The Green Sheet Online Edition
September 27, 2010 • Issue 10:09:02
If you're in business, you need a plan
||Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.|
- Sun Tzu
Do you have a business plan? Even if you are working for yourself and have no employees, a plan for your business is essential. It serves as a map created to guide your future performance. It sets forth where you'd like your business to be within a certain time (typically five years) and describes how you intend to get there.
After all, how can you turn your goals into action if you have only a vague notion of where you are going and how you will get there?
Plans address real needs
There are multiple reasons for creating a business plan. For example:
- If you are seeking capital, the first thing an investor will want to see is your business plan.
- If you want to know if your business is meeting expectations, your business plan will provide the benchmarks needed for accurate assessments.
- If you want your business to have high standards, a business plan can define them and help you implement them.
- If you want to follow a consistent strategy, your business plan can describe that strategy and serve as a reference tool.
No one is exempt
You may feel that preparing a business plan is too daunting or you're too busy running your company to prepare a plan. Even if you've been in business for years without a written plan, it doesn't mean you don't need one. It means you're probably not as focused as you could be and thereby hindering your performance.
No matter where you are in your career, you need to know where you are heading. If you want your business to expand, how will you make that happen? If you plan to retire, how much money will you need to live in comfort, and how will you get it? These are just some of the issues a business plan can address.
Preparation is the key
Crafting a business plan isn't difficult, but it does require careful preparation. Many software packages and websites are available to help you create a business plan or improve the one you have. To get started, google "business plan," or ask other business owners for recommendations.
An effective business plan will contain the following:
- Executive summary, including a mission statement
- Business concept, the market the company serves and what it offers
- Honest competitive analysis, including current business position, major achievements and challenges
- Organizational structure, ownership and management
- Marketing plan
- Financial information and needs, including financial statements
Use your goals as the springboard for your mission statement. Then flesh out the other components of your business plan. Show the plan to colleagues you trust, and make adjustments as needed. Once you've created a plan that serves your needs, review and update the document at least every two years. And enjoy the results.
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