If you’re reading this, chances are you already know that a business plan is a useful launching pad for just about any business venture, brand idea, or project. Still, in the creative industries, creative services professionals often miss the value of a business plan and the need for creating structure. Many creative professionals, simply to create. However, without the right support at the level of planning and strategy, it is likely that you will not be able to take your creative work to the next level of success and do so sustainably. This is especially true in the case of extremely right-brained creative professionals.
The Intrinsic Value of A Business Plan
The real value of a business plan doesn’t lie solely in the plan itself. The real value is found in the process that results in the documentation outcome. In other words, the value of a business plan lies primarily in the business planning process that precedes it. The document produced at the end of the process – which we often refer to as the business plan – is the sum-total of the business process.
Below, I outline basic tidbits you should know about business planning, having business plans, and how they can work for you even if you don’t have a formal business and you’re just a creative individual ‘doing your thing.’
The business planning process and the major functions and benefits of pursuing a business plan
1. You get to test-drive your business or career idea from start to finish without the risk
As stated prior, a business plan is that document produced at the end of the business planning process. It helps you move your business or idea from ‘entrepreneurship hype’ to a profitable reality. The business planning process leading up to the same includes reviewing where you are now in your career and business, and where you would like to be.
As you begin to put pen to paper and define the terms and conditions of your way forward, you begin to get a clearer picture of what can and will work for you and your business/project/idea. The business planning process allows you to outline your daily operations in great detail. You consider everything that will make your business a success and in this way you get to test-drive your ideas, products, and services without the risk of any real losses.
During the planning process, you review concepts like:
– Your overall vision/mission
This is the part where you summarise your values and goals. Clearly describe why you do what you do, the purpose of the same, and what you hope to achieve
– Your USP (unique selling proposition)
This is the thing that makes you different in the market. This will also be the point of value for your customers
– Your target market
Who is going to be interested in your products and services
– Marketing and revenue generation strategies
The kind of message you will bring to your customers and the ways you will bring the same to them.
– Competitive analysis (existing competition and your competitive advantage)
Who else exists in your market, how successful they are, how they do what they do and how you compare to the same
– Financial forecasting and resource allocation (capital, cash flow, budgets, assets, expenses, and more)
The information that the business process produces will form the basis of the business plan.
2. It provides the blueprint for your future success
Business plans are used to record the way forward for your business, idea, or project. They are also structured in a particular way (templates can be found online). These plans need not be very long. However, they should explicitly outline just how your services and products will exist and thrive within a given market. This final document now becomes a point of reference for what is to be done and what is to not be done to help you achieve your clearly defined goals and visions.
It becomes your how, what, where, when, with whom, guide document. This document helps you to stay focused on what is important when distractions (and even opportunities) arise. It will guide your spending, marketing campaigns and promotional habits, and how you do everything you do.
It is important to note that business plans are fluid as market conditions change. When conditions change in your market and other areas that will affect your operations change (as will likely happen from time to time), you are able to better manoeuvre the same. Of course, a business plan can be modified after some of the business processes have been revisited and the findings have changed.
3. Attract partnerships and investments
Another function of a well-prepared business plan is to provide those who may be interested in what you do and what you are offering with a clear picture of what to expect. Whatever your vocation or industry, your target market goes beyond the ‘average Joe’ consumer in your target market. It also includes other businesses specialising in complementary products and services within similar/comparable target markets. You can partner with such entities (business to business – B2B) and leverage opportunities. The plan can also be used as a tool to gain investments to help grow the business or your career.
BONUS: Business plans and business planning is helpful even for individuals
Business plans are no longer just for conventional businesses or trendy, innovative technology startups. The fact is, if you have a vision or goals for your career, then you need a plan. The business planning process itself can be useful for just about anyone who offers services or products that they hope to successfully earn revenue from.