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Online Business Planning Issues

The only thing that anyone can say about the Internet with any certainty is that it’s changing, and changing fast. How can you plan your online business in such an environment? Whether you’re starting, revamping, or expanding an e-business, the same checklist of important planning issues applies:

  • Evaluate your business environment. So much for the pie-in-the-sky days of “If you build it, they will come.” When the topic is websites, that approach just doesn’t work. Tens of millions of websites are up and running. Getting customers to land on yours takes planning, promotion, and investment, and getting them to buy when they arrive is even trickier.

  • Estimate your upfront costs. One of the biggest mistakes e-businesses make is underestimating the software, hardware, and development costs involved in getting a website up and running — not to mention what’s involved in maintaining the site after it opens for business.

  • Fine-tune your business model. You can’t expect your e-business to succeed if you’re not absolutely sure about where the money’s going to come from.

  • Create a realistic business timeline. Face it, you don’t have all the time in the world to get your business up and running, find customers, generate revenues, and make a profit. But at the same time, it won’t happen overnight.

    In between, you need start-up cash to hold you over until your business can turn a profit. Set a realistic timeline so that everyone from investors to employees knows what to expect.

  • Build flexibility into your plan. Most business plans include contingencies — what-if scenarios that provide alternatives in case something goes wrong. Contingency planning is especially important for an e-business.

    If your business plan depends on website ad revenue, for example, include a contingency in case those dollars don’t roll in as anticipated. Or if your business plan counts on return business from previous customers, have an alternative plan in place in case customers are more fickle than you expect.

  • Plan for the people you need. As e-business becomes more and more automated, it’s easy to think state-of-the-art technologies are more important than people. Don’t believe it. A strong staff of highly committed and experienced employees is essential to the success of any business — and doubly so for e-businesses.

    Make sure that your business plan addresses exactly how you intend to find top-flight software engineers or skilled content providers and how you’ll recruit them and keep them onboard.

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