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Plan Your Business


A plan in your head is good. A plan on paper is even better. Here are some helpful resources to help you with putting together a business plan: 

  • Find counseling in your area through the Resource Navigator. Under “Area of Assistance,” select “Starting a Business.” From there, also select “Start-Up Business Counseling" under “Specific Need."

  • Be sure to contact the Business Concierge for free market research for your business plan or to request an industry specific template for your use.

Meet with a Counselor

Several organizations throughout the state offer free one-on-one sessions with trained counselors. Counselors act as sounding boards as you move from evaluating your idea to planning your business and can address a number of start-up issues, including markets, competition, operations and your business plan. When you contact a potential counselor, be specific about what information you need and what kind of business you are starting so you can be matched with the best resource. 

Before meeting with a counselor, make note of the following: 

  • Questions from your market research

  • Concerns about how your business will operate

  • Issues about competition or location

Market Research

Before moving forward with your business idea, it’s important to complete basic research, to make sure that you have a good understanding of your total market. Many times this preliminary research is needed to obtain funding. 

There are four main areas that you should research thoroughly before starting your business. You will also want to incorporate much of this research into your business plan. 

Who is Your Customer?

Your customer description should be specific and identify their characteristics such as age, gender, location, income level, occupation, education and general demographics. It may be helpful to include your customers’ likes, dislikes, hobbies, etc. If your customer is a business, you will want to include a breakdown of the types of businesses you are targeting, industry, location, size of firm, etc.

What/Where is Your Target Market? 

Next, you will want to determine the geographic area where most of your targeted customers will be coming from. Are your customers mostly local, or will you reach out to customers nationally? Will you target customers within a 100 mile basis, or will you primarily target customers driving by your business on a daily basis? In the market area you defined, how many customers are there? 

What is the Industry Like Both Locally and Nationally?

You will also want to take a look at the condition of your industry locally and at a national level. Is the industry booming, or is it a fading fad? What is the demand for your product/service in your defined market area? 

Who is Your Competition?

What companies or products/services will be in competition with your business? List your direct competitors and compare them to your company by looking at the products/services offered, location, price, target markets served, reputation and image, customer service, marketing/advertising, and their current market share. It is also important to examine competitors that are not considered direct, but still make up a part of the market share. For example, if you owned a movie theater, a bowling alley would be considered an indirect competitor, as another location customers could spend their recreational time and money. 

Below are some additional ideas on what research you’ll need to get started: 

  • Research market potential using census data and demographic databases (who will pay for your product or service?)

  • Research production options using business databases (how will you deliver the product or service?)

  • Research patent filings (is your product or idea patented or trademarked?)

Business Model Canvas

Another way to think through and plan your business is with the Business Model Canvas

The Business Model Canvas is a strategic management and entrepreneurial tool. It allows you to describe, design, challenge, invent and pivot your business model. This concept allows anyone currently in business, or starting a new business, to think through the business model of their organization, competitors, or any other enterprise. 

The 9 building blocks of the Business Model Canvas include: 

  1. Customer Segments - For whom are we creating value? Who are our most important customers?

  2. Value Propositions - What value do we deliver to the customer? Which one of our customer’s problems are we helping to solve?

  3. Channels - How are we currently reaching out to our customer segments, and how do they want to be reached?

  4. Customer Relationships - What type of relationship does each of our customer segments expect us to establish and maintain with them? Which ones have we established and how are they integrated with the rest of our business model?

  5. Revenue Streams - For what value are our customers really willing to pay? For what do they pay currently pay and how are they paying? How much does each revenue stream contribute to overall revenues?

  6. Key Resources - What key resources do our value propositions require? Our Distribution Channels, Customer Relationships, and Revenue Streams?

  7. Cost Structure - What are the most important costs in our business model? Which key resources and key activities are most expensive?

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