From an idea scribbled on a post-it note and stuck on the wall at home, Osha Clean’s founders Louise and Mark Stevenson have built a business that’s revolutionising window cleaning services. Osha Clean matches busy people who want their windows cleaning with local reliable window cleaners and allows them to book and pay for their windows to be cleaned online. Here Louise and Mark talk about what they’ve learnt about business planning since they scribbled that first idea for the service onto a post-it note.
Some of the most successful businesses have been built on a plan that was scribbled on the back of a napkin or an envelope. If you can’t describe what your business does for your customers in a couple of sentences, then the chances are you’re not focused enough or clear enough on your idea. Keep your proposition as simple as possible – what’s the problem you’re trying to solve? How do your customers benefit from your product or service? What is it that will really set you apart from your competitors? The detail can come later.
Things change. Problems occur when you’re so fixed on what your business idea will be that you fail to be flexible and tweak your plans. Something that has worked well for us was launching a very basic service, trying it with customers and our window cleaning partners, listening to their feedback and then tweaking it. And then tweaking it again, and again, and again! Whilst the basic idea hasn’t changed, we’ve had to be flexible about how we deliver it because as much as you can guess what will work, until you put it in front of customers and find out what they actually need, you can’t really be certain. Businesses fail where they are so stuck on how they think it should be done that they fail to listen to their customers and provide the service or product that they really need.
Starting a new business can be a lonely experience (even if you’re husband and wife like us!) and you can feel like you’re jack of all trades trying to be Chief Exec, IT Developer, Marketing Executive and Finance Officer all in one. When you’re writing your business plan, focus on what you’re good at and, if you can, draft in some help with the bits that aren’t your strength. Use your network! Between us we’re covered on the marketing and delivery aspects of writing a business plan but not so strong pulling together the figures and working on complicated spreadsheets. We worked closely with our accountant to help pull the figures together, which meant we could focus on the rest of the plan and not stress too much about something we both find more challenging.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
Whilst you don’t need to worry about lengthy business plans when you’re first starting out, there comes a time (hopefully!) when you’re looking at growing your business to the next level and looking for investors. At this point you do need a detailed plan and financial forecasts. But don’t panic - a quick search online brings up hundreds of templates and supporting documents, blogs and articles about what needs to be included. We used the Virgin Start Up business plan template as a starting point and then played around with it to brand it as Osha Clean ready for investors to view. It gives a simple, concise and practical structure to your planning.
Just do it!
Business planning can be daunting. There are thousands of different people telling you different ways to do it. Write your idea on the back of an envelope (napkin, post-it note, whatever). Grab yourself a simple template, fill it in and get on with it. Don’t let your instant gratification monkey (to quote Tim Urban) take over and hold you back. Just get on with it - it could end up being one of the best things you’ve ever done!
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