20 Questions

Everyone has great business ideas in their mind. However when we come to the stage of converting those ideas into a business venture, writing the business plan comes as the first and must the most difficult step to take. Despite its difficulty, the business plan is the basis to learn how to establish and run the business or to apply for funding. Therefore, we tried simplifying this task by presenting a series of questions that must be answered in any business plan whatever the size of the project or the activity. Please see the questions below:

  • Q1- Who are you? As obvious as it may sound, I have seen business plans where the entrepreneurs have not mentioned any details about who they are and how they can be contacted.
  • Q2- What are your skills, competencies and expertise? We want to understand a little bit more about your intellectual capital and how it adds value to the project. What is your educational background and what past experiences that you have that are related to the project activity?
  • Q3-Tell us about the project. In brief what is the idea and what services or products would you offer and is that something unique in the market?
  • Q4- What are the products or services? Now tell us in more details what are you offering your potential clients? Describe the specifications of the product or the service.
  • Q5- What is your target market? Your clients might be defined by a geographical area, age group or income level. It could also be a combination of all as well as other factors. It’s important to clearly define who are you targeting to understand the size of the market and then determine how many products can you sell in a day, a week, a month or a year.
  • Q6- Who are your competitors? Strange enough many entrepreneurs think that they are offering something so unique that there is no one else in the market offering something similar! The reality is, there is no business without a competitor. Get to know who they are specially those who have been in the market for a long time. Learn from their experience and the hurdles they face to maintain the business.
  • Q7- What is so unique about your product or service? What is the added value that you offer your clients? Could it be quality, speed of delivery or efficiency? What is it that will make your clients come back again and again?
  • Q8- What are the raw materials that you need? This questions is specific to manufacturers, you will need to clearly define the raw materials that you need, the quantity, where would you get it from and at what cost? Alternatively, for other businesses, you need to define the expertise that you need to offer the services.
  • Q9- How many staff do you have to hire and what are their expertise? Depending on the type of business and volume of sales, you need to define the number of staff that you need to run the business. Are there specific skills that you are looking for? Can they be hired locally or would you need to find expatriates? How much will you pay them?
  • Q10- What licenses do you need to have? All business have to be registered at the Ministry of Commerce & Industry as well as Chamber of Commerce & Industry, some also require Municipality license, environmental license or civil defense authorization for fire and safety purposes. Whatever the type of business, you are planning to establish, it is important to understand what licenses you need, where to obtain them and how long does it take to obtain.
  • Q11- How much does your service/product cost? First, you must have a clear understanding of the production cost then you need to decide your margin of profit. You should also compare your price with that of your competitors. Remember, you can only charge more if your product/service has a unique features. In some instances, you can offer your products/service below the average market price for marketing purposes.
  • Q12- What is your sales expectations? How many products are you expecting to sell in a day, a month and a year? Or how many customers are you expecting to offer services to in a given time? What are the basis of your expectations?
  • Q13- What is your expected operational cost? Rent, electricity, utilities in general, promotional cost, administrative expenses and other charges.
  • Q14- What is the required human resources? Are you going to be dedicated fulltime for the business? Are you going to employ others? How many? Are they going to be local or expatriate? What expertise are you looking for? How much are you going to pay them? Have you considered the cost of medical insurance, labor clearance and air travel?
  • Q15- What is the expected cash flow? Now that you have your expenses listed out as well as your expected revenue, you can start developing your monthly and yearly cash flow statement. This is important to identify your breakeven point and the amount of investment that you need at a given time.
  • Q16- What is the required investment amount? Do you have this money or are you going to seek financial support? Whom are you going to approach? How long do you need to pay back? What is your expected Interest rate if it is a loan? What are you going to use the investment for?
  • Q17- What are your future plans? Are you planning to have more branches? Or are you planning to increase your production or your customer base? Maybe you are planning to improve the quality of your operations or diversify your products/services?
  • Q18- What are the risks associated? Risks are not necessarily those related to natural disasters. Risks could be shortage of cash flow or in general changes in the economic, social and political environment. If you identify these risks, how are you planning to mitigate them?
  • Q19- Have you registered your IP? Whether it is a product or process flow of a service, have you registered your Intellectual Property? Maybe this may not apply to all types of businesses but defiantly for manufactures and research based businesses.
  • Q20- What is your timeframe? Have you decided on a specific timeframe to assess your progress? What are the basis of your assessment?