Business Plans – How to NOT Fail in Year 1

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of planning. You may have heard the saying, “if you fail to plan, plan to fail”. That’s especially true as it relates to business. Most businesses fail in their first year, so what is it that makes some businesses fail while others succeed?

Failing Business

I’ll admit, I’m pretty good at planning, but the implementation side of things is my weakness. Let me tell you how I plan. I start with the research on finding the demand for what I’m going to try to sell. A great place to find the demand for any given products is a forum related to that product. What are people on that forum asking about? What do they want to know more about? Have the members of that forum identified anything missing or lacking with existing products or services?

If so, and assuming you have the ability to create that product, you have a good start. Also, look at Yahoo Answers and see what questions people are asking about. This is a great way to get some additional insight into what products need to be created. You can search through Yahoo Answers with your specific keywords and use them to find questions that either haven’t been answered sufficiently or at very least find questions that are being asked regularly which means there may be a lack in the marketplace of promoting the availability of a product.

As a merchant or business owner, your ability to find ways to fill either of these needs will create the best likelihood of you being successful. Either find a product that you can create or fill a need with or find where markets lack the ability to get their products in front of their target audience.

Now, to the actual plan itself. If you require funding or capital for which you’ll need to apply, you will need an actual formal business plan to present. Anyone who will be willing to give you money will need to have seen a plan and know what kind of investment their making. For cases like these, you will do well to create the scope of your business and identify your unique selling proposition and put that into a draft. I’d suggest after you’ve done this, get with a professional who can assist you to create and formalize the plan. This will be money well worth spending.

If you don’t require capital or are leveraging credit cards or other personal financial means of starting the business, you still need a plan. Start with what you’ll be selling or what service you’ll be offering. The nuts and bolts of this including where you will be getting product… do you have a backup in case your vendor can’t supply you? Do you have multiple backups? Is the product something you’ll be creating yourself? Have you identified a significant enough demand for that product?

What’s your marketing plan? How will you be marketing your products or services? What are the realistic costs associated with your marketing? Do you have a marketing budget? How much will you be budgeting and what will that cover? Do NOT overlook the marketing. In my opinion, this is where more businesses fail than any other. If you lack the marketing skills or can’t pay to get the marketing done, the quality of your product will only take you so far.

I know of a custom car company that has perhaps the single greatest automobile manufacturing processes for this type of car and although their product is simply awesome, they lack marketing skills and are barely making it in spite of themselves. They could do so much better than they’re doing if they would hire a quality marketing firm and get their unique product in front of an audience in that niche.

I’ve heard this same company blame the economy… the fact that everybody is cinching up their belts because of the gas prices, etc… I think this is just a bad excuse for not marketing. Try to tell me there are not thousands of people right now who wouldn’t throw down for one of their cars… they’re out there, but this company has relied too much on just word of mouth and haven’t used any additional resources to really do well with marketing. The demand is there, they just haven’t accessed it or put their message in front of the demand.

So, my point is, don’t overlook marketing. If you’re skilled at marketing, you can ALWAYS find a product to sell.

If you’re serious about your business, you’ll need a business plan. There are thousands of websites dedicated to this topic, so get out there and find what you need to succeed. Use the internet as your own personal university, get your questions answered from experts willing to help… and most willing to help for free!