How To Convert An Idea Into A Solid Business Plan

A brilliant idea is an important first step in starting a successful social enterprise. With a game changing idea, only half the battle is won. You will need to transform this idea into a comprehensive business plan to convince others that your idea can become a viable social enterprise.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a detailed description of what the service/product would be, who it would cater to, what benefit this would bring, as well as how it is different from other similar services/products etc.

Start by developing a concept note. This covers all important aspects of the business plan. It is a bridge between an idea and a full blown business plan that define the parameters within which you can think about your plan.

A thorough business plan should have the following key elements:

Description of the industry: A good analysis of the industry under which the business is being developed helps you set the tone for the business plan. It also lets you assess how a business is placed within the larger market place and how it would lobby for market share in the long run. Make sure you detail how the business would be complementing the industry, as well as what gap it is filling in the industry.

Description of the service/product: This should provide a detailed understanding of what the service or product is. Describe all the key aspects keeping in mind that someone reading the business idea should be able to understand the product/service well. This detailing will also help the entrepreneur think about all aspects of a product/service and address any gaps which may come up during this exercise. 

Describe the customers and why the product/service is useful for them: Develop a profile of the end users, describing clearly why they need the product/service and how an entrepreneur envisions improving their lives with the service. Discuss how the end users would afford or access the service/product. This exercise to understand the end users would also help fine-tune the product/service as well as the marketing strategy. 

Describe the differential value being created by the service: The product or service being developed should ideally offer to the end users something that they have not already experienced or used. This should help improve their lives significantly. For a social entrepreneur, for whom the end users may sometimes be cost conscious, this is extremely important.

Introducing a new product/service to a user entails slight to significant lifestyle changes and there should be enough on offer for them to take it up. Also this would be of great significance to the prospective investors who would value a thorough analysis of what the competition in the market is like and how the entrepreneur thinks about cutting through the competition.

Describe how the service would be designed and developed: Invest thought and time in developing a thorough plan for the design of the service/product. This plan should include a timeline of activities and the resources which would be invested in developing the product/service. Continuous feedback cycles to improve the quality of the product should be planned. Include a detailed resource plan describing what would be required at each step and how it would be acquired. This should include all kinds of resources-manpower, expertise, technology and finances.

Describe the management and operations: A well-managed project has a greater chance of success. Defining management structures at each level with clearly defined lines of responsibility will ensure that the project is run in a smooth manner. This should be included in a detailed operations plan. An operations plan should break the strategic goals and objectives to tactical ones. Try to be as detailed and specific as possible. This should be blue print of the project.

Describe the financial plans: This section could be the most challenging for a social entrepreneur mostly because of the dearth of readily available funding sources. This is one area which needs intensive research. Of course, a great idea would get funded but it needs to access the right channels. Include the resources that could be tapped and any that are already supporting the project. Finding new funding sources and keeping the ones already on-board is a complex task, needing careful planning and attention.

Taking an idea and converting it into a business is a very challenging and at times daunting task. Breaking the exercise down into specific steps can help ease the task and provide a framework for structured thinking. The more time is invested in the beginning, developing the business plan, the easier it would be to implement and manage it later.


[Graphic design: Zhang Miao]

If you want to find more about socially conscious living in Asia, check out Asia For Good's social enterprise directory.


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