When you work with start-up or launch-phase businesses, you often get asked, “do I really need a business plan?” For me, when I started my business the thought of grinding through a 150-question interactive template or writing a 40-page “business plan” was daunting. Read that as “not going to happen.” After all, I wasn’t looking for investors or a loan. Why would I need a business plan? After all, I was a business lawyer. Didn’t I have this covered without going through the pain of writing a business plan?
The simple truth is, for your business to succeed you need a road map. After all, if you don’t know what certain key metrics are for your business how can you tell if an opportunity is a business necessity or a distraction? While I didn’t create a formal “business plan” when I started Greene Law Firm, I did plan for its success by focusing on the key elements in a business plan.
Planning for my business meant identifying 5 critical factors:
1. The problem you solve.
We’re a consumer-driven marketplace. You won’t sell either products or services unless they solve a problem. My law firm solves certain specific problems. What problem does your business solve? You must answer this question to see if what your proposing is a business, a job or a hobby.
- Who do you serve ?
I fought the idea that everyone was not my ideal client for a long time. Technically, I could represent any business. But trying to serve everyone means you don’t actually serve anyone; you don’t stand out. My business took off when I narrowed my focus to women-owned businesses at two phases of their life-cycle: start-up and transition to legacy.
- What you stand for.
Women, including me, often start their businesses for specific reasons. Our companies should reflect this. Establishing your business’s values sets its culture. Traditional business plans don’t factor culture into the equation, but this is critical. After all, if an opportunity isn’t in alignment with your values it’s easier to say “no” to the wrong opportunities.
- Your numbers.
Too many women destroy their solid financial bases by pumping money into unsustainable businesses because they don’t realize why they were losing money. Most women do not charge enough for their services. Somehow, we’ve been convinced that “serving” does not mean making money. You can’t serve unless you do so from your excess. In business, this means being profitable. You must determine how much you must charge and how many clients you need to serve to be profitable.
- The ultimate structure of your company.
I created my final organizational chart before I started. Sounds weird, right? I determine the talent I need and when I need it because I know where I’m heading. Hiring decisions become easier. The expert in man-eating plants? Sadly, I don’t have that position on my chart. An amazing paralegal with 10 years’ experience? Yes, that position is on my chart. Guess who I hired?
Did the law firm work without a formal business plan? Sure. But not as well as it could have. So, when I launched Corporate Shield earlier this year I did create a formal business plan. Why? Because having the level of clarity that comes with putting things down in writing is an invaluable tool.
I don’t think you need a formal “business plan” to start your business. However, there are some key factors in a traditional business plan that you should be clear about before starting your entrepreneur journey. Knowing these five elements of my business allowed me to go from a solo practice to a partner in seven attorney firm in three years.
If you need advice related to your business model, structure or business plan or would like assistance with any other business matter, please contact Nancy at Land, Carroll and Blair, PC, in Alexandria and Fairfax, VA at:
You knew one was coming, right? After all, I am an attorney. Nothing in this article is or should be considered legal advice. This article is for information purposes only. This article forms no lawyer-client relationship. Consult an attorney about your situation. WE SPECIFICALLY DISCLAIM ANY REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, ANY REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. We do not give tax or investment advice or advocate the purchase or sale of any security or investment. Always seek the assistance of a professional for tax, legal and investment advice.