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When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. And that could not be more true in terms of your business. Having a detailed business plan is key to ensuring your business’s success.
But how do you even create one? And how long does it have to be? These are questions all entrepreneurs have had at one point or another. Lucky for us, Emma Bates can shed light on this topic.
Emma Bates has been juggling kids, cash, and chaos for years now. She runs a successful blog, works as a virtual assistant, and coaches moms who wish to become business owners while staying home with their kids. Her website is a treasure trove of truly valuable resources from discovering your passion to creating a simple business plan, from technology tips to legal protection considerations.
How She Got Started
Six years ago, after having her child, she started randomly baking for her local farmers’ market, and people loved the granola she made. They would call ahead of time and ask her to reserve some for them.
The business grew so big she had to rent commercial kitchen space. She was selling her granola wholesale, and it became quite successful. But it took up all her time and she wasn’t home very much. She ended up selling that business a few years ago and decided she would take all that knowledge of running a small business (and hiring employees) and start a blog.
Her target market consists of moms, people who are interested in starting a business, and small business owners. She has everyone from those who make products, soaps, or food products to people who are virtual assistants — pretty much anyone who’s interested in running a successful business.
How to Create a ONE-PAGE Business Plan
Emma says instead of thinking of a business plan as a long fifty-page document, it’s better (and easier) to think of it as setting goals for your business. It’s a way to think about the future of your business — where you want to go — and it’s also a way to really think about who your customer is and how your product is going to help them.
Focus on the content and not the length!
When thinking of a new business, Emma will sit down and think through these questions. You have to know where you’re going, how to pivot, and what changes need to be made. When you’re just starting out, you’re just going with the flow, but where you start is not where you will always end up.
Emma recommends everybody sit down at the start of their business and at least yearly after that, or semi-annually, to review and think about the future of their business. Most small businesses starting out do not require a huge business plan. A small one-page business plan will suffice. When you need to borrow money or find investors, that is when you need to prove your financials.
Business plans are great if you work with physical products, but they’re also great for online businesses as well.
You can date your business plan, put it in a binder, and the next page will be when you next review it — almost like you’re scrapbooking. It’s a single page journal that you update every three to six months when you’re first starting.
It’s great to look back and see how you’ve changed, and what your goals are, especially as your mindset shifts as you grow your business and see results.
Avoid Overwhelm by Starting Small
It’s important to start small with a business plan. Sometimes people will start out thinking they need that fifty-page business plan because they’ll be comparing themselves with someone who’s three, six, even ten years into their own business. This can even cause them to have a mindset of “never getting there” and then suddenly they stop before they even start.
Emma says this happens a lot with moms. Moms are pulled in so many different directions trying to keep everybody in their family on the same page. There’s always a million things to do. They can get discouraged thinking they cannot fit a business in their lives because it would have to be a huge thing, and it doesn’t have to be.
Moms can start a virtual assistant business for little to no money.
My advice is to go on your personal Facebook and put some feelers out for people who could use your services. You should be specific with your ask. You can get specific and ask them what they’re struggling with. Ask them what their biggest annoyance in their life is and offer a solution.
When people tell me they have no business skills and are desperate to make money, I recommend starting out as a personal assistant to somebody. You can work locally or at home offering personal assistant services. You can do for someone what you’re already doing in your everyday life: file paperwork, organize documents and photos, scrapbooking, etc.
When you make enough, you can invest in more skills to earn more.
Emma recalls getting her first client from her personal Facebook page. She created a little website, posted a link, and offered her services: creating websites, help with social media and newsletters. Her husband’s uncle saw that and became her first client.
Not sure how to create your website? Check out this step-by-step tutorial!
It really is that simple. It’s not big and scary. Anybody can do it. Emma still offers some services in addition to her own blogging tasks. Her clients find her because once you make a name for yourself, you don’t have to market as much anymore.
Her blogging income has surpassed her virtual assistance income, but both are her main sources of income at this point. She prefers blogging and not having a boss.
New Business Owner Mistakes
Aside from not having a business plan, there are two other major mistakes business owners make. Emma says the first one is not having your perfect customer defined. Whether it’s your avatar, customer, or client, people stay too general and don’t go about it the correct way.
For example, she’s seen people with products, and they market it for children. That’s who they put as their customer, but that’s not who’s buying the product. Parents or grandparents are buying it. So you have to appeal to the user of the item and the one who is purchasing.
The second major mistake new business owners make is thinking more about what they want out of the business rather than what they can give people with the business.
I call this flipping the switch.
We think when we go into business that our number one goal is to make money and to solve our own problems. The reality is when we focus on solving other people’s problems, our financial problems just go away naturally.
So if we want to make money, we can help other people make more money by helping alleviate problems in their lives. If you solve actual problems for other people, then you make money. You provide value. You make money. That’s all there is to it, and it’s a relationship thing. People forget that all the time. It’s transactional.
Learning new skills will lead to confidence. People need to learn skills and be willing to invest in themselves.
There’s this fixed mentality versus the growth mentality.
It doesn’t matter if you have obsolete skills, there is always a way to improve and learn new skills.
What It Means to Fail
If you still doubt that you can start a business, Emma’s advice is, “Don’t be afraid of failure.” She’s failed plenty of times and says it’s probably one of the best learning experiences she’s had. She failed at starting an online store but learned a lot from it.
Don’t be afraid of failure because you are going to fail at some point; the most important thing is to get out there and try. You might not figure it out perfectly the first time, but you can try again.
Is failure a real thing if you’ve gained something out of it? I tend to look at failure as a stepping-stone. I failed at starting an online store and even lost money on the project. It ended up being something I didn’t want to do, but I learned how to use Shopify.
I learned how to set up an entire online store, so I don’t look at that as a failure. I look at that as a learning experience. There’s no such thing as failure. There’s only learning.
It’s all about mindset again. If the reason you’re not starting is failure, you can only fail if you give up.
A big mistake I see people make is they wait until they figure out what they’re passionate about before they start. So they’re waiting and waiting and waiting for this passion bus to come along, and they just see things come and go. They’ll see people on buses who might not be on the right bus, but at least they’re going somewhere whereas they’re just sitting waiting for a bus that may or may not come, and they’re going nowhere.
To have motivation, traction, momentum, you have to actually go somewhere.
How to START Your Business
If you want to find out how to start a busy without getting overwhelmed, check out Work-At-Home School.