Article #38, October, 2005
Strategically Build Your Small Business
When is the last time you looked at your business plan? No matter the size of your business, you need a functional business plan. One common misperception with business owners is that the business plan must be very long, and torturous to create – this is not true!
I refer all my clients to http://www.onepagebusinessplan.com. If you have not already visited this website, please do so. You do not have to purchase anything or give any information; you may look at sample one page business plans for different business types, with no catch. You only need a long business plan for specific purposes, like applying for funding for your business.
I recommend having a business plan for a finite period of time, like a budget. If you were writing your first plan right now, start with Nov., 2005 through the end of June, 2006. You may find that’s not long enough, so change the finish date to Dec., 2006. You get to decide and make it the way you want, and you can change it when it’s needed. It won’t work as a tool if it doesn’t fit your personality and your business.
You will probably find that you have a longer vision than just 1 year or so, so I suggest you also create an LTP (long-term plan). The LTP does not include the action steps, only the high-level goals and ideas. The purposes of the LTP include keeping your longer range ideas organized, and using it to create future business plans.
Once you have created your one to two page plan, then you need to use it like the tool that it is. Once a month, you should be scheduling a strategic meeting to review your business against your plan. Here are questions you need to ask yourself and any other principals in your business on a regular basis:
- Are the actions we’re taking getting us closer to our objectives/goals?
- Are these objectives/goals still the right ones for the business?
- Do we need to re-prioritize our actions?
- Do we need to put anything on the back burner for now?
- What’s working, and how can we do more of those things?
- What’s not working, and how can we eliminate those actions?
- What is the ROI (return on investment) for ALL our investments of money AND time?
This monthly meeting will keep you focused on your plan. It is a good idea to bring sales and spending reports to this meeting, even if you’re the only person in the meeting. How were your revenues last month compared to previous months? How are your sales trending versus last year? How are you comparing against your budget?
If you truly want to build a money-making business, no matter the size, it’s important to know the answers to all of these questions. You don’t need a business degree, a consultant or even a coach to answer these questions. Listen to your instincts and study and you’ll be ahead of the game for now.
This process can be challenging for solo-preneurs. Sometimes it helps to talk with a professional who is not vested in your business. If you know someone else who is in your same industry, but who does not compete against you, try buddy coaching/mentoring each other.
Schedule a monthly telephone meeting when you discuss your business plan, brainstorm and plan your next month. You will learn from each other and keep each other focused, without feeling like you’re ‘taking’ from them. For example, if you are a professional organizer who works with home-owners in northern Los Angeles County, you could buddy with another organizer who works with home-based businesses in southern Orange County. Make sure to keep the conversation balanced, and bring in a professional coach when you need one.