formulate your ideas in writing and fill in any holes. But don’t just sit in front of your computer writing a plan; get out and talk to potential customers, meet with potential investors and partners and above all, try to sell your product or service, she adds.
“A common mistake many entrepreneurs make is not sharing their idea, and not executing their business plan,” she says. “Too many of them are afraid that their idea will get stolen, but that rarely happens. To have any chance of succeeding, you have to get feedback, talk to customers and see if your idea has legs and will go somewhere.”
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