As many as half of startups are no longer in business just four short years later, according to some statistics. Most businesses are owned by entrepreneurs who are driven, passionate and ambitious. So, how is it possible that so many fail? Having built several businesses over the past 20 years, I have come to believe that the rampant failure of businesses comes down to the one tool that is supposed to help businesses thrive -- the business plan.
Most modern-day business plans are flawed, however, missing the one key ingredient. A business plan without this ingredient is like a batch of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies without the sugar. So listen up, entrepreneurs, adding this to your business plan may mean the difference between success and failure.
What is it?
What you need in order to accomplish all of your goals in business is a network of people who can help you along the way. You need customers, suppliers, vendors, marketing teams, mentors and other business owners to partner with. You can totally reach your business goals without money if you have a strong network. You can definitely achieve your dream without a formal education if you have a strong network.
I'm here to tell you that the only ingredient you really need is your network of people. Here are five steps to achieving colossal success by mapping out not just your business plan, but also your network of possible advocates who will get you from where you are right now to where you want to go.
1. Write out goals. This is the reason why business plans as we know them are important. They enable us to map out our vision, mission and end game. If a complicated business plan is not your cup of tea, simply write out your goals on a sheet of paper. This will enable you to move on to the next key.
2. Mobilize your contacts. With your goals memorialized in writing, now it’s time to mobilize your troops. For each goal written make a list of people that you know and those you need to know to accomplish the vision. For example, let’s say you are starting a cupcake bakery. You will need customers, a bakery supply vendor, marketing team and other businesses you may want to partner with. Utilize every tool you have to start mapping the network. Facebook and LinkedIn are invaluable for doing this.
3. Build relationships. A large percentage of the network of people that you will need to tap into is not yet available to you. This requires further digging into your network to find people who can create a bridge to the relationships you need to accomplish your vision. Map out a strategy for connecting to and building relationships with people who you need to know. Where do these people spend their time? What volunteer organizations are they involved with? What networking groups?
4. Offer help. Now that you have mapped out an army of possible advocates, it’s
time to put yourself in a position to tap into the resources that these people have available. Don't go straight for the ask. Always give first. Take your network list and reach out to each person on it, one at a time, and offer to help them. Find out what they need in their life or business and be ready, willing and able to help. Give to those on your network list with zero expectation that they will help you down the road. Not only will you realize phenomenal results, but you will soon find that your network begins to expand tenfold.
5. Share your vision. The last, but certainly not least, important key to maximizing your entrepreneurial success is to share your vision. Your new business plan, which incorporates your network of advocates, will require you to have regular and ongoing contact with a vast array of people. As you offer to help each member of your network achieve their goals, make sure to share your vision for your own business. Again, some in your network will offer no support to your business, and that’s OK. However, many will go out of their way to find ways to help your business thrive.
It takes a village to grow a successful business. If you don’t mobilize yours it is going to be a tough road ahead.
Excerpted from an article by Stacey Alcorn for Entrepreneur