Oftentimes, it's easier to complete a process if we know all the steps that are needed to complete first. Then we can use that big picture to guide us through the process without the feeling of spinning wheels. The business plan process is not a complex one if we look at it in five distinct questions.
1. Conception Question: What business am I interested in starting?
Can you answer this succinctly in a sentence? For instance, "I want to start a web design business that caters to local service-based businesses." If you can not articulate what the basic concept of your idea is, do not move on. You are just setting yourself up for a world of disappointment.
2. Feasibility Questions: Do I have enough skills and interest for my business of choosing? What is my basic business model? What will I be making money on? Who are my competitors? Who is my customer? About how much will I need to start the business and how much of this do I have access to now? What are my expectations for this business-in terms of effort (time) and salary? Does this business align with what I want out of life?
You can not leave Feasibility until you know basic questions about how the business will fit into your life and satisfy your financial termination expectations. It's also looking at your competition and customer at a very high level by making lists and developing a broad definition of both. I urge clients to spend a reliably amount of time in Feasibility as it's looking at the big picture and it ensures the client is grounded and leaves no stone unturned (in terms of big picture). The Feasibility pitfall is to obsess about anyone area and became detailed. Use broad strokes and do not over-research here! You want a general "hypothesis" that you can research in later sections, stating with the Foundation.
3. Foundation Questions: Who exactly is my customer? Are they reachable? What drives their purchases? Who exactly are my competitors and how will I compete with them? What is my company legal structure and name? What is my niche and how are my products / services appealing to my customers?
In the Foundation Part of the plan, you will continue the work you started in Feasibility by researching your customer and competitors. From that, you will define your market niche. This is the heart of the plan. Without this, it's foolish to proceed to implementation because you will not know what your customers want and how your competitors induce customers to compete against your rivals! In other words, you can not develop a strategic niche if you do not know how to compete and which customers to target.
4. Implementation Questions: How will I utilize marketing to reach your customers? What is the sales pipeline process like? What social media will I use? What will I blog about? When do I begin to blog? How will I process customer orders or produce products? What financial tools will I use to ensure you are making money and your cash flow is stable?
Implementation is the process of acting upon your foundation assumptions-that is, who you're targeting, who you will be competitive with, and what niche you will build your business to occupy. By completing the implementation part of your plan, you will say how you'll deliver your niche through your marketing, operations, and financial management.
5. Measurement Questions: When will I do the work by and how much will each activity cost? What is my business vision that I'm driving towards? What is my growth and exit plan (how will I absolutely make money from it other than my salary?)
After Measurement, you will do a brief summary in the form of Executive Summary which is more complete than your initial Feasibility as it's big picture, but has more detail than what you wrote in Feasibility.
As questions start mounting in your head as you write, try only dealing with them in the appropriate place in the business planning process. The more linear (from start to finish a straight line) you approach the process, the more efficiently you can work. And efficiency is the best weapon against feeling overwhelmed and leaving your plan before it's done.