Brainstorming Your Business Plan

Before you jump into starting your business head-first, you need to have a plan. Putting together a business plan will help you create a solid framework around your business idea, and take it from idea to bona fide business.

Writing out a business plan from scratch can seem daunting, but it’s just putting on paper the answers you’ve already started thinking about. A good business plan includes:

Hammering out these strategies at the beginning will help you visualize your business in more detail, and chart a course for getting started.

The first step in formulating your plan is brainstorming how you’ll approach each aspect of your business. To get started, you’ll need to answer these six questions:

Why is your business uniquely qualified to succeed?

Your entire business plan should set about answering this. You’ll dig into this in your executive summary, where you’ll articulate how the rest of your business plan proves your business has what it takes to succeed.

To answer this question, you’ll need to consider what you offer, what your competitors offer, and how you can widen the gap between the two. For example, your business might:

Where do you want your business to go?

What will your business look like in 5-10 years? How will it grow and evolve? What greater purpose are you working toward? Your business plan should include a company analysis that touches on your mission, company description, and any successes you’ve had so far (if you aren’t just getting started).

You have a pretty solid idea around where you want your business to go. After all, it’s the vision that’s been pushing you to start a business in the first place. Now’s the time to develop your vision even further and formulate it into your company mission statement. A mission statement is simply a sentence (or a few) telling why you’re in business.

For example, National Public Radio’s (NPR) mission statement is: “To work in partnership with member stations to create a more informed public – one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas and cultures.”

In just a few words, their mission statement boils down the underlying mission that drives everything NPR does as a company.

Who are your customers?

Now it’s time to start getting a little more practical – after all, if you can’t make money with this idea, then it’s only a hobby. Determining who will use your product is vital to rolling out the rest of your strategy.

You want to brainstorm all the information about your target customer – from age, gender, and location to income and leisure activities. Eventually, you’ll create a persona (or a few) that embodies who your ideal customer is.

Next, you’ll think about other factors: How will you reach these people? How much are they willing to pay for your product? This will lead you to your market strategies. You’ll also analyze the market itself – including size and competition.

What about employees?

Will you need to hire employees from the get-go, or can you handle things by yourself for a while? When it’s time to hire, what will your needs be? What skills and knowledge will you need to build on your own?

Brainstorming these questions will start to give shape to your management plan. It might not be super clear right away, but try to imagine what this will look like given your best, moderate, and worst case scenarios.

How many locations?

You’re probably not going to launch by opening a hundred stores, but what do you see down the line? What will your expansion strategy be – saturate your local market and then expand out? Establish a small presence in each state? Focus on a few shops and license your name?

Looking ahead to where you’ll operate and how you’ll approach expansion will start to give shape to your operations plan. You’ll also consider factors like office space, production, and personnel.

What level of revenues and profits do you foresee?

It can be hard to imagine what revenue and profits will look like before you’ve even started your business, but it’s important to start thinking about the realistic financials you can expect. Having reasonable projections and expectations will help you show investors your potential. You’ll get to these in the financial factors section of your business plan.

Your projections will be based on market size, pricing strategy, and anticipated market share, among other factors. Since finances can vary – and overly optimistic or pessimistic projections are a red flag to investors – you’ll want to think about creating best, moderate, and worst case scenarios.


Now that you’ve started thinking about all the factors that go into writing your business plan, the rest of this course will delve deeper into actually composing each section, and eventually, putting it all together.

To get all of your thoughts in order, download the accompanying worksheet and take note of your ideas. You’ll have all the initial information you need and be well on your way to having a completed business plan.

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