Wyoming Business Tips: Build a better business plan

P.J. Burns and Maureen Johnson

A business plan is like a road map that guides you through starting your business and is a crucial tool for any entrepreneur. It helps you launch your business on the right foot and provides a blueprint for long-term success and growth. So, if you have a great business idea, starting with a solid business plan is the first step toward turning your dreams into reality.
Your business plan should answer the questions of what you are going to do; how you plan to do it; who will purchase your product or service and why; and a financial plan of how it will make a profit.
Here are a few tips to help you create a better business plan:
-- Get to know your potential customer: Identifying who is most likely to purchase your goods or services is essential to your business planning. Market research and analysis are crucial to understanding whether there is a viable market for your goods or services.
Before you get too far into the business planning process, start with getting to know your potential customer. Learn their needs, their patterns and their interests, and find out whatever you can about your target demographic. Of course, you can tackle some of this research on your own. But the Wyoming SBDC Network Market Research Center will be your best resource for finding out the most information possible.
-- Define your value proposition: A value proposition is why customers want to purchase your product or service. What makes your idea special? What makes you different from the rest? What problem are you trying to solve? Your value proposition should clearly communicate who you are and what your business does to your market and potential customers.
-- Figure out your finances: Before you launch or even embark on the business plan process, you need to know where your finances stand. Do you have enough funds to launch your idea? Do you need investors or a loan? It is essential to evaluate and understand the amount needed to not only launch your business, but also to sustain it for the first several months up to a year.
In addition to figuring out your personal finances, do your due diligence, and work on some financial projections and goals for your future. Determine whether your business is truly viable. Explore some of the Wyoming SBDC Network’s recorded webinars to build a strong financial foundation, and work with your Wyoming SBDC Network adviser to develop projections that make sense for you.
-- Develop your operational plan: How you will run your business is directly related to how much money and the amount of time you personally must spend running your business. Your day-to-day operations will vary and likely change as you grow your business. But starting with a clear idea of what you will be doing every day will help you create a foundation on which to build your business growth. Think about what positions you will need to fill right away. What will they contribute to your business? What will your role be, and how will you perform your work? Take time to consider what your actual work will look like once your business has launched.
-- Create a cohesive marketing and sales strategy: You don’t have a business without sales. Develop your sales and marketing strategy for launching your goods and services using the information you gathered about your potential customers as well as your value proposition.
What sales channels will get your message in front of those most likely to purchase? How will your communication methods reach your target audience and inspire them to act? What’s your communication style and voice going to be like? And don’t forget to clearly define your marketing budget and how you will evaluate success. This is the time to think outside the box and come up with methods to generate buzz around your business and, in turn, generate sales.

(P.J. Burns is the Wyoming SBDC Network regional director for Campbell, Crook, Johnson, Sheridan and Weston counties, and Maureen Johnson is the marketing, communication and database manager for the Wyoming SBDC Network. Wyoming Business Tips is a monthly look at issues facing Wyoming business owners and entrepreneurs from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.)