My hometown, Louisville, KY
My hometown, Louisville, KY

Look at the downtown area of any city from a distance, and you will find a variety of unique buildings shaping the skyline. Individually, they each tell their own story. Collectively, they shape and identify the city itself – a distinct image comes to mind with the mere mention of New York, St. Louis, Seattle, Toronto, Paris, Pisa, etc.

We don’t often think of it this way, but buildings are businesses of themselves (or as we discussed in Dare To Be Bold, are marketing for business). Thanks to a combination of size, scale, scope, and safety; these businesses must follow stringent guidelines to ensure they do not ‘fail’. If we apply two aspects to our businesses – regardless of size – we can bring our own longstanding results.

Before ground is broken; designers, planners, engineers, and architects draw out and account for every detail of the building, both large and small, from every angle – the location of walls, floors, and ceilings, as well as their color; the location, style and wiring of every electrical fixture; plumbing and air flow; even the type of buttons on the elevators. Thanks to today’s software; we can virtually walk through rooms of buildings that have yet to be constructed. Even as detailed as they are; blueprints are often modified throughout construction to handle unanticipated challenges. But they still serve as a powerful reference tool for all involved.

Does your business have a blueprint? Is there a master plan to serve as a reference tool for either expected or unexpected challenges? Countless businesses file a plan with the bank/investors only when seeking money, yet are never referenced or updated. Some owners say their business is small enough they can keep all the detailed plans in their head, and then wonder why they struggle to grow.

Your business plan should begin by answering questions in the following categories:
How much is needed to start, then operate the business. From where will it come? When/how will it get re-paid? Establish trigger points for when to begin next phase, when to cancel it. Who will supply raw materials and what will it cost? Where are breaks in price-point? What are anticipated costs to produce/sell goods? At what point do you anticipate breaking even/showing profit? How/when will founders exit the business?

How many are needed? What positions? Structure of jobs/duties/tasks/responsibilities. Payroll estimates (and ideal vendors). When to grow staff. How to attract, identify, and retain ideal personality, traits, skills, licences/certifications. People policies- hire, fire, promote. What culture you will strive to build/maintain. What benefits to offer (a happy, nurturing, growing environment is a big benefit). Define the employee experience.

How many do you need daily, weekly, monthly, total, and at what size? Define the customer experience. How will they interact with your brand at every moment of process, and with each other? How much are they willing to spend (and stretch)? What is most important to them (not important)? How often will they likely repeat purchase? How will you identify/connect with ideal customers? Where will you find them? How will you communicate with them?

There are perhaps as many formats for business plan as there are businesses. The above is not a completely exhaustive list of questions to answer and details to consider; but it will help you build an extremely solid foundation.

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