A startup without a solid blueprint is like a sailor lost at sea. You can start bold and brave, as many daring entrepreneurs before you, only to lose sight of where you are heading eventually.
What I wrote above is backed by stats. As per a survey, lack of a business plan or model accounts for 17% of startup failures? (Source: Startups) – Don’t let your venture be one of them.
A blueprint is a business plan that you build for yourself. The blueprint maps out every single element essential to kickstart your business.
How do you build a startup blueprint?
In my 12 years of entrepreneurial experience, I have tried to keep things simple with entrepreneurship. Like every “simple” piece of entrepreneurship – a startup process blueprint too should be easy to understand.
For me, you do not need more than 7 steps to build a startup process blueprint. The 7 steps in sequential order should be enough to explain anyone the Here’s a 7-step entrepreneurial process behind your startup.
Here are the steps to building a startup process blueprint:
The concept of your startup may sound groundbreaking in your head, but the journey from idea to conceptualization is a long one.
The million-dollar question is – How do you bridge that gap?
I recommend all entrepreneurs to do “market research” to understand their idea better.
Market Research gives you some real facts about the demand for your product/service, current market gaps, and associated risks. Moreover, Market Research validates your business idea and strengthens the business plan.
Again taking the example of the food industry, I can go on the internet for my first level market research and search for keywords like “food delivery in India.” Google would list the top websites in my space.
All I got to do now is dwell more into the brands and learn about their operating models, challenges, revenue mechanism, and simple stuff.
The concept of market research is simple – the more you research, the better you understand your idea, which in turn will help you make “informed” decisions.
My recommendation to you is to use your market research to conceptualize an MVP by following the below steps:
- Design a useful questionnaire to find out if people are willing to pay for the problem to be resolved
- Gather relevant information from the internet and social media
- Identify gaps in the service offered by your potential competitors to find a USP (Unique Selling Point)
Goals and Objectives
Once your market research is complete, your startup has moved from idea to paper. i.e., it is no more figment of your imagination. Instead, it is a concept that has a shape.
Time to define the core aspects around which it will be built, which means you move a step further and set the vision, mission, objectives, and goals of your startup.
This step is essential as you are defining the core values of your startup as Goals and objectives. It helps you remain focused and assemble the resources of the business under one umbrella. If
your blueprint denotes where you are heading; your goals define why you are going that way.
- Goals should meet the SMART criteria (Smart, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, Time-Bound)
- Have a set of both short-term and long-term objectives
- The vision statement should capture your business’s forecasted position in future
- The mission statement underlines the core values and the purpose of your business.
Well! If you have completed the first two steps, you are onto an especially important step called “Resource Acquisition.”
By now, you have the idea, the concept, a simple market research document, and a mission/objective statement – all you got to do is now “plan your resources.”
Resources here refer to financial, human, educational, and physical resources that will be required to give shape to your venture.
So, a significant part of your business plan should be dedicated to detailing how you are going to gather them. Most importantly, elaborate on how the resources will be optimally used.
This is the step where you put on your “thinker’s hat” and start thinking like someone who will be taking crucial business decisions that will involve “money.”
(Note – The amount and quality of resources you can afford largely depend on your funding capabilities. However, it’s always best to opt for inexpensive yet effective choices to limit excessive spending).
The steps to complete the step involves:
- Identify essential resources required to operate the startup successfully
- Hire only the bare minimum number of employees required
- Focus on building relationships with industry experts and networking with your counterparts offering similar services
- Outsource raw materials from reliable suppliers
Financing and Budgeting
Cash is the lifeblood of any business. By now, you know, the resources that will be required to build your startup.
Time to do financial planning and ask yourself tough questions like – where will the money come from?
Explore all the possible options of fundraising like personal savings, venture capital funding, bank loans, crowdfunding, etc.
This is why you need a carefully budgeted startup blueprint.
The significance of this step lies in the failure rate of starts based on the reason – running out of cash. Just FYI – running out of cash is the second biggest reason why many startups come screeching to a halt (Source: CB Insights).
So, you should consider the importance of budgeting their finances seriously. It helps you cut back unnecessary expenses that startups tend to overlook and disciplines the spending habit.
So, in your road map,
- Highlight different means of raising capital for the business
- Provide a well-calculated, approximate estimate of your potential income
- Detail every expense that will be incurred both in the planning and operational stages
- Improvise methods through which you can minimize wasteful spending
That brings us to the fifth step of setting up a startup process blueprint.
Time to get your marketing act together.
Startups need to focus on a solid marketing plan that will outline effective channels to expose their brand to the targeted audience.
It should consist of actionable marketing goals and different metrics to measure their success.
Before I move forward, let me bring you across another critical survey – According to a survey by CoSchedule, successful marketers preplan, document, and organize their strategy. (Source: CoSchedule).
Your marketing strategy needs to highlight – how you plan to build a powerful brand image from the beginning. This means not only advocating for your products but also on topics that revolve around them.
In a pool of competitors, your marketing strategy is what’s going to define you from the rest. So,
- Align your marketing content to appeal to the end customer’s preferences, pain points, and expectations
- Pay attention to personalized marketing campaigns
- Build a web presence with quality content such as blog articles, videos, etc.
- Invest in paid advertisements on social media
Once you have figured out the marketing aspect-time to concentrate on “how you are going to sell the product/service.”
Your sales strategy should consider the target demographic and market size to select the most effective sales channels to reach prospects.
Your sales plan should focus on how to acquire and retain customers by understanding customer needs effectively. So,
- Always highlight the primary problem your product intends to solve when you interact with customers.
- Make use of referral and promotional programs to boost sales.
- Pay attention to retaining customers by providing an excellent customer experience. It is more expensive to attract new customers than having new ones (Source: Business 2 Community).
And here we are—the last but not the least step of building a startup process blueprint.
Inevitably, every startup owner would be anticipating its growth and expansion over time.
I know you must be wondering, “Why should I think about scaling even when I have not started?”. My answer is, “Businesses are all about being proactive, not reactive. Plan now to save yourself from mistakes like premature scaling”.
So, as the final step of planning your startup process, map out feasible strategies through which you can scale your business. It has to be initiated only once you have achieved a predetermined set of milestones. This way, you don’t head towards an aggressive growth plan and disrupt its steady momentum. It’s always better to,
- Outline a list of achievements that will act as signals to head towards expansion
- Outline the expenses incurred in the process of scaling
- Determine how you are going to expand your entrepreneurial network to support your growth
- State the external factors that should support your development at the time of scaling
Once these 7 phases in the blueprint are carefully modelled, you will have a thorough understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your startup. It will help you devise methods to overcome them and prepare for anticipated obstacles.
Always remember that a practical blueprint is one that’s continuously pruned, fine-tuned, and updated along the way.
I am confident this guide will help you build a solid foundation crucial for your startup’s success.
About The Author
Jasmeet is a founder of Lessons at Startup – A blog where he shares entrepreneurial stories. He specialises in Digital Marketing and Content Writing. He is addicted to Google News, Netflix, Good Coffee and Quora