Every successful business venture starts with an innovative idea, and as you begin to formulate a concept, you will hopefully unravel a wide range of professional opportunities and partnerships.
However, taking an idea and turning it into a viable business plan is a significant amount of work, and Brian Mingham can attest to that. As the Founder and CEO of CFSI Loan Management, Brian has transformed CFSI into a leading nationwide construction risk mitigation firm. As a high-energy, result-oriented executive with proven experience in all aspects of start-ups and growth initiatives, Brian Mingham has identified the key steps that every entrepreneur needs to take to build a successful business. From identifying target demographics to building a business plan, he outlines everything you need to know to turn your idea into a viable business.
Test the Viability of Your Idea
If you have never considered starting a business before, Brian suggests starting with a few simple questions: What problem does my product or service solve? Does my product or service fill a niche? What sets my product or service apart from my competitors? Identifying demand is a crucial first step towards understanding whether your business idea is viable and worth exploring further. It is very easy to become infatuated with an idea when you first get started, but if it does not solve a problem for your potential customers, you will be able to build a business from it. He recommends conducting surveys to test the viability of your business idea—ideally making them anonymous to gather objective feedback. Early quantitative data like this will help you refine your business plan before you invest too many resources into it.
Identify Your Target Market
Once you have identified whether your product is viable, you now need to identify your target demographic. Outdated demographic and marketing models used to encourage businesses to reach the largest target market possible—the more people your product reaches, the better. But chances are, your product or service is not going to be for everyone, and by broadening your approach, your product or service is less likely to resonate with your target demographic. Brian Mingham suggests identifying your smallest viable market and focusing all of your efforts on creating a product that resonates with them. He suggests building a customer profile that considers geographic location, interests, age group, gender, and any other variable that makes sense for your product or service. When you start collecting data from actual customers, you can go back to this customer profile and see if it needs to be adjusted or changed.
Build a Network of Support
Before you move forward with a business plan, Brian Mingham suggests building a support network or finding a mentor to guide you through the process. Finding someone who has ‘been there, done that’ is a great way to avoid some of the pitfalls of entrepreneurship, ensuring you do not make simple mistakes. A network can also be a sounding board for your ideas, help your problem solve, and provide valuable insight into next steps.
Develop a Comprehensive Plan
If you have identified a need, a target demographic, and have acquired customer feedback through surveys, demonstrations, or samples, you can now move onto your business plan. Brian Mingham explains that this step is easily the most involved but will help you identify the feasibility of your business long-term and pitch it to potential investors. A business plan is a document describing a business, its products, or services, and how it earns money, its leadership and staffing, its financing, its operations model, and many other details essential to its success. The first section of a business plan, the executive summary, should be written last. The executive summary will summarize everything in the business plan in one page or less. The second section of your business plan is your company overview. It should answer two vital questions: Who are you? What do you do? This section will include your business structure, the nature of your business, your industry, your business mission, objectives, and your team.
Once you have completed your company overview, it is time to move onto the market analysis. The analysis will help to identify the competitive landscape, your business’s position in the market, and how big you estimate the market is for your product or service.
Be Prepared for the Unexpected
Next, the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. Brian Mingham explains that this is likely one of the most important aspects of your business plan. What are the best things about your company? What are you not so good at? The SWOT analysis helps you plan ahead, identifying weaknesses outright to ensure they do not come as a surprise further down the line. Once you have completed the SWOT analysis, you will want to build a logistics and operations plan.
A logistics and operation plan will help make your idea a reality. You will need to identify suppliers, production, facilities, equipment, shipping and fulfillment, and inventory. This section should inform the reader of your comprehensive knowledge of the supply chain, including strong contingency plans in place to cover uncertainty. All of these variables will help you identify the cost of your product or service, which brings us to the next section: the financial plan.
Ensure Adequate Funding
No matter what your product or service is, it needs to be financially feasible. You will want to include three major views of your financials, including: an income statement, a balance sheet, and a cash-flow assessment (you may also want to include financial projections!). Planning will give you a solid foundation for growth, allowing you to take deliberate next steps for your business, and see gaps in your plan before they become issues.
Lastly, Brian Mingham explains to take it one step at a time and to be patient. Building a viable, enduring, successful business takes time, so do not rush your way through it. Move through each step thoughtfully, doing your best to ask for feedback from as many people as possible.