By Eren Simpson
Charlotte has become a city of entrepreneurs, and if you’re one of the many out there waiting to capitalize on your great idea, there are some things you need to know before pitching your idea to investors.
“The biggest problems I see with people is really understanding that you’re turning this idea into a business,” said Beth Zeuch Schneider, doctor of business administration, assistant professor of strategy at Queen University’s McColl School of Business.
Schneider has taught strategy, entrepreneurship and management for more than 20 years, and has business experience in the manufacturing, insurance and real estate industries. She has owned and operated restaurant and retail businesses, and still works as a small business consultant.
Schneider said that often, people don’t think about all of the different pieces that go into creating a business plan, which is essential in getting an idea off the ground.
“Planning is a road map for your business,” Schneider said. “Planning provides direction and guidance for decision-making along the journey, and a plan is also essential for internal and external stakeholders. Hopes and dreams are good, but make them concrete.”
To help budding entrepreneurs, Schneider offered five tips for how to create an effective plan:
- Clarify your personal goals. What do you want to do? Where do you want to go? Where do you want the business to go?
- Do research. Know where you and your company/idea are now. Gain as much insight and understanding as possible on market trends, competitors, customers, opportunities and threats that come from external environments.
- Seek help. No matter how experienced you think you are, you need input, feedback, ideas and criticism from other sources/experts.
- Design your plan based on your research.
- Do continuous review. Your business plan is a living document. Adjust, revise, realign … what is true today might not be true tomorrow.
And here are five things you want to include in your business plan:
- Clear objectives. What, why and how are you going to do it? How will the business evolve, and where will it be in two, five, 10 years and beyond?
- Clarity of product/services. It is important to know what you are doing and what you are not doing, so you can position your business for sustained success.
- Identification and definition of your target market. Know who your market is, prove there is demand, define what customers want and how can you create value for them and what marketing approaches/tactics will be needed.
- Realistic financial projections. You must have a realistic assessment of market size and potential market share and information-based cost estimates. How much will you need to start and sustain the business?
- Action plan. How will you implement the plan and make it a reality?
Schneider said that overall, the most important things are to have a clear objective and know your market and have the data and financial information to back it up, because investors are looking for a return on investment.
And while someone may have a great idea, he or she may lack that natural business sense. But Schneider said there are tons of free resources available to entrepreneurs at such places as state and city offices and entrepreneurial incubators such as Charlotte SCORE and Packard Place, and that no one should undergo this process alone.
“If you’ve got a tremendous idea, you need to get the feedback and support from the people who can help you,” Schneider said. “You shouldn’t be doing it on your own. You need support and you need resources, connections and networking.”