By Mark Hooson

Step one: the idea

Coming up with an idea for a business can be a lot like coming up with an idea for a profitable movie.

You will want your idea to either be something new that captures the imagination of the audience or something tried and tested, like a sequel, that you know there is a market for.

Having the idea isn’t enough though, if you’re going to be pitching the idea to investors, you’ll need to show them your detailed plans.

Your business plan is like the script of your blockbuster, documenting how the story begins, how the story unfolds and concludes.

For your business, this means setting out the start-up costs, ongoing plans and costs, and your ultimate goals and projections.

Step two: the pitch

Much like if you were to pitch the idea for your blockbuster movie to a Hollywood studio, you’ll likely be pitching your business idea to a bank manager or private investor; if you don’t have the money to self-finance the project.

The studio would want to hear an engaging brief about the plot of the film, and it needs to hook them in. In the same way, your business pitch should set out your business plan — explaining your exciting plans and why the investor should put their faith in your idea.

Investors will want to know about your business’ potential costs, profitability, cash flow and marketing. A Hollywood studio would similarly look at the film’s budget, chances of box office success, ongoing costs and marketing.

Step three: casting

Movie-makers often use big names in their films to make sure they draw in the biggest audience they can for their film.

A-list actors are used because they have proven themselves as talented and capable. In business, the casting stage translates to recruiting, and making sure your staff is of A-list calibre, so that you can give the audience/customers what they came for.

Look over your potential employees’ CV’s, which are like their showreels. It will give you the best idea of whether they are right for the part and fit your business’ vision.

Step four: Lights, camera, action

By now, you’ll have every aspect of your blockbuster planned in meticulous detail, you have assembled a cast of talented staff and you’ve budgeted for your plans. It’s time to put your business plan into action.

Making sure you keep your staff happy in their new job ensures they give the best performance on set, and keeping track of your finances will make sure you don’t go over your planned budgets.

According to movie industry lore, film-maker Kevin Smith maxed out around ten credit cards to get his cult hit ‘Clerks’ made.

While the movie industry no longer relies on credit cards in the same way, business credit cards , can be a good way of keeping track of expenditure with their monthly statements.

They can also help you build trust with the employees you allow to use them, and can give a measure of your business’ success as your business credit rating grows.

Step five: Marketing

As in business, marketing is a huge endeavour in movies.

Simply building your business and expecting the customers to flock is like not advertising a movie and expecting a box-office smash.

Huge sums of money often go into clever marketing campaigns, and whilst effective, there are alternative ways for small businesses to market themselves which have been adopted by the film industry in recent years.

The internet has become the go-to marketing platform as it encourages a level of interaction with customers that can’t be matched in print or broadcast,

Get your business on the social networking scene. Join Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Flickr, LinkedIn and any others that will help you spread the word about your business for as little cost (often zero cost) as possible.

Roll credits

Thinking of your business start-up as being similar to making a movie could mean the difference between a B-Movie disaster and a box office smash.

Mark Hooson writes for the financial team at Moneysupermarket.com covering subjects like business and debt.