In my line of work, I’ve seen many clients with brilliant products and huge potential in their businesses.

This is usually how things starts for them:

– I’m great at painting :)

– Everyone loves my paintings!

– I can sell these and make a decent business out of it

– Let’s call it Peter Paints!

– Maybe I can sell my paintings over a website?

– Ok, I can put $10K in this business

– I have to call my designer to talk about this e-commerce website RIGHT NOW!

Yes, you have to call me right now. But No, what you need is not a website.

Fact is, there are a lot of determining factors to a successful business and a huge part of it lies in you getting started on the right track. What a lot of aspiring business owners would deem important such as being the best guy in town at providing a certain service, or having discovered a product that will sell like hotcakes, are overlooking the actual importance in Business 101 which is the Research, Strategy and Planning phase.

There are a multitude of questions to ask yourself at the conception of this possibly wonderful endeavour:

– How does my industry work?

– Who are my competitors and how do they run their business?

– Who are my target audience and what are they willing to pay for?

– What are my product/service advantages?

– Can I leverage on available technology to run my business or engage my audience?

– Have I established my supply chain and business infrastructure?

– How do I market and price this product?

– What are my short term and long term goals?

…and the list goes on.

Although an extensive amount of research is required to answer some of these questions, it is a process that should not be overlooked before you dive into the development of your brand name, brand logo, website and marketing materials.

In contrast, the first things a startup entrepreneur would normally think of are:

– Brand/Company Name

– What the logo would look like

– Website URL/domain name

– Special features of the product/service

– Packaging design

While these are important milestones to consider down the road, they are not the first concerns for a startup business before a plan on your business model and strategy is in place. Many a times, after an assessment of our clients’ business requirements, a typical $10k budget for designing an e-commerce website might not be spent this way if what they need first is actually a brand identity and content strategy.

No two businesses are alike and very often, your starting point in business varies from other entrepreneurs depending on your available resources, affiliates and funds. The business plan is a critical tool that sets the stage for all the fundamentals of a company: Business model, idea, structure, finances, etc.

It is a dynamic process to start a business and a strategic plan is a wonderful thing that can help you take your small business to places you never thought possible. If you haven’t already done so, take the time to lay out a strategic plan now. It will help keep your small business on track and you focused on the future.

A goal without a plan is just a wish.