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Quick-Start Business Planning for Small Businesses

Part 1: Business Planning Doesn't Have to Be Time Consuming

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Business planning for small businesses.

A business owner involved in business planning.

Image (c) Kutay Tanir / Getty Images

Business planning is like water to a thirsty plant. It keeps our businesses vital and thriving. Without business planning, your business will never be as healthy as it could be and may even sicken and die. But many small business owners don’t do the business planning they should, because they’re hard-pressed to find the time to do it. How many times have you thought that you should do some business planning – if only you weren't so busy taking care of business!

But business planning doesn’t have to be a time-consuming ordeal. In just a pair of two to three hour sessions, you can put together the basics of a business plan that will invigorate your business for the course of a year.

So set aside the time on two days for a pair of business planning sessions. (The days don’t have to be consecutive, but should be fairly close in time. You may choose to have your business planning sessions as much as a week apart.)

If you’re the sort of person who prefers to work in a group, get together with a like-minded friend or two who also runs a small business. You’ll find the brainstorming in these business planning sessions easier with input from other people, and they’ll certainly be more fun as social occasions. (Keep your business planning group small though; no more than three!)

Business Planning Session 1

1. Revisiting the vision statement.

Your business vision statement is the starting point for any business planning, as it’s the core of your inspiration and motivation. Do you see yourself having so much business you need to hire help? Trebling your sales? Becoming locally renowned as the best business of your type? Expanding into a franchise operation? Give your imagination free rein. What would you like your business to be like next year? Three years from now? Five years from now?

Articulate your business vision for each time period listed above – and write your three business vision statements down. Don’t hesitate to craft a business vision statement that expresses what you truly want your business to be and what you truly want to get out of your business. The vision statement is for you, not for your customers or clients.

2. Evaluate your business.

This second step of business planning involves examining the current position of your business. First, the easy part. What are your business’s three best strengths right now? And what are your business’s three areas of weakness?

Now it gets a little harder; you need to relate these strengths and weaknesses to your vision statement for next year. How will the three strengths you have identified get you closer to where you want to be next year? How will the three weaknesses hold you back?

Think about these and/or discuss them and then write down the three aspects of your business that you feel are most important to concentrate on in terms of achieving your vision statement for next year.

For instance, suppose my business vision statement is to treble my sales for next year and get my product nationally known. Suppose, too, that my strengths are the attributes of my product (people who use it see it as a superior product), my customer base (the product is well-positioned locally and I do a lot of repeat business), and my distribution system (I have no problems filling orders or having my product delivered to the customers).

On the other hand, the weaknesses of my business are that it doesn’t seem to be attracting a large number of new customers, the product doesn’t seem to be known outside of the local area, and my marketing efforts don’t seem to be working.

Examining these and comparing them to my vision statement for next year, I wrote down: “Sales force. PR. Marketing.”

Stop here for the first business planning session. That’s enough to mull over for now – and if you go away and do other things, your mind will continue to work on the problem you’ve set it. A good night’s sleep between this and your next business planning session (or even several!) will make your next business planning session much more productive.

Business Planning Session 2 is on the next page. Click to continue reading.

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