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Planning Is Your Business

There is an old saying, "Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance." This is true for most things in life, including businesses. Do you have a business plan? Even if you are working for yourself and have no employees, you should have a plan. Your business plan is the guide and map for your future performance. How can you expect to get to where you want to be if you don't know where you are going?

Business plans can serve more than one function. If you plan to seek financing, the first thing anyone will want to see is your business plan. If you don't plan to seek funding, your plan can serve as a means to keep you on track and act as a measuring tool to see if you are meeting your expectations.

Preparing a business plan does not have to be difficult but will require some thought and preparation. There are many software packages and Web sites available to help you create your first business plan. Once created, the plan should be reviewed and updated at least every two years.

A good business plan will describe the business and include a mission statement. You also should include a competitive analysis, a marketing plan, staffing requirements and financial information. Consider where you want the business to be in one year, five years, 10 years.

If you do not seek financing and simply want to use the plan for review purposes, you can take an informal approach. However, if you will be using it to obtain funding for your business, you will need to follow a more formal format. Templates are widely available through the Internet.

Don't think that just because you have been in business for years, you don't need a business plan. You still should know where you are heading. Do you have plans to retire? How will you achieve those goals? How will the business expand? When you retire, will you sell the business or will you just close it down?

In the next few issues, we will discuss how to prepare a business plan will be discussed. We will take you through all of the steps to prepare your plan, including:

  • Writing a mission statement
  • Creating an honest competitive analysis
  • Creating and implementing an effective marketing plan
  • Creating financial statements
  • Updating your plan
  • Putting the pieces all together
Start by writing down your goals. Where do you want to go from here? In the next issue, you will learn how to take those goals and translate them into a mission statement.
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