Many successful entrepreneurs started with a solid business plan detailing factors of their business such as marketing, funding, legal considerations, and operations. But then what must an entrepreneur do to turn their vision into reality?
What’s Included in a Business Plan?
A business plan is a formal document that justifies the idea with research, defines the steps to starting the business, and details the growth and management of the business after launch. A strong business plan typically includes:
- Executive Summary and Company Description: Key terms and summary of the business and its goals.
- Market Research and Analysis: The findings of market research and projection of success in the target market.
- Marketing and Sales: A strategy to optimize the business for the market, based on market research analysis: Who is the target audience? What products and strategies should be the focus for sales? The likely includes the go-to-market strategy for pre-launch and launch as well as sales operations and infrastructure.
- Organization and Management: A plan for the organization of departments and management, as well as the number of employees needed. Includes budgeting for salaries and benefits, as applicable.
- Financial Projections and Funding Requests: The projected revenue of the company versus costs, as well as any plans for necessary funding like investments.
What Are the Steps to Take After the Business Plan?
1. Build the Initial Team
Few entrepreneurs can manage every aspect of a new business alone. They should focus on what they can do well and delegate other tasks to a strong team. For example, that might mean hiring a web designer or financial consultant.
2. File Necessary Legal Documents
To legally protect a business and make sure taxes are in order, it’s necessary to file proper forms with the IRS and other applicable governing bodies. Some business owners may choose to form a limited liability company (LLC), while others may incorporate their business. Choosing the right business structure requires quite a bit of thought and should be completed in the business plan.
3. Protect Intellectual Property
Without proper legal protection, business owners have no formal recourse if someone else uses their designs or branding. Understanding the differences between trademarking, copyrighting, and patenting is critical, as each protects different types of intellectual property. For example, trademarking can protect branding assets, copyrighting can protect creative content such as books, and patents can protect product design. Ideally, this step would be completed prior to any launch.
4. Advertising and Marketing
Part of the business plan is a go-to-market strategy, which includes pre-launch, launch, and, often, post-launch marketing plans. Once the business is legally established and the initial intellectual property has been protected, it’s time to implement the pre-launch marketing. This may include social media marketing, the establishment of a blog, or more traditional print marketing such as fliers. The goal? Get the word out to your prospective customers so they can buy at launch.
5. Official Business Launch
This is an exciting time for any entrepreneur—the moment their hard work takes center stage and their product goes public for purchase. Ideally, the necessary production and marketing stay on the launch schedule established in the business plan. Many business owners start tracking marketing and sales data immediately so they can pivot quickly if something isn’t working properly.
6. Review Business Performance and Progress
Many business owners benefit from frequent reviews of their sales and marketing data. For a younger business, it’s common to conduct monthly or quarterly reviews to adjust quickly. As the business matures, frequency may decrease to annual reviews with smaller quarterly reports. Either way, setting goals and metrics based on the business plan keeps a business on track and focused.
The Next Step: Scaling the Business
With the initial business plan implemented successfully, business owners often ask themselves what comes next. Plans for growth and scaling the business may have been outlined in the initial plan, but have the plans changed? Possibly, which is why consistently measuring performance and aligning goals is critical.
Often, the end of the initial business plan is just the beginning of an entrepreneur’s journey. Understanding how to legally protect the business you’re building is key to keeping momentum and stability as you grow from launch to scaling.