If you don’t have a business plan, you don’t have a business. And few people know business plans better than Bill Litchman, an experienced strategic planning consultant with a globetrotting career working for startups, huge companies, and everything in between. He has written countless business plans during his long career.
Litchman will speak Wednesday, April 30, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Urban Business Accelerator at 354 South Broad Street, Trenton, in a free Princeton SCORE talk. For more information, visit www.princetonscore.org.
Litchman tells potential clients who want to grow a business to make sure these three conditions are fulfilled: 1.) It is essential. 2.) They have a passion for business and 3.) They have a skill set, or a team with a skill set, that can implement the business plan successfully.
“The passion and skill set are really important,” Litchman says. “Without them, you are going to have some difficulty.” If you have all this, you’re ready to write a business plan.
Understand your products and services, and how you will deliver them: “It may seem trivial, but it’s not,” Litchman says “When they write down what their products and services are, they will have a better understanding of where they want to go.” That includes understanding who the target market is — a product will be marketed very differently if it’s for millionaires or middle-class workers.
Understand your competition: If you think you have few competitors, you are probably wrong. “You have to understand who your main competitors are,” Litchman says. “Somebody, or somebodies out there are offering something similar to what you’re doing. You may be doing it in a different way, but they are still competitors.”
What’s so special about you? A good business plan answers the question, why should someone buy from me? “If you can’t answer that question then you have a problem,” Litchman says. “You should have a crystal clear idea of how your product or service is different.” Differentiation comes in many forms, including price. However, Litchman doesn’t recommend trying to undercut established companies on price, since big competitors can afford to take losses to win a price war with an upstart rival.
Brand new business: Litchman says a business plan should take branding into account from the outset, and promote the company’s brands to its target market. When doing this, Litchman recommends realizing that nothing is free, even if it doesn’t cost any dollars, since it includes an investment of time. Measure your marketing performance and kill unsuccessful efforts so they don’t take up too much of your time.