Should You Have One? You Decide.

If you run a small business, chances are you don't have a business plan. Or, perhaps you threw one together when you started up, and it's been gathering dust on the shelf ever since.

What is a Business Plan?

It's a blueprint of your business – what it does, where it's going, how it's going to get there...a complete picture. A good business plan should include – among other things – a marketing plan and a financial plan. The marketing plan deals with the sources of revenue (customers) while the financial plan is the “scorecard” for the business.

A business plan isn't something that leaps to the forefront of an entreprenurial mind. In fact, most creative business people tend to resist the idea of a business plan. They feel it might restrict their ability to move ahead quickly. Some feel it is simply a waste of time – why bother sitting around thinking about what you're going to do when you could just get out there and do it?

A Good Plan Should Help, not Hinder Your Efforts

Time to clear up a few things about business plans. First of all, they should be treated as a “dynamic” tool to help you run your business. Things change in your operating environment every day, and a good plan needs to be flexible enough to allow you respond to some of those changes, without going off track. Of course, without a plan you won't know if you're going off track, because you haven't created “the track.” However, if you stray from where you originally wanted to be often enough, you could end up in trouble. For that reason, a business plan should be reviewed and changed regularly, usually once a year. A really good business plan should have lots of worn, dog-eared pages in it by the end of the year!

How Do You Make A Plan?

If you don't know how to create a business plan, you could always read a book or consult an outside source for help. A word of caution here: Try to find a source that has real live experience at both creating and successfully implementing these things. As we all know, there is a vast difference between the theoretical/academic world and the real one...yours. The academics are quite right and correct in the mechanics of the process, but making it work effectively is always your challenge.

And that's the key – a good business plan should be working for you, you should not be working for it!

Don't Go Hunting Without The Right Weapon!

A business with a plan is like a missle with a guidance system. Or, like going hunting big game with a rifle instead of a shotgun loaded with bird shot. The rifle will be more accurate and “go the distance” much better and you will hit the targets with more consistency.

It Ain't Rocket Science

If you think about it, it soon becomes apparent that having a plan to run your business is simply common sense. And, it can make the job easier and more fun. Fun? Yes, certainly. After all, it's much more fun to have all the important stuff laid out in advance rather than make it up on the run. A person can only run so fast without tripping.

Simply having a business plan won't guarantee success. You have to use it! And, it still takes hard work, talent, smarts, intuition, luck, and all the other things that make success happen. The difference is, the business plan can help you manage these things in a more effective direction so you get the maximum “bang for your buck.”