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How a Simple Business Plan can Get you from A to Z, and Navigate all Things In-Between

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Updated: Friday, March 8, 2013 - 16:40
Created: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 - 07:11

Business roadmapIt's doubtful that no two words in an entrepreneur's vocabulary are procrastinated over more than these two: Business Planning

This simple phrase can conjure up visions of being hunkered down over a desk trying to justify, forecast, number-crunch and ultimately wrestle with the current state of your business compared with where you want it to be five or ten years down the line.

But the business planning process does't have to start and end this way.

If you really want to succeed in business, as in life, planning should be part of everything you do, and, it never stops.

Just think about the simple act of hitting the road to attend a business meeting across state. You may not be conscious of this fact, but you have already undertaken a series of planning steps and adopted precautionary measures to ensure you arrive at your destination safely and on time.

Over time, this might mean you have invested in a number of available GPS navigation tools, roadside support options, and insurance policies, that will help you plan for each car journey and prepare for the obstacles that you may encounter on the way.

For many business owners, start-ups and entrepreneurs - the business planning process isn't actually a whole lot different. And, while it's unlikely that you would start a car journey with an encyclopedic-sized travel plan at your side, neither is it absolutely necessary to have a 100 page business plan to steer your business towards its long term goals.

Keep it Simple

Whether you are an independent contractor, a home-based business, or have your sights set on Main Street, you want to ensure you scale your plan to your business needs. This includes understanding your market, having a clear view of your capital needs, your budget and cash flow, and, just as you would when you get behind the wheel, list some basic assumptions about where your business is now and where you want it to go, and of course, what is it going to take to get you there.

For an independent contractor or home-based business, this might be as simple as having a goal to expand you client base from two to six by the end of the year, and having a plan to do so. The plan might include networking, building up a referral base, creating a professional web site and starting a blog. And as your business grows, your plans and benchmarks will grow accordingly.

As business planning professional and fellow blogger Tim Berry explains:'I call it the Plan-as-you-go Business Plan. It's just big enough to manage your business, with no extra effort. I could also call it the 'just-big-enough business plan.' It's not a plan, it's planning. Like steering, to manage your business better' You can read more from Tim in his article: 4 Steps to Keep Your Business Planning Simple and Useful.

Break Up Your Plan into Mini-Plans

While a strategic business plan is essential, you also need to break up the planning process across the different functions of your business. As small business proferssional Rieva Lesonsky explains, you need mini plans for all areas of you business, that you visit monthly, if not weekly.

All business owners need a marketing plan, which should be updated often. But some of you also need a technology plan, a financing plan or a staffing plan. How about a plan for expansion, be it across town or around the world? Do you eventually want to franchise your company? You need to start laying the groundwork now”and you need a plan to help you get there

And, as Rieva explains those often overlooked plans also come into play:

You'll also need a disaster plan, a succession plan (no matter your age) and... then there's the most important plan of all”Plan B. Come up with some what-if scenarios and possible solutions in case they occur.

Use Online Resources to Help You Plan

There are many online tools and resources that you can help you create and document even a basic business plan. SBA.gov's Write a Business Plan, for example, has business plan templates, and step-by-step guides.

Get Help in Your Community

There are many resources in your community - your local SCORE office, Small Business Development Center, Women's Business Center, and others who can help you with the planning process through free one-on-one counseling and access to other resources.

*Note: Hyperlink directs reader to non-government Web site.

Type: Community Blog