by Dan Beaulieu
No matter how big or how small your business is you have to have a plan. Whether you are mowing lawns, plowing snow or making computer chips you have to have a plan. You have to know why you are starting the business. Who your customers are. Why they need your products or services. Who your competitors are and what are you going to do to be better than them, you have to have a plan.
Over the years I have helped a number of businesses get started and during that time I have developed this list of questions that, if answered carefully, thoughtfully, and completely, you will have your strategic business plan.
So, I thought it might be helpful if I posted those questions right here and now. I would urge you to use them to develop your own strategic plan. Here then are those questions. Please remember that this is not a true and false test. This is not a short answer test, this is not a test at all, but rather a series of questions to think about carefully. If you do that…in the end you will have a complete strategic business plan off of which you can run your company. If yours is a one person company then answer the questions alone, but if you have other people involved in the company, then talk about and answer these questions as a team. You’ll see that it will pay off in the end, and it will be your company business plan…not just yours.
PART ONE: THE COMPANY
1. The Company: A description of the company as it appears today.
Answer the questions:
a. Who are we?
b. What does the business do?
c. What category of product does it sell?
d. Is it a service business?
e. What do we do and why do we do it?
f. Why was the business started?
g. What niche or gap in the market does it fill?
h. What is the business philosophy?
i. Mission Statement?
j. Who started the business?
k. Who is involved in the business?
l. What extra personnel will the business need?
m. Where is it located?
n. Where does it do business?
o. What is the technology level?
p. What is the price level?
q. How do we make our money?
r. What is the quality level?
s. How do we assure that we have good quality services or products?
t. What are our strengths?
u. What makes us standout from the competition?
v. Why are we offering this service in the marketplace?
w. Are we sure there is a need?
x. Is it an unmet need?
y. What exactly is the specific niche we fill?
2. The Customers:
a. What image or position do we want our company to have with the customers?
b. What is the marketplace?
c. Is it defined in geographical terms or technological terms?
d. Who are our customers?
e. What do we know about them?
f. What do we do to find out more about them?
g. Who are our best potential customers and what do we know about them?
i. Why will they need us?
j. Why will they want to do business with us?
k. What do we want them to think of us?
l. What will they think we can do for them?
m. Are there any holes in the marketplace?
n. Who will we be compared to?
o. How will we show that we can fill our customers’ needs?
p. How will we convince our potential customers of this?
3. The Competition:
a. Who is our head to head competition?
b. What are our competitors’ strengths relative to us?
c. Why will people do business with them instead of us?
d. How can we counteract their strengths?
e. How will we get them to convert to our services and products?
a. How will we promote ourselves? Paid advertising?
b. How will people get to know about us?
c. How will our selling be different from our competition?
d. How can we force “word of mouth”? Encourage it?
e. Should we have references?
f. Do we need a website?
g. How will customers find us? Contact us
a. What are our goals as a business?
b. Revenue goals?
c. Customer satisfaction?
e. Growth year to year?
And that’s it. Now I know it looks daunting, but it’s really not. And I can guarantee that if you take the time and effort to completely answer these questions your new business will not only be launch but start to grow.
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