Think Again

Your Business Plan Shouldn’t Be A Static Document

Business Plan imagePlanning is an ongoing necessity for small-business owners. Environments change, and the most successful entrepreneurs adapt by continually revisiting their original assumptions. Your initial financial projections may be literally and figuratively on the money, for instance – or trending in a different and unexpected direction.

Here are some timely planning tips to help keep your small business on track for long-term growth: Revisit your business plan. Your business plan shouldn’t become a “trophy” of your start-up success. Refer to it every quarter or six months to match estimates with current realities. Update your plan as needed with new or modified contingencies and adjusted time frames for key milestones such as expansions or new product/service lines.

Watch those numbers. Financial statements provide a window into the health of your business. Project cash flow several months into the future based on reasonable expectations for sales and income, customer demand, regular payments (e.g., loans and rent), and other factors. By comparing actual cash flow to projections, you can spot opportunities to improve performance. Use your banking and accounting resources at will.

Watch your industry. In today’s interconnected global economy, far-flung changes can affect any number of small businesses. The influences may be as broadly felt as a shift in demand for a certain commodity, or as local as a new stoplight near your store. Stay current with world and community events, study your sales records, and communicate with customers, suppliers, and colleagues. You’ll be less susceptible to surprises, and better prepared to anticipate and capitalize on changes.

Develop relationships. Although growth usually implies investing in additional resources, there may be more cost-effective options better suited to your immediate and long-term needs. Building partnerships with other businesses in your field and specialty consultants can help stretch your capabilities. They may also call on you when they need help – perhaps during a period when you have time or capacity to spare. Use any networking opportunity your chamber of commerce might offer.

Invest in your staff.  Because a growing business will demand more of your time, identify employees who can take on routine and management responsibilities. They’ll relish the opportunity to grow personally and professionally, and you’ll be free to focus on more important issues.

An experienced, outside perspective can benefit any small business. SCORE is a nonprofit organization of more than 10,500 volunteer business counselors who provide free, confidential business counseling and training workshops to small-business owners. Call 1-800/634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you, or find a counselor online at SCORE.org.