One of the biggest advantages of being a solo-professional in the hyper-dynamic marketplace is the ability to quickly make decisions that adapt to changing conditions.
The value of your business plan is not its weight in paper, but rather in the clarity of the thinking at its core. Too many solo-professionals get stalled by their business plan, because they get caught up in details that are eventually inconsequential to their desired result or overtaken by events in the real world.
To make good decisions in a quickly changing environment, a clear strategy, based on simple principles, provides better guidance than a plan that is thick, detailed and difficult to adjust. By cutting out the fluff and focusing on six core questions, you can create a concise, dynamic template that will clarify the core of your success strategy for yourself and your colleagues.
The purpose of a clear, concise two-page business plan for solo-professionals, is to demonstrate that:
1. that your business project can make money,
2. that you can attract and serve clients who value what you have to offer and who can commit to you, and
3. that you are clear about what the resources you need and the actions to take.
When you can make your case using brief, precise statements, then you will be able to transform your passion into profit.
Set aside your old business plan brick and answer each of the following questions in a couple of sentences:
1. What is the key, compelling result you create for your client?
People don’t buy your product or service, they invest in the results that your product or service provides for them. Describe your business in terms of the impact you make on your customer, how their life is changed for the better. Aim for the impact with the greatest value. Keep it simple, go for the WOW. In reading your statement, the response should be “this is something I gladly would spend my own energy, time and money for!”
Bonus points if you can state your compelling result in ONE sentence, 10 words or less.
2. How do you generate profit?
A successful business must have, at its core, a profit engine, where you input your products and services and the client inputs their investment of time, money and attention, and both of you benefit. What is your “value proposition”? A strong value proposition is a tight, focused mechanism that involves an offer, a customer, a consideration (money, time, effort commitment), to create the compelling result. How is this effect created? How do customers invest in it? Where do you generate your income, and your profit?
What is the reason why customers care that you exist? What is your long-term value proposition that will keep customers coming back again and again? Or that will create a permanent, powerful and positive change in the client’s situation?
Is your value proposition scalable (i.e. can you quickly grow the number of customers without adding appreciably to costs)? Are there multiple points where customers can interface with you?
Note that your value proposition must focus on something other than reducing a customer’s costs or saving money, because this is only a temporary advantage.
The simpler your value proposition, the simpler your profit engine, the sooner you can generate revenue, and the more successful you will be.
3. What can get in your way?
You can bet that at least five other people in the world are working on the same idea as you. How will you anticipate the obstacles that can slow you down:
– who has a business who can make the need for your product or service evaporate?
– where can you be blocked or sideswiped (technology, legislation, economy, environment)
– by what alternative ways can customers can achieve similar results?
In a couple of sentences each, identify the primary traps and how you can overcome them. Be brief and to the point.
4. What is your secret sauce?
What makes you THE go-to person for what you have to offer? What are the most compelling features that make you stand out from everyone else? How are your advantages something that make it difficult or impossible for someone to copy? Think long and hard about your answer to this question, because the more special your “secret sauce”, the stronger your business will be.
5. Who is involved with you to make this happen?
Your partnering strategy can make or break your execution. Partners can give you the weight and leverage you need to make a big impact fast. What kind of partners and team do you need to make this happen? How quickly can you spool up your idea? How much are you going to do in house, and how much outsourcing? Who is in charge of what?
6. What is your next step to build your business, and what do you need to make it happen?
Be very specific about the next step you are taking, and what resources you need to make it happen. Have specific 90-day, 6-month, 12-month and 36-month goals.
Remember: keep each response short and powerful. Cut out the fluff and get to the good stuff. Your answers to these six questions should fit on the front and back of one standard letter-sized sheet at 10 to 12 point font. Bonus points if you only need one side.