Many new business operators caught up in the euphoric atmosphere of creating their own business avoid such essential pre-planning because it’s not as exciting as devising a product or selling a service. However, since about 80% of businesses fail within five years, largely because they were not planned and managed well, pre-planning greatly enhances the chance of success.

Generally, the six functional areas of business management involve strategy, marketing, finance, human resources, technology and equipment, and operations. Therefore, all business planners should concentrate on researching and thoroughly understanding these areas as they relate to the individual business.

Although the traditional business planning format does not strictly adhere to this approach, it can easily be adapted for research purposes. Our site has a business plan template that can act as a guideline. Another source for business planning tools and resources can be found at the Canada Business Network.

Researching and designing a business involves a thorough analysis of the business in these areas.

1. Strategy

This important area is, in a sense, the “brain” of your business operation. All potential business operators should create vision and mission statements so they understand what they want to do, why they want to do it and how they will do it.

Also, strategists should analyze the competitive landscape and markets to determine where the opportunity for the business lies, and how they will access that opportunity.

When forming a strategy, determine exactly in what market you will be operating, and then perform a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis on your main competitors and yourself. This will provide a good picture of where you fit in the competitive landscape. This will also help you determine your market access strategy, which involves positioning, differentiating from competitors and branding.

2. Marketing

Since marketing and sales will generate revenue, planners should also thoroughly understand their potential customers and determine how they will reach them. Most new business operators mistakenly use an “inside-out” approach to marketing in that they plan their product or service first and then look for some way to sell it to a vaguely defined group that is “out there.”

However this “build it and they will come” approach usually results in much wasted effort, fierce competition from others who have the same idea and, often, failure. Before designing a product or service, business operators should study the market and assess the needs of customers. Find underserved areas. Then shape the marketing of the product or service, and sometimes the product or service itself, to answer those needs.

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