“It takes just as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” Eleanor Roosevelt
You know you should have a business plan, but you honestly don’t have one. Too hard, too complicated, too much! So let go of the old idea, and draw up something simple for your own use. Make it something that tells you where you are going and how you are doing.
Let’s start with a simplified outline.
Section 1: Your Business
Talk about your business. Sometimes just doing a little explaining can help you clarify your ideas or even spot potential trouble.
- Describe your business.
- Tell about the market and competition.
- What makes you unique or special?
- What are your business goals? (We’ll talk more about setting good goals, later.)
- List special training and skills, or include your résumé.
Section 2: Financial Data
You don’t need your accountant for this. Let’s start with records you already have. Then we’ll add some guesses about the future.
- Include past tax returns for historical data.
- Include a list of your business assets.
- Create projections to reach your goals. (Make sure that your projections really point you towards your goals, from above.)
Section 3: Supporting Documents
Think about what helps set your credibility. That’s what you want to include here.
- Letters of reference.
- Contracts, letters of intent, or other legal documents.
- Certifications, etc.
Goals are the Basis of Plans
- Where are you now? Be honest.
- Where do you want to be? Set your goals.
- Plan backwards, step by step. Look at the intermediate steps to lead you there.
- Find the steps you can take tomorrow. Take action immediately! As soon as possible! There is always something you can do now to move you forward.
Setting Good Goals
You have probably heard the term “SMART” applied to setting goals. Let’s go through my version of SMART.
- Specific: Not just “grow my business”. Grow how? Broader product lines? More employees?
- Measurable: Set dollar and other measurable milestones.
- Action: Tell what specific actions you will take to reach the goal. Will you add new product? Work with a consultant? Hire a marketer? Spend more time?
- Reachable: Don’t over-reach with goals. Dreams are great, but keep them separate from goals.
- Time-bound: Include deadlines, checkpoints and other ways to be sure that you are on schedule.
With a simplified business plan, you can evaluate where you are, where you are going and how you are doing. So with such a simple outline, what’s your excuse now?
(c) 2000, 2006 by Becky McCray
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