How to develop a Startup Business plan: The SMART-ER way

Embarking on the journey of launching a startup is an exhilarating endeavor, filled with dreams of success and innovation.

Yet, to navigate the complex and ever-changing business landscape, one must have a well-thought-out plan. This blog will take you through a comprehensive roadmap for startup success. From market research and setting SMART goals to conducting a SWOT analysis and creating a detailed financial plan, we'll explore each step in depth. But it doesn't stop there – we'll introduce you to the concept of being SMARTER with your goals and explain the importance of an actionable plan.

As we progress, you'll learn how to bridge the gap between planning and execution with a carefully crafted action plan. We'll even show you how to make your SMART goals even SMARTER. And finally, we'll emphasize the critical step of reflection and review – a pivotal part of the goal-setting process that often gets overlooked.

It's time to set a clear path for your startup's success and learn from every step of the way. And we’re here to help you find the right information and tools. So let's get started.

A. Proper research and market analysis

Market research is the cornerstone of your Startup business and something you have probably already done to get you to this point. Market analysis is integral to understanding how your business sits in the competitors' landscape and the point of value and differentiation you are providing. It helps you understand:

  • Your target audience and their preference
  • What do the customers think of your business and/or industry
  • What solutions can you offer them for their problems
  • How are you different than your competitors
  • How can you best connect with the audience

Not only does this help you gain a better understanding of what you are offering, but it also helps identify the key areas of improvement and helps you establish the Unique Value Proposition for your business.

B. Frame your goals, in the SMART way 

Your goals are important, but being SMART with your goals is non-negotiable. You have probably heard this one before. But what does it mean? The famous acronym stands for

S- Specific

M- Measurable

A- Achievable

R- Relevant 

T- Time Bound

And how does it fit in when talking about business planning? Think of it as a checklist for developing your master plan. 

Here’s how it works:

  • Being specific helps everyone involved know exactly what needs to be done and minimize wasteful efforts. 
  • Making these goals measurable allows you to track your progress by keeping you accountable. And keeping those goals within reach keeps the people motivated.
  • Relevance is key, since the different goals should align with the overall objective of your organization. 
  • Lastly, setting deadlines helps prioritize effectively achieving goals. Without a timeframe, the goals can linger indefinitely. 

By being ‘SMART’ with your goals, you are being smart about your business.

This is the most common approach to setting up your goals.  That makes it possible to achieve your goals and everyday tasks realistically, overcoming the feeling of being overwhelmed.

We tend to go for a SMART-ER approach, more on that in a bit.

C. SWOT analysis

A SWOT analysis evaluates your company’s: 

Strengths- This is where you’re shining!

Weaknesses- This is the part where you're going to have to polish up a little bit.

Opportunities-  These are the chances that you’ve recognized the potential in.

Threats- These are all the obstacles you must avoid.

This is the strategic planning tool that gives you a perspective on your business. By identifying the various negative factors that could handicap your chances of success, you can determine ways in which your startup can improve and maximize opportunities. It helps you explore the possibilities that lie ahead and the challenges on the horizon. 

D. Creating a detailed financial plan

Financial planning typically covers forecasting of income statements, cash flow, and balance sheets. This helps you with

  • tailoring a budget according to your needs 
  • preventing overspending 
  • promoting responsible financial management

These projections assist with determining the financial feasibility of the business and its capability of expansion, cost-cutting initiatives, etc. It can help account for unforeseen circumstances and provide a financial cushion for such unprecedented times.

It’s a great tool to demonstrate to investors your startup's commitment to accountability and a clear path to achieving promising results. It also instills confidence in investors when seeking funds or investment by showing forward thinking and responsibility.

E. Action Plan

What comes next?

Having completed the first steps, it's now time to set the wheels in motion. This is the fun part.

At this point, we have:

  • Undergone market research (our SWOT analysis)
  • Defined our SMART goals
  • Finalized our budgets and forecasting

Now it's time to create an action plan. It’s the bridge that connects our planning to our execution.

Remember our SMART framework? Here’s how we make it even SMART-ER!

E- The E that makes us SMART-ER - Empiraa

Building out your plan in Empiraa can not only help with the setup of your strategic plan but also help to break down your long-term vision and goals into actionable steps. These are bite-size tasks that contribute to those greater goals. By making these objectives smaller and easier to achieve, getting to that big goal will feel simpler and less intimidating. 

This is your action plan! It’s now time to bring your team in.

Having your people aligned behind a single vision will keep everyone engaged and productive, and give you greater possibility of achieving your big goals. They say a task shared is a task halved and we couldn’t agree more. Collaboration is at the heart of Empiraa.

You’ve now got all the tools at your disposal to turn those dreams into reality.

F. The final R- Review

Congratulations you achieved your goals! But have you?

It’s time for the most critical point of goal setting and that’s sitting down and understanding what areas you did well in and what areas fell short.

For you to set new, accurate goals going forward, you need to reflect on how you progressed previously. 

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Did you hit those long-term goals too easily? 
  • Were they aspirational enough?
  • What parts did you find challenging?
  • What lessons do you take away from those challenges?

All these questions are designed to help you improve. Startups are never perfect, so don’t be disappointed if you fall short of your goals. Use them as learning opportunities.

Reflecting and reviewing can get lost in the day-to-day hustle, but we can’t stress enough how important it is! Doing this as a team can be a rewarding experience where you can congratulate your people for a job well done. Get valuable feedback from your team on how they found the experience as well, so the next ones can be aligned with all your goals.


As you move forward in your startup journey, remember that the iterative process of planning, execution, reflection, and adaptation is key to your success. Embrace these takeaways as your guideposts, and you'll be well-equipped to navigate the dynamic and challenging startup landscape.

Key takeaways:
  • Start the process by gaining insights regarding target audiences, customer perceptions, solutions, differentiation, and establishing a Unique Value Proposition.
  • Frame your business goals using the SMART approach to ensure effective planning and accountability.
  • Use SWOT analysis, the compass to navigate challenges in your startup journey.
  • Break down long-term goals into manageable actions and focus on collaboration to increase your chances of turning those dreams into reality.
  • Reflection on your goals post-completion is the most important step of them all.
October 10, 2023
Team Empiraa