Whether your business is successful or not, it’s a good idea to regularly analyze your business and see where there is room for improvement. Many companies will hire an outside consultant to address this process, but if you’re a small business owner or affiliate marketer or you like to review things personally and regularly, it’s possible to use a simple, three-step process for generating the right questions.
By defining your business, researching your business, and comparing the research and your definition, you will actually see that the right questions generate themselves.
Define Your Business
What are the goals of your business? Who are your clients and what do they value? These are some of the general, goal-oriented questions that you can later hold up against the actual feedback you collect.
Create a flowchart of your business process, and a scope study to clearly define the role of every participant. Look over financial statements and specific analysis of different departments.
Imagine yourself creating an encyclopedia entry for your business. Condensing your business vision will help you pick up on recurring themes and solidify your goals.
Research All Angles
If you’re not sure what questions to ask, have other people generate those questions for you! Consider gleaning feedback from your workers about their views, and ask them to identify their roles and how they fit into the bigger picture. Collect client feedback about your product or service and its implementation.
Also consider asking the opinion of ancillary participants in your business, such as accountants and suppliers—even friends or acquaintances you’ve discussed your business with. Sometimes you’ll find a gem of wisdom in the most unexpected place.
Analyze the Results and Create a Plan
Once you have tangible research, compare that to the flowcharts, scope studies, mission statements, and financial analysis you assembled before. Ask yourself two basic questions: (1) are the goals and results matching up and (2) why or why not? This is a good opportunity to spot problematic areas of transition in the business process, or determine if employees do not understand their role.
Assemble the disparities into a report; consider generating a discussion with your board members and/or advisors about how to make a plan of action that can address these questions and steer your business back on course toward your desired goals. In order to allow for progressive improvement, also consider asking where you envision your business in one year, five years, and ten years.
How to Create a Realistic Business Plan
So you have a great idea about a particular product or service, but don’t get swept away in the emotional high. Examine the marketplace that provides the context for what you’re offering. Are there competitors? How many? How are they performing?
Also research the process of your product or service. Where will your product be manufactured? How much will that cost? What hardware do you need to offer this service? Do you need a brick and mortar storefront, a mobile unit, or an online store? How will you effectively market your product?
Find the Right Crunchy (Numbered) Peanut Gallery
It’s important while considering these questions to analyze hard numbers, because numbers cannot lie. Feelings and intuitions, on the other hand, can be misleading. Find pragmatic but positive people to discuss your idea with. Negative people don’t feel like anything will succeed, so their opinion may not be helpful. At the same time, people with big dreams but little interest in practical details might also give misleading encouragement.
Executive Summary and Description
The opening part of your plan will outline what you’re looking for and describe your business in concise terms. Describe the industry as well, so the reader can position your business. It’s important to clearly introduce your business so your reader won’t get lost in the specific details.
Market Strategies and Competitive Analysis
Analyze the market. How will you enter it and compete with established businesses? What type of clients are you targeting? What are the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors? What barriers will you face when attempting to enter the market?
D&D and O&M
No, D&D does not refer to rolling twelve sided dice and moving small figurines around a fantasy landscape. It stands for Design and Development, which entails describing your product and the various stages of its development, including manufacturing, sales, delivery, and implementation. The Operations and Management component will detail each department’s role within the company, and how those departments function together.
Now is the time to crunch numbers. What will your expenses be for materials, labor, management, marketing, and any other miscellaneous areas of business? What are your expected profits over the course of the first year and beyond? This is the section that can make or break your business plan when setting it before a banker or investor.
Once you’ve assembled your plan, return to your peanut gallery and see what people think. We can often become biased when it comes to our own ideas, so running your proposal in front of new eyes is an excellent way to do a reality check on your thinking.