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Veterans: SBA Has Tools to Build a Successful Business

By Barbara Carson, SBA Official
Published: November 2, 2016

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Veterans Business Development is  proud to provide entrepreneurial counseling and training to veterans, service-disabled veterans, military spouses, and National Guard and Reserve service members through programs like Boots to Business, Boots to Business Reboot , and the Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC). 

This week the SBA celebrates National Veterans Small Business Week.  SBA district offices are hosting events nationwide that connect current and future veteran entrepreneurs to entrepreneurship resources while highlighting the accomplishments of veteran small business owners, such as:

During National Veterans Small Business Week, and going forward, share your veteran small business success story or show your appreciation for veteran entrepreneurs by joining the conversation online using the #MyVetBiz hashtag.

Celebrate this National Veterans Small Business Week by visiting www.sba.gov/myvetbiz to learn more about events, courses and resources available to support your entrepreneurial success.

About the Author:

Barbara Carson
Barbara Carson

SBA Official

Barbara Carson is the Associate Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Veterans Business Development.

SBA Extends Resources to Service-Disabled Veteran Entrepreneurs

By Barbara Carson, SBA Official
Published: November 1, 2016

This year, to support current and future service-disabled veteran entrepreneurs, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) awarded three institutions and one business the Service-Disabled Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program (SDVETP) grant. 

Offered by the SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development, this grant assists the grantees in providing entrepreneurial training to service-disabled veterans looking to start or grow a business.  The awardees include:

Despite the challenges they faced, service-disabled veterans have pursued entrepreneurship and established successful companies nationwide.  Veterans like Dr. Ray Jardine, Staci Redmon, and Quiana Gainey--all of whom have used the resources available at Veterans Business Development Centers--have leveraged the skills and experience they gained in the military to accomplish their dreams of small business ownership.

The SBA looks forward to working with these outstanding awardees to create opportunities for service-disabled veterans and their families who want to start or grow a small business.

The SBA celebrates service-disabled veterans, as well as all-era veterans, service members, and military spouses during National Veterans Small Business Week, Oct. 31-Nov. 4. SBA district offices are hosting events nationwide that will connect current and future veteran business owners to entrepreneurship resources, while highlighting the accomplishments of veteran small business owners.

During National Veterans Small Business Week, and going forward, share your veteran small business success story or show your appreciation for veteran entrepreneurs by joining the conversation online using #MyVetBiz.

Celebrate National Veterans Small Business Week by visiting www.sba.gov/myvetbiz to learn more about events, courses and resources built to support your entrepreneurship success.

About the Author:

Barbara Carson
Barbara Carson

SBA Official

Barbara Carson is the Associate Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Veterans Business Development.

4 Marketing Ideas for Veterans Day

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: November 1, 2016

There's a lot going on with military veterans in the next few weeks. Veterans Day is on Friday, November 11. Before that, the Small Business Administration is celebrating National Veterans Small Business Week October 31-November 4 with events nationwide to help veterans start and run businesses. Why not honor our nation's veterans with your own veteran-themed marketing efforts? Here are some ideas to get you started.

  1. Sale. Offer military veterans a free meal, special gift or discount on products and services. If you normally offer military discounts, bump it up a notch for Veterans Day, such as 25 percent instead of 10 percent. You can also hold a Veterans Day sale for the general public and offer additional discounts on top of your sale prices for military veterans.
  2. Sponsor. Is there a Veteran's Day event in your community, such as a parade or an event where city officials will be honoring veterans? Get involved as a sponsor. You can provide money, help out with the event or just have a presence.  For instance, a restaurant could give out free samples in a booth at a veterans’ parade.
  3. Serve. Volunteer to help out veterans and their families. Find national organizations that assist military veterans (see some below) and ask how you can get involved. There may also be local opportunities available—for instance, you might be able to help elderly veterans paint their homes or do yard work, or work with disabled veterans. In addition to getting your employees to volunteer, you can also recruit customers to get in on the act.
  4. Give. Don’t just contribute to a cause that helps veterans and their families—raise even more money by getting your customers involved. For example, you could:    
  • Donate a percentage of all your sales on Veterans Day to a veterans’ charity.
  • Offer to match customers’ donations up to a certain amount.
  • Spotlight a specific product and donate a certain amount when anyone buys it.

Looking for charities to get involved with? Here are a few to consider.

  • AMVETS National Service Foundation, founded in 1948, offers a range of services with a focus on helping veterans get through the red tape of the Veterans Administration to access the services they are entitled to.
  • Homes for Our Troops builds mortgage-free homes specially adapted for the needs of post-9/11 veterans who are severely injured, such as multiple amputees and vets with traumatic brain injuries.
  • Fisher House Foundation provides a network of comfort homes where military and veterans’ families can stay for free while a loved one receives treatment at a VA hospital.
  • Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Charitable Service Trust supports physical and psychological rehabilitation programs for ill, injured or wounded veterans.
  • Wounded Warriors Project helps post-9/11 military veterans who incurred a physical or mental injury or illness in service transition into civilian life.
  • Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) provides one-on-one support and advocates for veterans of these wars.

Choose an organization that’s close to your heart, active in your community or meaningful to your customers or staff. There are many more out there; find charities that help veterans at CharityNavigator.org.

While Veterans Day technically focuses on former military members, reaching out to both current and former members of the military will widen your potential customer base. And remember, marketing related to veterans isn’t just for Veterans Day or Memorial Day. Especially if you live in a community with a high percentage of current and former military, marketing to this demographic is a smart move year-round.

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades

Part 2 - How to Prepare for a Trade Show and Justify Your Budget

Published: October 26, 2016 Updated: October 28, 2016

Before you get start, make sure to read part one here.

Step Two

Organize your on-site participation. Hold a pre-show meeting or conference call with all exhibit staff. Provide supporting handouts and a list of your objectives. Tell your exhibit staff what you expect from them. Make sure that processes are set up and people who work in the booth are aware of the processes that you’ll use to measure show success.

Hold a contest to reward individuals who are able to complete the intended attendee transaction. The chances of closing a sale goes up based on the number of contacts you have with a prospect. Ideally, you’ll use the show to set up appointments. So, trade shows are a great way to set up an initial meeting with a prospect to kick-off the sales cycle. Over 80% of sales are made after the fifth contact meaning that you need to have multiple contacts with your customers. Why not start at the show!

Step Three

Follow-up on all leads after the show and again, two to three months after the show. Be aware that 48% of sales people never follow-up with a prospect. Therefore, it’s imperative that a follow-up strategy is developed and implemented as part of the show activities.

Think of a show as a market research project. The show is actually equivalent to collecting the data. The data doesn’t have value until you evaluate it, understand it, and work to draw conclusions. A show won’t have value until you collect the leads, follow-up with the leads, collect results, and report on the results.

Also, sales occur when a customer is aware of a company’s brand products, services, and reputation. Low awareness can result from insufficient person-to-person contact, lack of inquiry follow-up (follow-up reinforces memorability) or poor identification of company name in an exhibit. As you follow-up with prospects, consider the follow-up engagement more than just a sales call. Survey for changes in awareness, company preference, buying plans and attendees’ perceptions of your company’s service.

Step Four

After the show, develop a first draft of your post-show report. Capture all the things you would have done differently, information on competitors’ exhibits and attendance, as well as performance of exhibit staff or adequacy of staffing. Measure the average number of visitors per salesperson per hour. About ten visitors per salesperson per hour is average.

If you don’t write this information down immediately after the show (or even during the show) you’ll forget these type of details, which can make the difference. Capture this information with as much specificity as possible and include in  your post-show report to ensure you have all data when preparing next year’s budget.

Follow-up on your objectives and include conclusions and recommendations in your analysis.

Utilize the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, Exhibit Surveys pre-event and post-event measurement tools, and publications such as Exhibitor to gather industry statistics. Exhibit Surveys also provides white papers and information on exhibit trends and market research.

By planning ahead, you can maximize the effectiveness of your programs and build a platform with which to justify your participation in trade shows. 

About the Author:

Part 1 - How to Prepare for a Trade Show and Justify Your Budget

Published: October 25, 2016 Updated: October 28, 2016

You’re back in the office after the show. You’ve thanked everyone, collected all the leads–and even collected more leads this year. The show was a success! As you prepare next year’s budget and you think about why it was a success, and why your budget should be increased (or not decreased), you’re forced to justify your participation in each show and simply increasing leads isn’t enough. So what’s next? Prepare in advance for budget justifications by following the guidelines that are outlined below.

Step One

Start by clearly defining your goals, the purpose for participating in the show and how success will be measured – in advance. Include tangible and intangible goals. Typical goals and measurement methods are as follows:

Goal

How to Measure

Exhibit Efficiency or Return on Objectives (ROO)

This is the percentage of a company’s total audience with whom the exhibitor had “meaningful engagement”. As an example, If the total show audience is 10,000 and you had 75 visitors, and 20 of those visitors requested demos or scheduled a follow-up meeting; then, your exhibit efficiency is 20 divided by 75 or 26.6%. As you start comparing your exhibit efficiency across shows, you’ll be able to see which shows provide more value.

Awareness

Measure the percentage of show attendees that visited your exhibit by dividing the number of people who registered at your booth by the total show attendance (or, if available, the total number of attendees from your target audience). Survey attendees as they leave the show or after the show (dependent on show management’s approval) to determine if they recall your exhibit and what their perceptions were. An average of 73% of an exhibit visitors remember stopping by, 8 to 10 weeks following a show.

Reach when Compared to Competitors

Measure your booth attendance versus your competitors’ booths each hour to evaluate the effectiveness of your exhibit, pre-show marketing, and brand awareness. If you know the show attendance for each day, you can also determine how much of the audience you’re reaching compared to your competitors.

Quality of Leads

Evaluate the quality of your attendees against the show’s overall attendance (using post-show audience data that’s typically provided by show management). Do the show’s surveys indicate a higher level of technical attendees versus what you saw at your booth? Did you attract more or fewer attendees interested in specific products than the show average?

Value of Leads

Survey (in person or via an online survey) your sales team. What did your sales team think of the show? Did they see the right people in your booth? Were the attendees from your prospective   customer base? Was the staffing sufficient to allow them to spend adequate time with prospects?

Click here to read part two.

About the Author:

Fundamentals of Lean Business Planning

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: October 25, 2016 Updated: October 25, 2016

Every business owner should be aware of lean business planning. It’s a perfect compromise between the old-fashioned formal business plan that is too big and static, and the kind of small steps and analysis that is the watchword of lean manufacturing and lean startups.  It’s all about taking small steps and evaluating results often. And planning, for real businesses, isn’t about the big plan; it’s about the management it causes.

Why Lean Planning? What are the Benefits?

Why would you, as a business owner, care about planning? I hope that’s an obvious answer, related to focus, priorities, and getting things done. Planning, done right, is about managing your business better. Set expectations, track results, and manage the difference between what you expected and what happened.

You know you can’t do everything. Every business owner knows that; so we use planning to try to do the most important things. The secret to failure is trying to please everybody, so you don’t try. You please the people who matter most, depending on what you want from the business. And that kind of focus is essentially strategy.

Good lean planning helps you lay out a map, or a route, or a series of steps to follow to make strategy real. Most people are more likely to get things done when they can work towards the next step, or milestone. And these are also called tactics, to execute strategy. Tactics are what you do with the actual day to day, decisions you make on optimal pricing, channels marketing, and product (or service) developments.

Regular review, another part of the planning process, helps you make sure you are actually executing your tactics by tracking progress towards your specific milestones, and watching the main performance measurements you set with your plan. Track results and compare them to expectations. Develop accountability.

Good planning helps you manage your money. You have the tools to regularly compare what you expected to sell to actual sales, and then you use that data to inform what to spend, and to ensure you never run out of cash.

That’s how lean business planning is a business process that will help you manage your business. Run your business to make your life better. Don’t run your life to make your business better.

First Step: A Lean Business Plan

The lean business planning method is about taking small steps, consistent tracking, and frequent course corrections. The lean plan itself only includes what adds value to management, without waste. The plan itself is lean, small, streamlined for internal use only, just big enough for optimizing the business. A lean business plan has four essential parts:

  1. A bare-bones description of strategy for management use only. It’s probably just bullet points, not an elaborate text. It’s a reminder for the team.
  2. Another bare-bones description of the important tactics; again, for management use only. The play defines tactics you take to execute strategy, such as pricing, marketing, product or service development, financing, and so forth.
  3. A measurable and trackable schedule for regular monthly reviews, plus assumptions, milestones, tasks, and the numbers and performance indicators you want to track. Milestones can include dates, deadlines, number of customers, and budgets. Tasks can include responsibility assignments and budgets.
  4. Essential forecasts including sales, spending, and cash flow.

This lean business plan is clearly not the “elaborate business plan” that lean startup experts reject. Unlike the old-fashioned formal business plan, the lean plan skips the carefully worded summaries and detailed business information for outsiders. The lean business plan is not even a document. It’s a collection of lists, tables, and bullet points.

https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/Core_plan-600W.jpg

Keep it Live. Use it Well

It’s about planning, not just the plan! With lean planning, the plan itself is useless in a few weeks if you don’t track results and follow it up regularly to manage what’s going on. Much like lean manufacturing and lean startups, lean business planning is a process of continuous improvement. It takes small steps, analyzes results, and makes corrections. Make a monthly commitment to review and refresh your plan. It’s never finished. As long as your business is alive, so is your planning process. 

https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/Cycle-PRRR-33696776_600w.jpg

About the Author:

Tim Berry
Tim Berry

Guest Blogger

Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software and bplans.com, on twitter as Timberry, blogging at timberry.bplans.com. His collected posts are at blog.timberry.com. Stanford MBA. Married 46 years, father of 5. Author of business plan software Business Plan Pro and www.liveplan.com and books including his latest, 'Lean Business Planning,' 2015, Motivational Press. Contents of that book are available for web browsing free at leanplan.com .

It’s a Big Deal to Be a Women-Owned Small Business

By BarbaraWeltman, Guest Blogger
Published: October 19, 2016

While businesses are barred from discriminating against job applicants and employees on the basis of sex, the federal government does give a little edge to businesses owned by women. Under the law, the federal government has a goal of awarding 5% of its contracts to women-owned businesses that have received certification. In fact, in the government’s fiscal year ending September 30, 2015, the SBA reported that the government actually awarded 5.05% of prime and subcontracts to women-owned businesses totaling $17.8 billion.

Types of certification

There are two types of set-asides under the federal contract program for women:
  • Women-owned small businesses (WOSB). Eligibility is described below.
  • Economically disadvantaged women-owned small business. In addition to the basic eligibility for a women-owned small business, one seeking certification for being economically disadvantaged must meet additional requirements.

Self-certification

To achieve the designation of a women-owned small business (WOSB), you must meet certain criteria and complete the certification process online.

Basic eligibility

As a female small business owner, you qualify for certification if:

  • Your business is at least 51% owned and controlled by women. This means having direct control (not through another entity) to handle day-to-day management and long-term decision making for the businesses.
  • These women owners are U.S. citizens.
  • The company is a for-profit business. It can be organized in any form: sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, S corporation, or C corporation.
  • The company (nor any of its owners) has been debarred or suspended by any federal entity.
  • The company has a place of business in the U.S. or makes a significant contribution to the U.S. economy through the payment of taxes or the use of American products, materials, or labor.
  • The company is considered “small” in accordance with its primary North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code.
  • The NAICS code fits with the WOSB Federal Contract Program.

Economically disadvantaged

There are three additional criteria:

  • The woman’s total assets must be $6 million or less. This is based on the fair market value of her assets, including her home and the business.
  • The woman’s net worth must be less than $750,000, excluding equity in her home, the ownership interest in the business, funds in an IRA and income from a pass-through entity used to pay taxes arising in the ordinary course of business.
  • The woman’s personal income must be $350,000 or less. This is the average annual income over the past three years.

Documentation

If you meet the criteria, you can self-certify by providing documentation demonstrating eligibility. These include proof of citizenship, documentation related to your entity, two years of tax returns, stocks, and ledgers.

Third party certification

Instead of self-certifying, you can complete the process through an SBA-approved third party certifier, such as the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce (USWCC) and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). These third-parties charge a fee for their services.

Additional steps

As part of the certification process you also need to take care of the following:

DUNS number

This is a number assigned to a business by Dun & Bradstreet. There is no cost for obtaining it and you can do this online* or by telephone at 800-591-8534.

SAM registration

You also need to sign up for the System for Award Management (SAM).  This, too, is free.

Conclusion

If you need help, check out the Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (APTAC). Just keep in mind that getting certified is no guarantee you’ll be awarded government contracts. It’s up to you to pursue contracting opportunities.

*Denotes non-governmental website

About the Author:

BarbaraWeltman
Barbara Weltman

Guest Blogger

Barbara Weltman is an attorney, prolific author with such titles as J.K. Lasser's Small Business Taxes, J.K. Lasser's Guide to Self-Employment, and Smooth Failing as well as a trusted professional advocate for small businesses and entrepreneurs. She is also the publisher of Idea of the Day® and monthly e-newsletter Big Ideas for Small Business® and host of Build Your Business Radio. She has been included in the List of 100 Small Business Influencers for three years in a row. Follow her on Twitter: @BigIdeas4SB or at www.BigIdeasforSmallBusiness.com

The Pros and Cons of Being the Boss

By FranchiseKing, Guest Blogger
Published: October 18, 2016 Updated: October 18, 2016

There are pros and cons to any decisions you make in your life. This includes the small ones and the big ones. In my role as a franchise ownership advisor, I’ve had the distinct advantage of hearing first hand (from people I’ve helped become their own bosses) what they feel the pros and cons are of being your own boss are.

I’m going to share what they’ve told me, along with what I know first-hand, since I’ve been my own boss since 2001. Here are three of the many positive things to being the boss:

1. You can set your own schedule

Imagine how it would feel for you to be able to come and go as you please...to set a schedule based on your needs instead of your employer’s needs. 

2. You don’t have anyone to report to

If you own an independent business, the buck stops with you. You make all the decisions having to do with your business.  Believe me, it’s quite empowering.

If you end up becoming the owner of a franchise business, the buck still stops with you, but there is a difference. You don’t get to make strategic decisions about your business. In other words, you can’t just add new products and/or services in order to increase revenue. Those things can only be done from franchise headquarters.

3. You have lots of control

As the boss, you have the ability to control your day-to-day work life.

In addition to setting your own schedule, you have the final say so on who you hire, and what benefits (if any) you provide.

You can also control the growth of your business. Maybe you’re at a time in your life where you don’t want or need to pursue record-breaking sales numbers. Guess what? When you’re the boss, you don’t have to. 

On the flip side owning a business, does have its drawbacks:

1. Income fluctuations

When you own a business, your income is dependent on the revenue you bring in. And it may not be consistent-especially at first.

Think about it; when you’re an employee, you expect and receive a paycheck on a consistent basis. It’s up to your employer to figure out the revenue part. It’s really not your problem. Not so when you’re the boss. You’re the one in charge of making enough money to pay your employees, pay your operating expenses, and pay yourself!

2. Liability

You, as a business owner, are liable for bad things that can sometimes happen in a business. For example, if you own a restaurant that serves alcohol and one of your employees serves alcohol to an underage customer who drives away from your restaurant and hurts someone in an auto accident, you can be held liable. Scary, huh?

That’s only one example. Can you think of any others? You need to.

Tip: make sure you hire a business attorney who will explain your liability as the owner of a business before you become an owner.

3. Long hours

It’s one thing to “understand” you’ll be required to put in long hours when you own a business, it’s quite another to actually work 12-14 hour shifts. Feet get sore.

Granted it will probably be easier to do knowing that the hours you’re putting in are for your own business, as opposed to someone else’s business. But still, long hours are long hours. You may want to talk to current business owners to see what kinds of hours they’re putting in.

When you own a business, tired or not, you have to be the one who steps up when longer hours are needed to keep your business up and running. You need to weigh all of the pros and cons before you take the plunge into business ownership.

About the Author:

FranchiseKing
Joel Libava

Guest Blogger

The Franchise King®, Joel Libava, is the author of Become a Franchise Owner! and recently launched Franchise Business University.

5 Bad Habits That Hurt a Company's Credit Ratings

By Marco Carbajo, Guest Blogger
Published: October 11, 2016 Updated: October 11, 2016

Procrastination, overspending and nail-biting are common examples of bad habits. Let’s face it, everyone has their vices, but some bad habits are so hard to break. Although we’re all susceptible to have some bad habits in our personal lives, when it comes to business, it’s our customers, employees and bottom line that are subject to them. This can lead to challenges and may result in the loss of business.

Here’s a look at five bad habits that small business owners may find themselves battling with that hurt a company’s credit ratings.

  1. Paying Invoices beyond Payment Terms – How a company pays its invoices is one of the main factors impacting business credit ratings. Paying invoices several days or weeks past the due date is a bad habit that not only negatively impacts business credit ratings but also may jeopardize the credit terms offered by the vendor.
  2. Being Reckless with Company Data – The information a business owner furnishes on credit applications, company documents and other financial sources is critical data that makes up a company profile with the business credit reporting agencies. Providing inaccurate or outdated information will directly impact a company’s ability to obtain credit with businesses, suppliers, and lenders.
  3. Overextending the Company’s Credit Limits – Using credit that is larger than what is available to the business is a practice that should be avoided at all costs. This could result in over-the-limit fees, a decrease in credit limits and may result in your account being closed by the issuer. Charging more than your limit also hurts your company’s credit ratings because it is a strong indicator of poor business credit management.
  4. Ignoring Cash Flow Management – Statistics show that upward of 50% of businesses fails due to lack of proper cash flow management. Cash flow is the lifeblood of a business and it impacts how a business meets its financial obligations such as meeting payroll or paying a supplier. Failing to pay suppliers on time will ultimately result in hurting your company’s credit history and ratings.
  5. Refusing to Acknowledge the Importance of a Web Presence – When it comes to business, the internet is constantly growing and evolving with new technologies, platforms and applications that are streamlining the lending process. Failing to realize the need for a company website and presence on the web can be costly. Did you know a company web site is one of the ways a creditor will review and learn more about a business? Some creditors may even consider it a greater risk if a business does not have an internet presence.

A company’s credit ratings play an essential role in the credit review process. It shows lenders, suppliers, banks, etc. how you handle your financial obligations. While bad habits are hard to break, put together a simple and workable plan that you can implement as it will help you make great strides in the success of your business.

About the Author:

Marco Carbajo
Marco Carbajo

Guest Blogger

Marco Carbajo is a business credit expert, author, speaker, and founder of the Business Credit Insiders Circle. He is a business credit blogger for Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp, the SBA.gov Community, About.com and All Business.com. His articles and blog; Business Credit Blogger.com, have been featured in 'Fox Small Business','American Express Small Business', 'Business Week', 'The Washington Post', 'The New York Times', 'The San Francisco Tribune',‘Alltop’, and ‘Entrepreneur Connect’.

How to Know When to Change Your Business Plan

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: September 27, 2016 Updated: September 27, 2016

Sometimes you need to stick to your business plan to make it work. Even a mediocre strategy consistently executed over time is better than a series of brilliant strategies that keep going off in different directions. Strategy often takes time.

On the other hand, there is no virtue in sticking to a plan, just for having stuck to a plan. We live with constant change. 

Which brings me to the dilemma that many business owners face:

Do I stick to my plan, or change it? If I change it, then is my plan vs. actual (reality) valid? Doesn’t it take consistent execution to make strategy work?

To which I’ll add;

 “It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.”
 – Chinese proverb

I’ve been dealing with this dilemma for years, as a business owner, entrepreneur, and consultant. I want to suggest some guidelines to help you decide whether to change the plan midstream, or not.

A Good Planning Process

It starts with having a plan that includes priorities, milestones, and expected results. Also, you have to track results and compare them to what you had planned or expected to see. And also, as you developed those expectations, you should have included assumptions.

Ideally you have that process going on already. Without it, there’s no plan to change, and you are managing reactively. If you don’t have a process of planning in place, start it immediately in order that you have a better planning process later on.

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today. – African proverb

Stay the Course or Revise the Plan?

Take some time each month to review your plan and its results. Once you have the process established, it doesn’t take more than an hour or two to get team members together.

Start that monthly meeting with a good hard look at your underlying assumptions. Identify the key assumptions and whether or not they’ve changed. When assumptions have changed, there is no virtue whatsoever in sticking to the plan you built on top of them. Revise your plan, automatically, when key assumptions have changed.

Then look at the differences between what you planned and what actually happened. Identify key differences between the plan and actual results. Some will be better than planned, and some worse.

For each key difference you discover, and all of them combined, use your best judgment and common sense to determine whether the differences were caused by false expectations or unexpected good or bad execution. Also, consider external and internal factors that may have influenced the results.

Maybe your expectations were too conservative, or too optimistic. In that case, you revise your plan. Use your common sense. Were you wrong about the whole thing, or just about timing? Has something else happened, like market problems or disruptive technology, or competition, to change your basic assumptions?

Maybe you discover you and your team have executed better than expected, or results were better than expected. Hooray. Stick to the plan. It’s working.

And maybe you discover that your execution was wrong, poor, or flawed. If any of those reasons are the case, work on executing better and change the plan.

Do not revise your plan glibly. Remember that some of the best strategies take longer to implement. Remember also that you’re living with it every day; it is naturally going to seem old to you, and boring, long before the target audience gets it.

 

About the Author:

Tim Berry
Tim Berry

Guest Blogger

Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software and bplans.com, on twitter as Timberry, blogging at timberry.bplans.com. His collected posts are at blog.timberry.com. Stanford MBA. Married 46 years, father of 5. Author of business plan software Business Plan Pro and www.liveplan.com and books including his latest, 'Lean Business Planning,' 2015, Motivational Press. Contents of that book are available for web browsing free at leanplan.com .

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