Your Business Roadmap
To be successful online means you have to run a business and all that entails.
Too often you think of the short term need, of paying a bill that is due tomorrow and wonder how you can raise that money. It is now easier to raise money by selling online than heading for the bank and asking for a loan.
But, if you are not thinking long term, then you might not be able to sustain our income. When you consider that between 66% and 95% business fail, it is imperative that you map out your business before you start, especially if you are looking to still be earning an income in 5 or 10 years time. Even though that might sound high, you can be in the group that is successful if you know where you are heading and what to do. It is too easy to focus on the negative and feel a total failure.
You can often say things like this:-
I have been working at this for a month or two and seen no sales.
I bought this product which claimed it would give me riches, and I have had nothing except the money I keep on spending.
Why am I failing all the time?
The real reason for this is that you are looking only at the instant answer, and you are failing to realise that a business takes time to develop and grow.
Failure is good if you use it to improve your business and learn to use your failure as lessons in life.
Do you see the glass half full rather than half empty.
Remember: Failure is never final, unless you make the choice to believe it is.
Do you understand what a business is?
Many people seem to be confused by the difference between a hobby and a business. You can have an online presence which is a business and making money. You can have a hobby and hope that somehow you might get some extra money. That extra money might then be able to be used for paying those bills which seem to arrive too often.
What does the term business mean?
You might be wondering if we are running a business.
A business is either an organization or a person(s) operating with the objective of making a profit from the sale of goods or services.
The meaning of a business to the IRS in the US is different to a business to the IR in the UK.
Before you do anything with your business in the long term you need to have a business plan. You need to know where you are heading and how to get there.
Why do you need a business plan?
You need to plan and budget for your new business if you don’t want to be in the 66% - 95% of businesses that fail. It is too easy to start a business online but you need to follow some of the old guidelines if you want to be successful. If you don’t have a plan in place then you'll have no idea where you are heading, and even less of an idea how to get there.
If you have a predetermined goal, then you'll be making positive steps to reach that goal. You know that it might be in the distance but while you keep your eyes on the goal you'll be able to reach your destination. As you keep your focus on the goal you'll make changes along the way as you find ways of saving money, a quicker route but the end goal will always remain in focus.
It is like taking a journey in a car, you know how long that journey will take but you'll always be looking for any shortcuts to get there. You know that you will arrive sooner rather than later and if you can find a shorter route then you will have more money in your pocket as fewer expenses have occurred on the journey. Every business should have a business plan but you should also take the necessary action to see the plan implemented.
There is nothing worse than spending many hours drawing up a business plan and then putting that plan in a drawer or storing it on a computer never to see the light of day again. That business is guaranteed not to be one of the successful businesses. This is why you will need to have not only a business plan but also need to take action.
If you are running a business there will come the day when you need some extra finance to help your business grow. If you want to run an offline business then that extra finance might be needed for you to start your business. You would be thinking in terms of a loan or a partner to help launch your business.
But online the initial costs are lower because you will have a lot of the tools required to run your business already. It will be later as you plan to expand that you will need to start looking for this financial help.
Having a good business plan in place will help you. You will talk to perspective investors or banks with your goals. You will show them how profitable your business has been, and the potential of the business during the coming years.
Statistically a business plan makes sense because research has shown that a company with a plan will increase its profit margin to around 54%; whereas the same company not using a business plan would only have a profit margin of around 35%. With just that one statistic it should encourage you to have a business plan in place.
Four Elements to a Business Plan You should be considering four elements to your business plan when you start to develop it.
What direction is your business heading?
Are you able to tell others where your business is heading?
Do you have a sense of commitment as you let others know the business objectives?
Do you have a sense of achievement when you see the business progressing in the way you had envisaged?
Four More Elements of a Business Plan
If you have never created a business plan then you might be wondering where you should start. You have a blank piece of paper or a new page open on your computer and writing the opening sentences will always be the hardest.
You can make the plan as complicated as you want but there are really four elements that all business plans need to cover. When you use these four elements you will be able to extend them naturally.
Why do you have a business?
What direction do you see your business going?
How are you going to achieve your goals?
How much will it cost to reach your goals?
This is the time to keep it short and sweet. If you can’t sum up in a sentence or two what the purpose of your business, then you need to go away and consider what your business is about. You need to keep working at it until you reach the stage where you know what your business is about.
Imagine you are trying to explain why you have a business to friends and family. It might be worth sitting someone down and trying to explain to them your business. If they are bored because you are still trying to explain or if it makes no sense to them, then stop and think again about what you are doing. Keep fine tuning what you are saying until you reach the stage where they understand what you are hoping to achieve. That doesn’t mean they won’t think you are mad, but at least they understand the principles involved in what you are trying to do.
You could say that your business is to make money.
Well all businesses are out to make money, which is why they are a business. This isn’t why you have a business. If your goal is only to make money, then you could take a job. Many jobs will pay you more than you are earning online, especially if you are just starting out.
There has to be another motivation for you to run your own business. You might want to be your own boss, or you want to work at home to be around the family. There has to be something that will keep you motivated through the difficult time which comes when you run your own business. What direction do you see your business going? Now is the time to start to put more information into your business plan. It has been said that the direction of you business should be SMART.
This is the foundation of your plan. You will need to have a good foundation for your business plan. Without it, your whole business could tumble and fall. You might want have a plan to stop working in a job. But a specific plan would say you want to quit that job in 1 year’s time. Then you have something to aim for. Or you might say you want to earn money online. But a specific plan says you want to earn $100 per day and you want to reach that goal within 3 months.
Here you need to have set a time scale to your specific plan. Remember that if you don’t reach the goal within the time scale, you can move the time scale or change the goal. Don’t quit just because in 3 months you are only earning $90 a day and not the $100 a day. Quit and you will never see the goal achieved.
Action is always needed to see a goal fulfilled. It doesn’t matter what the goal is, unless you plan and take action it will never, ever happen. All our goals are different, and you shouldn’t be concerned about having a goal which is less than someone else’s goal. The best thing about this type of business planning is you will keep making goals. You might say this week I want to earn $100 and to do that I am going to do xxxxxx. When that is achieved then you can rewrite the goal and also the action needed.
Being realistic is something a lot of IMer miss. I have seen many people saying that they haven’t earned any money online. Some will say they need to get money, yesterday. And they suddenly have a goal to raise $100 in a short time. If they are unable to raise any money then, this target isn’t a good goal. They might be able to do it, but it is better to be realistic when it comes to setting your goals. Don't be like them, be realistic as you build your business plan.
This will be excellent training for you. You need to set a time for seeing your goals achieved. As a writer I have to manage my time and give client’s deadlines. I have to know what I can achieve in the weeks ahead of me. Again this is something you will learn as you go along. You might think you can write 40 articles in a day. But then you realize that each article takes 30 mins to write. That means you need to spend 20 hours writing these articles. 4 hours left for eating and sleeping.
Ask yourself these questions.
What turnover and profit do you want to achieve and by what date?
If you want to be the top in your niche by what date would you like to see that achieved? This needs to be included in both the long term and short term plan.
How much do you want to increase your products and services by? What date would you like to see this happen? If you are creating your own products then be realistic, it might not be possible (unless you outsource) to write 100 ebooks each month.
What increase in traffic to your website do you want to see and by what date?
How will your marketing have to increase to see this realized?
If you want to have a business which is geared towards selling to Internet Marketers then you will need to do some thorough research into that niche.
What motivates them to buy?
What are the trends in Internet Marketing?
Who are your competitors?
Why would these people buy from you especially if you are new?
What are you offering that is different from the many thousands of Internet Marketers around?
Try and ask as many questions as you research and then you will need to analyze what you have discovered. There is little point in spending valuable hours researching if you are not in a position to use that information. A good way to analyze your research is using the SWOT method.
Strengths; Weaknesses; Opportunities; Threats
As you analysis your research you need to consider three questions.
Who is my market?
Why will they buy from me?
How will I provide the products for them?
When you are starting a new business you are going to be in direct competition with established businesses. You will be trying to sell your product alongside well known Guru’s. Your name isn’t going to be well known and people will want to know they can trust you. People will be asking questions even if they are only in their mind.
Is it a new or unique product?
Is the price cheaper than other people’s products?
What is the guarantee with the product?
Is it a better quality product?
Summary of a Business Plan
Your business plan should be focused on two periods of time, the present time and the future which should be between one or two years only. The following information should be included:-
The type of business that have including the products and services you have available.
Information about your business, including how many employees you have, turnover, profit margins and location of any offices you have.
The growth and expansion of your business.
The niches you market.
Identifying your competitors.
How long before your plan will become a reality.
Three Stages to Preparing the Plan
There are three simple stages to be used when you prepare your business plan.
Draft the Plan
You will need to do thorough research not only when you start your business but at different stages during your time in business. This is extremely important if you want to stay at the top of your niche. You might need to take a couple of days away from the business to do this, or if you are running your business single-handed then schedule the time into your day to day routine.
Take a good look at where your business is today; be honest with yourself because if you are not making any money then you will need to know why that is happening. There is no benefit to inflating your earnings because that is what you would like them to be. If you want to reach your goals then you need to know where you have been; where you are; and where you are going.
If your business is selling digital products, then evaluate which ones sell well and which ones are not making you any or very little profit. If you look at each product carefully, you might find that a certain niche isn’t selling well. Dig as deep as you need to go to find out where your business is at.
Then you need to see where you want your business to be, in the next quarter, or year. You need to give yourself a time scale. If you discover the business is doing badly, you might want to have the challenge of turning it around quickly. If you set the deadline too far in advance, you might fail to take any action until the last minute. Look at the different areas of your business to see where you want them to go.
Are there any new niches you want to add to your business?
Finally, you will need to find way to get from where you are to where you want to be in that allotted time period. It might mean dropping some products; updating others or even find new products to market.
You need to know exactly and clearly what you need to do and how you will achieve those goals.
This is what a business plan is all about; it will give you the map for your business to follow. Imagine if you were taking a car journey and you had never been there before, and nobody in the car had been there. Most motorists would look on a map or use their computer to get the route needed to be taken. But if you were stubborn and believed you were capable of finding your way, it is likely you will get lost many times, and you might never reach your destination. If you do reach your destination then it is probably that you have spent many more hours on the road than you needed to be there.
If you are stubborn then you will say you don’t need a business plan, and that is fine if you want to get lost time and time again. You will spend a lot longer on reaching your goal, and you might never be able to run a business successfully. You will be counted amongst the group of businesses that fail.
If you don’t want this to happen then you will start to plan today what you business is going to be like in twelve months time, you will have your route map and you will follow it until you see the goals achieved. All the time you need to consider where you are going because without a destination, you will keep going around and around in circles. You need to consider how you are going to sell your product before you spend hours creating it, and then you need to decide how to deliver that product.
Draft the Plan
There is no format for writing your plan, but you might find your bank or financial institute have ones available for people starting out in business. You need to find what works for you and your business. As you start to write the plan you will see what needs to be added as you work through it. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Give yourself room to expand the plan as you find out more information from your research.
You might start to do a basic financial statement and realize that you have to change your opinions about certain areas of the business, based on what you are now seeing.
Keep in mind these points.
Where your business is today?
Who works for your business?
What are the turnover and the profit?
How does you business compare to your competitors?
What is your profile like?
Where your business is heading by a given date?
What is the vision of the company?
How many people do you need to fulfill the vision?
What turnover and profit do you need to achieve?
How can you improve your business to overtake your competitors?
What do you want your profile to be like?
How you are going to get there?
If you need staff, do you have any idea who will you hire?
How can you increase both your turnover and profit?
How can you change your marketing and image?
How can you increase your profile?
You might find it easier to keep to bullet points and make lists, and then add in the information where necessary. You might think the more complicated the plan the better it is, but that isn’t true. The more complicated the plan the less likely you will implement it, anything that becomes too complicated is normally unworkable.
There is little point in spending time analyzing and researching your business if it ends there. Too many will do the groundwork and then quit. These will normally be the businesses that will fail. The best business plans are from those people who take action. There is nothing worse than talking with a person who has a problem, who doesn’t want to take any action.
How many times have you seen a person ask a question on a forum, only to come a week later asking the same question? At some stage, another person will ask did you read and act on the advice given. If you are dealing with a person on a one to one basis, they ask for your advice and come back time and time again with the same problem. You ask if they put into practice what you suggested, to be told, “No!”
Frustrated you find you are unable to help them, because they are not prepared to do anything to get out of the situation. Until the person puts into practice what they have learnt they will never, ever leave that situation behind. The same is true with people who want a business.
They want the financial benefits without having to do any work, or they won’t take any action. You will need to have a good idea who is going to do each task within your business. You might need to find a good writer for articles and ebooks, and have a target of a
certain number of articles each week. Set the tasks, the deadlines, and the person to do the job.
As you are building your business you will come across people of excellence who you will want to hire, employ or outsource to. Keep a record of their details, name; email; phone and any other details you might have. When you need to have a job done you already know the people you want your business to work with. Keep you plan handy and use it on a regular basis. Let it influence everything in your business especially as you expand. Imagine your business rapidly expanding, do you really want to have to spend time writing a business plan or trying to work out how the business should run? If you have done the work then it is simply putting into action what you have already planned. If you need to expand, then add to your existing plan.
Remember to review your plan on a regular basis. Don’t wait until a crisis comes to try and work out what you should do. Be prepared before the crisis happens. You business plan will keep you on track to remain in the group of people whose business survive.
If you don't have a business plan, then you realise you need one. But a good business plan, is one designed for your business alone. Yes, there are generic business plans, but you need to take that and make it your own. Get your own business plan right now, before you forget and end up losing thousands of dollars.