This stage identifies those parts of the business and business model you know, and those you don’t. A useful way to complete this step is to talk about your business knowledge to a friend – someone who can write down your words and take notes. If you don’t have anybody who can do this for you, a tape recorder is a great alternative, and you can transcribe it later.

To help in this process, work on finding answers to some investigative questions. You are trying to uncover the things that you know, and determine the gaps in your knowledge about your business and industry.

 

Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • How many competitors do I have?
  • What is my customer base like?
  • Who are my customers? – describe them
  • Where do I get my best sales from – which product(s)?
  • What has been the historical performance of my business?
  • What is my geographic market share – how far away do my customers come from?
  • What is my profit margin?

These questions are by no means exhaustive, but they help to give a good basis of where to start. Ask yourself questions that will help you gather information about all aspects of your business – sales, customers, expenses, products, etc.

To help you understand how some of these questions might be answered, we have created a fictitious character known as Steve. Steve is a grocery store owner and has been for the past 4 years. His business is called Top Shelf Groceries. Throughout this site we will use Top Shelf Groceries as a case study about how you can go about putting a business plan together.

Just as you need to prepare a Fact-Find for your business, so does Steve. Here you will be able to see his answers to some of the example questions above, which may help to give you a starting point.

A couple of points to note before moving on:

Steve’s answers are frank and honest. This is NOT a test. Be honest with yourself and you will know quickly what areas you need to focus on to increase your understanding of your business.

Some of the answers are vague, and that is okay for now. The following stages will help you get to the facts, to know where your customers are coming from and what it is they are buying.

Once this stage is complete, you will have established the areas that you will need to research to complete the ‘picture’. Then you will be fully equipped to launch your marketing campaign to grow your business.

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Top Shelf Groceries – Fact Find

How many competitors do I have?

I have three competitors in the immediate area, and they are Jo’s Fruit Shop, Corner Goods and Fresh Foods R Us. Each have a shop similar in size to mine, and are approximately 5-10 miles drive away.

What is my customer base like?

I have about 750 or so loyal customers that come in each week, or order over the phone, as we do home deliveries. Some of the customers I have are older, and some have only moved into the area recently.

Where do I get my best sales from – which product(s)?

Our best selling products are the fresh food goods, including items such as bread and eggs. Bread is such a popular item, and our eggs are very popular. We sell them in trays as well as per dozen, and some people like to buy them in bulk.

What has been the historical performance of my business?

We have been performing quite well. Over the past 18 months, we have held steady at a turnover of $350 000 per year. After I take away my expenses, and now paying for three other staff, I make a nice little profit. We haven’t really increased our sales much in the past 8 months, but it has slowly gone up since 2001.

What is my geographic market share – how far away do my customers come?

I think we have a good market share. Our customers will come from 5-10 miles away, and we deliver to places a little further than that. It depends on what products they want to buy. Some of the products we have more of than others, or no other shop has it unless the customer drives 50 miles away. I don’t know about a percentage, but I think we have a pretty good market share.

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