Many people dream of starting their own business but fail to truly soul-search their values, vision and mission before the business plan is written. While being your own boss and reaping the rewards of operating a successful endeavor are exciting possibilities, there are a number of realistic questions to ask yourself–and answer honestly–before committing your time and dollars.

1. State Your Values This statement forms the basis of how you want to run your business. Be very clear about what your values are and how you will incorporate them into your business. Your values will affect every facet of operations, from staff to clients. Creating a business that reflects who you are will give you fulfillment in your work and increase the likelihood of your success. For example, it may be important to you that your studio welcomes people of all sizes and shapes, turning no one away. Or perhaps convenience for your clients is very important to you, so the idea of mobile or in-home training intrigues you. Your value system is the foundation of your strategic planning process and must be congruent with your organizational goals. Creating your vision by defining your value system will allow your organization to run more efficiently, productively and consistently. List and share with staff your core values so employees have a handle on how you run your business. Some will buy into your values while others may not. Those who do not will move on, and you’ll be left with a staff that abides by and respects your business philosophy.

2. Formulate Your Vision Once you are clear on your values and how they’ll play into your business’s formation, it’s time to figure out what your vision–the future of your business–looks like. Do you foresee three facilities with a staff of more than 50 offering the latest and most advanced techniques and equipment, or would you rather have a small, very personal studio that specializes in niche populations? Whatever your desire, what do you see 3 and 5 years from now? Your vision will assist your planning process because you will “see” where you want to go.

3. Articulate Your Mission Your mission statement defines you and your company. Your entire staff should know and understand it. Your organization’s mission statement must portray your business as it will be. The statement should focus on a common purpose and be specific to your organization. Be brief with your mission; generally limit it to one or two sentences. A helpful rule of thumb is that the statement should be written so that a 12-year-old can easily understand it.

4. Understand Your Objectives Like so many entrepreneurial optimists, I believed that within a year of opening my business I’d be a millionaire. I thought, “If I train all of my own clients, I can double the money I have been making.” Right? Wrong! My objective initially was to double my income, but I learned all too soon that succeeding in business was much more complex than that.

While the potential exists for you to become financially successful, if your objective is solely to make big money, then you may be disappointed in the beginning when you are introduced to the harsh business reality called overhead. Employees rarely have a grasp of what the actual costs are to run a business. They see the money coming, in but they don’t see it going out for expenses such as phones, business cards, uniforms, advertising and equipment, to name just a few overhead costs.

Maybe it’s your objective to own and operate a facility that offers unique services or provides training for a certain demographic segment that sets you apart. If you value prestige, certainly the idea of owning your own business may fulfill this. Maybe you want to own a business because you like the idea of having the freedom to make your own rules. Maybe being in charge of a business fills a need for control, which may be an important issue for you.

Whatever your objectives, ensure that your business plan will help you achieve them.