Businesses, like buildings, require a blueprint or a design plan. Could you just start building and putting up walls? Sure, you can start enthusiastically and creatively, but there will come a point where parts aren’t coming together as they should and your efforts begin to feel unproductive, confused or even wasted.
Entrepreneurs begin businesses in many ways based on their personalities and belief systems. Some need detailed, well researched plans. Others jump in, get clients and are rolling before they’ve even decided what business they choose to be in. Then there is everyone in between.
For some, planning dampens their enthusiasm, for others, it’s an absolute necessity. Regardless, the planning process itself is a great exercise, pushing the business owner to develop clarity and goals in key areas.
Where it gets interesting in my opinion, is after the plan is finished. How is it used? Is it used at all? Does it prove to be a guiding light or a rigid limiter?
For one to adhere to very detailed plans, the business owner, the organization and the plan have to be well aligned. The plan should be reviewed and revised regularly, quarterly or monthly, so that congruency remains intact.
For the non-planner types, a business blueprint provides vision, structure and general form. It’s a useful framework, providing structure, direction and purpose, while leaving plenty of room to shift and create over time.
Here are some key components of a business blueprint that can serve as the foundation for your developing business:
1. Your Vision – There is something you envision when you go into business. Capture that vision on paper. Why are you driven to be in business at all? Who do you serve and how? At its future best, what does it all look like as it plays out?
Specificity in your vision is key. This is the “down the road” snapshot that you hold in your mind as the prize. The plan is designed to help you reach this vision, so the clearer the vision, the more helpful the plan.
2. The Why – Document and regularly remind yourself of why this vision matters to you. Your “big why” is any reason you have that is meaningful enough to drive you through challenges and difficult times. Identify your most significant reasons for being in business and remind yourself of why you are willing to do what it takes to recommit each day.
3. Unique Brilliance – Your unique brilliance is that special life force that you bring to your business that makes it authentically you and gives it power. If you examine what you have always loved (from childhood), attach words or qualities to it, you have something truly special that brands and differentiates your business because of the qualities you bring.
Your brilliance isn’t a technique or skill, it’s a talent that emanates from you and permeates your work. For example, a unique brilliance statement might be: “I spark innovation.” Keep it simple yet powerful. Think of Walt Disney. I believe his childlike imagination was his unique brilliance, and look how that played out.
4. A Stand – What is an overarching principle of your business? Are you taking a stand for something in your business that transcends the products and services? State what you stand for that is expressed through your business. For example, “I am a stand for people communicating effectively to make the world a more harmonious place.”
5. Expertise – What are you an expert at? This is still aimed at the business owner, but is more related to the work he/she is doing. What expertise do you have (and should your team have) that will drive the business forward. An example might be, “I am an expert at making people beautiful.” This expertise will be used in the business and in the branding.
6. Brand Values – Identify the brand promise you are making to the market you serve. This is the promise of an experience they can expect to have when working with you regardless of the product or service. What values are necessary to provide that consistent experience? As an example, consider Four Seasons Hotels and the experience you have there whether you stay in a suite or just have dinner in the bar.
7. Target Niche – Who specifically is your ideal customer? Choose as narrow a niche as you can so your marketing can be very targeted and specific. This is not intended to turn people away, but to give you as clear a picture as you can get of the client or customer who is best served by what you have to offer and your expertise. These are the people you need to speak to in your messaging as they will be most willing to engage.