Solid Foundations Business Plan
The Solid Foundations Business Plan is an 8-step, start up business plan template that will give you a highly focused overview of your business strategy. It is designed to help you plan the future direction of your business and shouldn’t take more than 30 mins to complete.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
Why You Need A Business Plan
To grow your business and take your earnings to the next level with a clear direction and roadmap for you, your employees and your life, a business plan is essential.
Often the reason businesses aren't successful is because they don't have a clear goal, clear vision and idea of what to focus on.
The most common reason most construction trade businesses in Ireland don’t have a business plan is that they think it’s too complicated.
The Solid Foundations Business Plan is designed to make it easy for you to get you thinking about your business's future and to help you focus on what you really want to do.
This business plan will help get you started in the right direction by building a solid foundation with which to build your business upon.
1) Your Destination
Most small business owners get so caught up in the day-to-day problems that they lose sight of where they want to go and why they started a business in the first place. Did you have an end result, a vision of what you want your business to look like in 20 years? Maybe you had a vague idea of retirement and living comfortably in your later years.
Whatever it is, I want you to start thinking about this and write down your ideal destination in terms of your business goals. I like to start at the end as It helps you focus and will give you something to work towards while achieving your dream.
Unfortunately, without a plan and a vision of the end goal, a large number of small business owners will struggle, or end up living on a month by month basis.
By starting with your destination, and a clear vision of what you want to achieve, you will be able to start working on a roadmap to get you there.
2) Customer Problem/Your Solution
I really want you to think about this section more than simply saying to yourself for example: “people need a carpenter, and I am a carpenter!”
Let’s break it down into 3 sections. What's your product or service? Who will buy it? And why should people buy from me?
First, the “what”. Using the example question above, yes you are a carpenter, but we can get more specific than that. Break down your service into a niche you want to specialise in and really focus on that. So you might be a carpenter specialising in high end kitchen design. Then that is what your service is.
Who will buy these high end kitchens of yours? What age are they? Are they large families? Does one parent stay at home and look after the kids and cook most of the meals? Maybe they are more rural and don’t eat out as much as city based homeowners so they need a bigger kitchen workspace. You get the picture.
Why would your ideal customer buy from you and not your competition? If you cannot clearly explain to your potential customers why you are the best bespoke kitchen carpenter out there, then they will view you as the same as the rest and compare your quote with the others, ultimately going for the lowest price.
You need to define your unique selling proposition and be clear to yourself as well as the customer why they should go for you over the competition even if you have a higher price.
3) Your Ideal Customer
Following on from the last step, you now need to focus on exactly who your ideal customer is. These are the people you are providing a service to, or selling your product to, and for that reason we need to clearly define them.
It is very easy to get trapped in a cycle of trying to be everything to everybody and spreading yourself too thin. Doing so will lead to burnout and failure. Who, what and where are important questions to consider to keep you on track in the right way.
Clearly identifying your ideal customer.
If you have been in business for a while you probably have already encountered at least one customer that you wish you had a hundred just like. The one customer who made it easy to deal with, work for and paid you quickly with no messing around. Even if you haven’t started out in business just yet, you probably have an image of this customer. It is a great exercise for any business to work on who these people are and build personas for them. Marketeers will tell you it is an essential part of what they do. They envision different personas and imagine different ways to connect and attract these personas. You need to do the same. Imagine who these people are (demographics, location, needs) and how you might attract them and then write it all down. .
This means really understanding and defining what your business does best based on your skills, and where your opportunities will be.
You might be a carpenter who focuses on residential projects or furniture building. You might even go further and realise that you love building bespoke high end kitchens so you decide to make this your niche and double down on this opportunity. This means ignoring the other carpentry opportunities that come your way and focusing on the profitable opportunities in bespoke kitchens. This is what successful businesses do.
Finding that ideal customer.
How are you going to find that ideal customer, or better still how are they going to find you? If high end bespoke carpentry focusing on kitchens is your speciality niche, then wasting your time on leaflet drops in neighbourhoods that contain mostly student accommodation and rentals will be a waste of your time and money.
Think about where your ideal customer is (Facebook, or local shops, restaurants etc) and meet them there by having your company name well positioned there.
4) Your Sales Pitch
When was the last time someone asked you in a conversation just what it is that you do? If you don’t have a short, clear answer prepared, you can sometimes be thrown off and stumble to answer. You always want to give your best impression no matter who you talk to (they might be your ideal customer after all!). So having a short clear explanation on what you do will help.
This section will help you develop that 30 second sales pitch that you can use to get your ideal customers interested.
You are going to be able to clearly explain your business and the problem you solve, why you are unique and a stand out option from the competition, and what the potential customer can do if they want to find out more.
Think of it like the shiniest fishing lure in the sea. You want the fish to take a bite of your lure and ignore the rest.
5) SWOT Analysis
A SWOT analysis is a strategy for assessing four aspects of your business. It’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
What is it that your business does that makes you stand out against the competition? Is there a specific skill that defines you? It might be something like your people skills and relatability. Perhaps once potential customers get talking to you they relate to you and simply like you more than your competition. Or maybe your carpentry is second to none. Whatever it is, you need to find out what your strengths are, make note of them and think of ways you can leverage them when dealing with potential customers.
Whether we like it or not, everyone and every business has some weaknesses which could result in mistakes being made which have knock on effects. It could be that your time management isn't great, or maybe you might not be great at keeping track of your job expenses or it could be something like the quality of the equipment you use. There will be one or more areas that you can improve on and are considered weaknesses in your business. You need to know them so that you can either avoid situations where your weaknesses come to light, or you can take steps to improve them.
Are your competitors all online with good websites and social media presence? If not that is an opportunity for you. Maybe there is a specific type of work which your competitors don’t do and you could easily include in your services. You need to explore the opportunities around you and see which ones you could easily take advantage of and grow your business.
A threat to your business could come from your competition upping their skills or providing new services, or it could come from unhappy employees leaving or being poached by your competition. You should take steps to understand the threats to your business and how you can turn these threats around altogether if possible.
6) Daily Operation & Processes
In principle and perhaps on paper, running a business should be pretty simple.
When you pair it back to basics, the three legged stool or tripod analogy is very useful. You sell your work. Do the work. And you keep your records. These are the three legs.
The difficult part of business is keeping that stool or tripod strong and sturdy. One or two of the legs can get weak at times and may even fall over.
You may have a diary full of upcoming work projects but not enough staff members to get them done on time. Or, you may not have enough work coming in for your staff. Or, you have the jobs coming in thick and fast, and the employees to do it but the problem is you haven’t been keeping track of receipts, jobs costs and quotes so your profitability suffers as a result. Your jobs might not be invoiced on time causing you to hit a wall in terms of end of the month payments.
This basic operation plan template will help you to look at each area of your daily business operations and make sure that your stool stays strong all year round. You need to clearly identify what needs to be done and who is responsible for doing it.
Imagine this scenario; You get a call to say that you have just won a 2-week all-expense-paid trip to Thailand!
The only catch is you have to leave next Monday. A lot of small businesses would struggle to be able to go on the holiday at such short notice because they know that their businesses would not be able to run without them. For example, they need to man the phones, reply to emails, do the actual work, deal with customers and potential customers and pay the bills to name only some of the essential processes which need managing. There is always something to be done.
So you should take the time to create systems and processes which help their business to continue its daily operations without you when needed. Now I know that there is not a realistic substitute for an actual carpenter for example, but having written processes for all critical business operations where the steps for each task are outlined and clearly defined, as well as each person's responsibilities highlighted, are a must.
This will not happen overnight, and it can only be done by a business person who knows their business inside out and has planned for the future.
In a nutshell, marketing is all about knowing your customers or potential customers, and building relationships with them with a view to them purchasing your service. So, everything we have covered in this solid foundations business plan is part of your marketing plan.
There are several different types of marketing plans, and your business will likely need a combination of them to grow in the future. But for the purposes of this foundational business plan, we are just going to focus on how your customers will hear about your business and service.
Have a think about advertising your business on social media, and which social platforms will you use? Will you have a website? What about leaflet drops, and advertising on print media like magazines? Would that work for your business or is there more potential online? You will be able to answer these questions when you have a clear picture of your ideal client and have detailed information about who they are.
I would say that in today’s world, everything is already, or is moving online, and that is where the potential customers are.
When you have an idea of how to get in front of your ideal customers, you will need the help of someone who can put your unique marketing plan together.
8) Business Model
At this stage in the business plan you should have a better picture of your overall idea and what needs to be addressed.
In this final section of our Solid Foundations Business Plan you need to think about:
What you will charge your customers
How you will get paid by customers
Do you need funding for your business?
What you charge is something only you should know, and only after you do some research into your costs and the market value of what you are providing. What is your competition charging? How much do materials cost you? What are all of your overheads?
How are you going to get paid? Do you have a business bank account set up yet? If you have a website, does it have the ability to take payments online? Do you accept cash and if you do what do you do with the cash once you have it? Do you have a safe?
Do you need a cash injection to get your business going? Do you have to go to the bank for a loan or are there grants available which you can avail of?
You can download the solid foundations business plan below.
I encourage you to print it out a few times so that you can become more experienced writing a business plan, and it will get you into the mindframe of long term planning.
We hope this explanation of each section was helpful.
Best of luck with your business, we know this plan will set you up for success!