5 Hard Facts About the Soft Side of Your Coffee House Business Plan

Thinking about starting a coffee house business or buying out an existing one? You probably already know that running a successful business starts with a strong business plan. The reason for this is simple: businesses always experience ups and downs.

After all, it is pretty easy to manage just about any business when times are good and the money is flowing in. At times like these, it is easy to let your managerial guard down and become lax about how things are being run.

However, when you experience an unexpected bump in the road such as an unexpected drop in customer demand, a rise in the cost of supplies, or employee morale issues, you will be glad to have taken the time to put a business plan in place. A good business plan is a touchstone that you can refer to again and again to remind yourself of your strategic vision, as well as some of the tactics to make that vision a reality.

When it comes to business plans, the first thing that may come to mind for you is numbers. Specifically: financial projections, cost spreadsheets, and pricing formulas. And, rightfully so: having your financial house in order is an important part of running a profitable coffee shop business.

However, there is a soft side of your business plan which you will do well not to ignore. This includes all of those seemingly small details that – let’s face it – most accountants and financial planners overlook. However, these details are just as important as the numbers-based elements to the potential success of your business.

Here are 5 hard facts about the soft side of your coffee house business plan:

1. Your branding sets the tone for your operation:

Branding is the art and science of creating a “look-and-feel” for your business. It involves the images, feelings and thoughts that come to the minds of the members of your target market.

Many coffee business owners underestimate the value of having a strong brand image when they set about formulating their business plans. Do not make the same mistake. Remember that your brand will eventually become your company’s most valuable asset. It is better for you to craft it yourself now. In fact, this is the only way for you to have a hand in forming that image yourself – and then to keep shaping it over time.

2. Branding is about more than just logo development:

Many people mistakenly believe that a brand begins and ends with a good logo. Not true. While it is important that your logo adequately express your brand image, your brand goes well beyond your logo. Rather, your brand is present whenever your customers and prospects hear your name, visit your store, see your ads or consume your products.

3. Coffee house layout, color schemes, employee dress and website all need to work in tandem to promote a consistent company image:

As you continue to develop your business plan, think about how the physical layout of your store will be configured. This, too, will speak to your brand image. For example, do you want your place to look packed and busy, casual, or minimalistic and sparse?

Similarly, the decisions you make now about the colors that people see, how your employees dress and even your online presence will work together to shape your brand. Each of these must play into the others. Be sure to take steps to work all of these decisions into your coffee house business plan.

4. Developing a strong mission statement sets the tone for how your employees are perceived by customers:

Mission statements: you have seen them before, often posted on a wall or in a brochure. Many people do not take them very seriously, given the often generic, overly-idealistic-sounding nature of many of them. Still, it is important for you to develop a mission statement about what your company represents. And, you need to remind your customers, employees and yourself on a regular basis about what you stand for.

5. Your decisions about policies and procedures influence how your business will be perceived by customers:

Your business will, in the course of day-to-day operations, involve certain policies and procedures. For example: will you accept credit card charges under $5.00? Will you allow non-customers to use the bathrooms? How much will coffee refills cost? Bake these considerations into your business plan. Then, take a step back to gauge how your policies and procedures will reflect your brand to your customers.

Consider these 5 facts about certain softer aspects of your business plan that transcend your financial projects and get to the heart of who you are and what you represent.

Is Shared Office Space Right For Your New Business?

Today’s economy makes starting and maintaining a business feel like an extreme sport. With prices rising and jobs decreasing it is difficult for anyone to survive in the tough economic times. Many disgruntled individuals who have found themselves walking out of their offices, cardboard box in hand, have decided that if job opportunities simply aren’t available they’ll create their own. As more and more people move toward entrepreneurship, they are finding creative ways to get the resources they need without having to pay big bucks or make huge financial investments to start their own small businesses.

Because one of the biggest investments when starting a business is office space, many startups begin in home offices or basements. However, this is not ideal in all situations, particularly when the business requires regular meetings with clients or large amounts of equipment. In these cases, more and more people are turning toward shared office spaces. Shared office space allows many different small businesses to essentially split the cost of a lease and share the office space and equipment between them. In some cases, these small businesses are providing similar services. In other cases, they are completely different businesses. By working in a shared office space, small businesses are able to save the maximum amount of money, even more than short-term leases or temporary office spaces.

When the businesses sharing the same space provide a similar service, they can also save money by sharing specialty office equipment. Though this requires a little more coordination, if managed successfully these businesses could end up saving even more money on the purchasing of expensive equipment. If you are a business that already owns specialty equipment, you can even make some money by offering to rent your equipment to the other company or companies in your shared office space for a small fee. This is a quick and easy way to recoup the money you will be spending on your share of the lease.

Though shared office space can have its benefits in regards to saving money and sharing responsibilities, it can also present a unique set of challenges as well. Because you will have little jurisdiction over the actions and behaviors of the people you are sharing office space with, you may find yourself in challenging situations if you and the other party or parties do not agree on the use of the shared space or if there is some sort of disruption that is making it difficult for you to work. In these cases, it is important to arbitrate any arguments through the proper leasing authorities in a professional manner.

As such, it is important, when deciding on a shared office space, that you first acquaint yourself with the other individuals and businesses you will be sharing the space with. Learn about what they do and what their daily habits are in the office. Ask them if they have any particular preferences or issues and take note of those things. If you feel as though you may be incompatible or find that there are too many factors that don’t line up between you and the other businesses in the shared space, you may want to keep looking. If, however, you find a shared space where you feel you can easily communicate with those around you as well as foster a positive work environment, you may be in luck.

Shared office space can be a great solution for new businesses searching for a place to call their own, outside their home, without bleeding their wallets dry in the processes. Being creative with your shared space and business equipment can provide you the most bang for your buck in today’s tough economy.