|Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.|
Effective Small Business Planning
While it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day hustle of building a small business, taking time to create and review plans can help improve efficiency and avoid roadblocks that can harm your business.
Depending on your business, goals and financial needs, your plans can range from a two-page summary to a formal 30-page document designed to attract lenders or investors. Whatever the case, though, setting up a business plan and reviewing it consistently can provide powerful benefits for companies of all sizes.
Whether your business is only an idea or is well-established, creating planning documents can help you make sure your assumptions are correct, and that your strategy still fits your target market and prospective customers. A good plan can also provide an opportunity to adjust marketing strategies, operations, or other aspects that may not be supporting your business goals as effectively as they can be.
Start With Why
Determining which type of planning documents can benefit your small business starts with understanding the reason why you’re creating a plan. For instance, you may be trying to evaluate your target market to determine whether a business idea is likely to be viable, or you may need to provide financial results and growth projections to an outside lender or investor. Understanding how you plan to use the document will help determine how detailed it needs to be.
For starters, some of the information you’ll want to include will likely be:
Review Is Critical
Once you’ve prepared your business plan, it’s important to review it on a consistent basis to make sure your assumptions and strategies are still effective. The frequency of your review will depend on your business and its results, but you should plan to scan it quarterly and to perform a deeper review annually.
This type of review will help ensure your various functions are operating in alignment, and potentially identify needed resources or emerging challenges that could be trickier to address later on.
While creating a business plan from scratch may seem like a daunting challenge, fortunately there are a variety of tools to help you get started. Templates for business plans and supporting documents, such as financial tools and marketing calendars, are available online from a variety of banks and organizations such as SCORE.
Many templates and planning documents are available for free or at a low cost, and most rely on you replacing existing information or filling out forms to generate your plan. While the complexity of the requested information will vary depending on the tools and its purpose, even the most basic planning templates will be better than operating without a plan.
There are also a variety of software tools and apps that will prompt you with questions, similar to those used in tax-prep software, to guide you through the basics of assembling a business plan. The software will then compile your plan into a document that’s ready for download or export to a word-processing program.
Investing time to create and review your business plan can be a good investment in making your business more successful, and your life easier in running your company and serving your customers.
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