You know what gets to me? Famous entrepreneurs who stand in front of an audience and say, “I didn’t have a business plan when I started!”

Here’s what they don’t say, though: that even without a plan they would have been able to answer certain key questions about their business. Because although you can have all kinds of complicated business plans that go for pages and pages, that’s all a business plan is: a set of key questions that you need to be able to answer – and that’s it.

As the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. And that’s the last thing I want for you, business mama! I want you to have everything you dream for yourself – and heaps more on top of that.

Your business plan gives you focus and clarity. I know this first hand because guess what – I have Shiny Thing Syndrome. I get a million ideas a day, and of course each one is brilliant to me! But my business plan keeps me focused: does this beautiful, shiny new idea bring me closer to my business goals, or take me further away? Answering all the questions makes it clear whether it should be developed into a business… or remain a lovely dream.

Your business plan is also a practical tool that tells you the what, why, where, when and how of running your business. This makes it the ultimate roadmap for your business journey – and your business success.

The key questions are super straightforward:

What is your customer’s need? Don’t just know your customer’s problem, or their need, but more than that: why do they it?

How will your business satisfy that need? Remember you’re not just a provider or seller: you’re a problem solver!

What makes your business different? Whether it’s what you offer, or how you do things, using your own individual flair, you must stand out.

Who are the people in your business? If you’re not going it alone, who are the people around you? What will they be doing?

What is the size of your market? You need to know whether it’s a big market, or a small one. If it’s big, it may mean lots of competition. And if it’s small, you’ll need to make sure it can generate enough business for you.

Who are your customers? It’s not enough to know about “the market”. You need to know your customers intimately, via your avatars, and by communicating with your customers regularly. Don’t just talk – listen!

What are your marketing and promotional strategies? Marketing and promoting your business is essential, and it works best when you have a strategy for it.

What are the economics of your business? You need to know your numbers! What is your pricing structure? Your costs and profit margins? Do you know how to calculate Return on Investment?

What are your startup costs? How much do you realistically need to get started? Get those numbers down! (If financing your business is an issue, catch up with our brilliant series, How to Finance Your Business Without Money.)

What needs to happen for you to break even? It’s OK if your sales are modest at the start – you must still know how many sales you need to cover costs and make a profit.

See? Simple! And when you know the answers to these questions, you’ll be ready to go for it!

We’ll talk about how to go about it next week. See you then, business mama!