Setting Up a Business: The Project Plan
Why creating a pre-project strategy is essential to an effective business plan and company launch
The business plan is the recognised document that outlines the results of your research, analysis and planning, and points out how your business will be set up and run. But depending on the intended audience, it may not be sufficiently detailed to assist in the management of the launch. Furthermore it often doesn’t always outline time/resources needed throughout all the pre and post-launch stages.
Here we look at the additional planning which will help you to create an effective business plan and assist you with launching and running your business.
Setting up a business is a project
Setting up a business is a project. For the purpose of this article let’s agree that this just means it needs to be managed effectively in order to minimise the time taken to reach a successful launch (time is precious and costly at this stage of a business).
Carrying out the right tasks is clearly essential but the order in which you carry out those tasks is also important for minimising delays and re-work. For example, if setting up an e-commerce business selling items that you intend to buy wholesale, which do you do first: buy the stock or develop the website? Or do you do them at the same time? How long will it take? And at what point should you set up a business bank account, finalise packaging details, design a logo, contract with a virtual office supplier, etc?
You can of course figure it out as you go. But that approach could be messy, frustrating and take much longer than necessary. And the shorter the start-up phase of your business, the sooner you will be fulfilling the promise of your business plan and delighting customers.
Having a “To Do” list is better than nothing. But as stated above, the timing of tasks and the order in which they are carried out is important and a simple list is not much help in this regard. What you need is a pre-business plan.
What do we mean by a pre-business plan?
Simply put, this plan is a “To Do” list that shows what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. This is a simplification of course. But whether you’re building a, well, building or launching an online business, the tools employed to help manage your time and progress should always be appropriate for the size and complexity of the project.
A Gantt chart is a popular tool for planning, which displays tasks as bars along a timescale. The bar position shows the start date and the bar length the duration of each task. The image below shows a very simple Gantt chart.
The arrows between the bars show the order in which the tasks must be completed. For example, let’s say in the plan above that Task 2 is “Order Business Cards”. Then Task 1 might be “Design Logo”, since a logo would be required before the business cards can be ordered.
If you are familiar with Gantt charts, it is a powerful tool. But it is not the easiest type of plan to have in your notebook or on a whiteboard. So what else can you do?
The diagram below shows a simple network plan that is easier to create and modify.
Creating the pre-business plan
To produce the network plan above, first you’ll need a pencil and large eraser (trust me). Then follow the steps below:
- Write down all the tasks you need to carry out to set up your business (it may help to break the business down in to chunks, e.g. Website, Products, Back Office, Marketing, etc.)
- Draw arrows between the tasks in the order they need to happen (note: it is valid that a task can not start until multiple prior tasks have been completed)
- Add the estimated time each task will take to complete
- Option: add who is responsible for each task
If you want to know how long the whole plan, or certain sections, is estimated to take then trace the different routes through the plan adding up the durations. The route that takes the longest from the start to the end is the forecast duration of the whole plan.
Things will change, so check and update the plan as work progresses and tick off the tasks as you complete them (very satisfactory that bit – if you are a list maker you know what I mean).
For more advice and guides to business planning, check out Startup.co.uk’s channel here.
This article was written by Tim Whilde, founder of Wild Parsley