How to start a business: 7-step guide + business plan template
In order to build a thriving business you need a simple business plan that will set you up for success.
Do you want to build a fulfilling business that is financially stable and gives you the freedom to live on your own terms?
If so, then get ready to dive into my simple 7-business plan plus complimentary business plan template.
I’ve borrowed principles from multiple disciplines — strategy, psychology, and more — to develop a simplified business plan that will set you up for success.
This guide is the first in a collection of posts that will introduce you to the entire business plan framework I use with my coaching clients so you understand the most critical components of a successful business.
7-Step Business Plan
Preparation and intention: developing a growth mindset
Persona and focus area: attracting your perfect customers
Positioning: creating a unique value proposition (USP)
Product strategy: creating high value products and services
Pricing strategy: pricing your products and services
Presence and presentation: branding your business
Promotional plan: marketing your business
Financial plan: building wealth with your business (bonus step)
A caveat before getting into the guide: don’t use it as a crux. Often entrepreneurs get stuck in a rut when they focus too much on planning than on execution.
There are many things about entrepreneurship you won’t learn until you actually become a business owner. One of them is knowing that failure is a requisite for success.
There will be obstacles and setbacks that even the most comprehensive business plan won’t prepare you for. So set a deadline for getting your plan in place then start implementing!
1. Preparation and Intention: Developing a Growth Mindset
At the core of any successful business is a clear vision about what exactly you want: what you want to create, the compensation you desire in return for the value you add, and how exactly you will make it all happen.
For independent business owners this is especially important because there's likely no clean divide between your personal life and business life. In fact, your personal goals, ideas, and talents likely inspired you to start a business in the first place.
I strongly believe that personal growth and business growth go hand-in-hand and building a successful six-figure business means developing the right mindset — a growth mindset.
A growth mindset is an underlying system of positive beliefs about your ability to develop and succeed. This type of mindset puts you in the best position to create a clear business vision or purpose, chart a set path or process to achieving it, and overcome any obstacles that stunt your progress.
In fact, I won't agree to coach a new client if I don't believe they have a growth mindset because I know that the odds of success — including reaching the six-figure mark — are significantly lower without it.
Learn more about how to develop a growth mindset.
2. Persona and Focus Area: Attracting Your Perfect Customers
Solopreneurs should be very specific about who they are and who they want to serve with their work. This clarity will draw you to your perfect customer and them to you.
Your perfect customer is the one whose needs and wants are aligned with your purpose, what you want to create, and the value you want to add — the one who you know your business can deliver outstanding results for.
With a perfect customer in mind you’ll be able to build what I call a persona — a detailed representation of this person that will help you get better at attracting and adding the most value to them.
If you are spending a disproportionate amount of time and effort trying to find customers for your business to no avail it is likely because you've missed this key step.
Clarifying who is the best fit for you and luring them in is a more effortless way to grow a six-figure business than desperately running after ill-fitted customers who won't be loyal to you or evolve your business over the long run.
Learn more about how to attract the perfect customers.
3. Positioning: Creating a Unique Value Proposition (USP)
With a clear understanding of your perfect customer, you can start to refine your approach and flush out how you can uniquely add value.
At this stage in the business plan you are ready to define your USP (unique selling proposition). The key here is to develop a laser sharp vision of who you are, what you offer, and how it differentiates from other peers in your field.
In other words you need to answer for yourself what every customer will be thinking before they decide to support you: why you?
This is why it’s so important to have a persona — you simply can’t be everything to everyone. The USP forces you to take a stance and will result in succinct messaging that resonates with your target.
Learn more about how to develop a unique selling proposition.
4. Product Strategy: Creating High Value Products and Services
So now you know what value you add and to whom. What's next? You can begin to think about about the best way to deliver that value for maximum affect.
This is your business model and the key to your ability to make money. In this step of the plan you should refine your model and carefully craft your products or services accordingly.
Having a few options available in terms of how you deliver value also helps diversify your income. Options give your customers choice and help you extend your resources.
Most important is that you figure out what types of products and services work best in solving your customers' needs so they deeply value your work and keep coming back for more.
Learn more about how to create valuable products.
5. Pricing Strategy: Pricing Your Products and Services
With your products and services in place you can walk through a pricing exercise to determine your rates. There are a few elements that go into pricing but the three most important to consider are:
your personal income needs and goals
what the market is for comparable products and services
what your perfect customers are able and willing to pay
You may have to do a bit of research and surveying but it shouldn't be difficult coming up with baseline figures that support your business model (i.e. the ability to cover your expenses and be profitable).
On top of those baseline figures you should think long and hard about the value you are adding to ensure you do don't underestimate your worth.
From my personal experience starting businesses as well as coaching entrepreneurs, the big issue isn't overpricing but devaluing your offering and making it available for much lower than what it could actually demand.
You can't serve your customers if you can't support yourself which is one of the reasons why reaching the six-figure milestone is so important. I urge my coaching clients to determine an exact figure for what they need to survive and thrive as a business owner and create and price their work accordingly.
Learn more about how to price your products.
6. Presence and Presentation: Branding Your Business
My entire livelihood is built around my personal brand and it has been the single most important contributor to my success as a business coach and entrepreneur.
I also work closely with entrepreneurs, small business owners, coaches, and creatives to help build their digital presence and online reputations, establish credibility and thought leadership in their field, and be the face and voice of their business.
From this experience, as well as my past career overseeing digital brand strategy for iconic brands, I’ve come to realize that there’s no consensus when it comes to what branding is, why it’s important, and how to do it right.
Some perceive branding as a nice-to-have exercise but not really something you need to devote much time or energy to in the grand scheme of things.
Others deem it as important but place it squarely in the “design” category and completely disregard the need for strategy.
There are many misunderstandings and misconceptions that prevail as it pertains to branding. It's important to dispel these myths and gain a complete picture of how you want your perfect customers to perceive so you don’t downplay or mismanage a process that can catapult your business to the six-figure level.
Learn more about how to brand your business.
7. Promotional Plan: Marketing Your Business
With almost all the important elements of your business in place, last but certainly not least is your marketing plan.
You can't just build and expect people to come. You've got to put a mechanism in place that helps you lure your perfect customers.
There are no shortage of marketing tactics but not all of them are right for you and your effort is best spent focusing on only one or two at a time.
For brand new entrepreneurs tapping into your existing network is a great way to start getting business, while more established entrepreneurs can amplify word of mouth through a referral program.
However, for all entrepreneurs — new and established — I'm a firm believer that you must have a content-driven sales funnels. This is one of the most powerful promotional methods for capturing and nurturing leads.
Learn more about how to market your business.
8. Financial plan: building wealth with your business (bonus step)
As an entrepreneur, the core of what you do is centered around building wealth — from the initial investment you make in your idea to the point you turn a profit, and beyond.
We’ve included this 8th bonus step as it is critical to be on stop of your business finances and develop a sound financial plan for yourself as well as your business.
Learn more about how to build wealth in your business.
take inspired action
Explore the entire business plan series to walk through the full strategy for starting and growing a thriving business.
Need more help starting or growing your business? Set up a complimentary session and learn how business coaching can provide the support you need to move forward.