By Lorene Kennard, Guest Columnist
“Have a plan. Follow the plan. And you’ll be surprised how successful you can be.”
— Paul “Bear” Bryant, former football coach, University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide.
Even with the abundance of evidence about the importance of planning, many people still do not do it. Many entrepreneurs have great ideas, but their businesses do not get off the ground because they lack a plan. Some businesses start with a bang but quickly disappear because the owners did not think about what would happen after the big, splashy opening.
Here are five reasons why developing a plan can give your business staying power:
1. A plan adds focus.
When you are opening a business, the creative juices are flowing. You are coming up with more ideas than you can process. A business plan will help you get your thoughts together so you can set some goals and focus on what you really want to do. While I was in the early stages of planning my freelance research business, Walnut Avenue Research, ideas would come to me throughout the day and night. I carried a notebook everywhere I went so I could jot down thoughts about who my clients would be, where I could find them, what I would name my business, and what I wanted to put on my website.
2. A plan gets you going.
It will help move your business idea closer to reality. First, do some research to determine whether your idea is original and whether this is a good economic climate in which to open this type of business.
3. A plan can lead to investment dollars.
Angel investors will want to see an official document proving that you have a sustainable business plan, including an analysis of your competition and how you plan to market your services and products. How will your business be different from the competition? Where and how will you find your clients?
4. A plan helps you look to the future.
If you want to stay in business for a long time, you need to think about how the business will operate over the long term. Where do you want to be one, five or ten years from now? John Barnett, prinicipal in charge of strategic services at Centrifuge Brand Marketing, Inc., in Lombard took the long term into consideration when he and his partner wrote a business plan. We “wanted to do things right and be smart about our growth,” he said.
5. A plan for adding employees.
Before you hire employees, you need to have job descriptions. Based on your research, how many employees will you need? What type of positions will you need to fill now or next year to meet your goals? Create a chart tracking the number and types of people you will hire once you hit certain sales goals.
Keep your business plan handy so you can refer to it. I look at my business plan every year to see how far I have come and whether any of my ideas can be modified and put into action. After reviewing their business plan, Barnett and his team at Centrifuge are refocusing on what they do best, supporting the growth of industrial manufacturers.
Your business plan needs to be updated regularly. It’s important to review your plan when things are going well and when times are tough. Will Rogers said it best: “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.“
Lorene Kennard is the owner of Walnut Avenue Research, a freelance research business based in Morris, Ill. She has 20 years of experience in insurance, financial services, research and information. Her clients include early-stage entrepreneurs and established business owners looking for information on their competition. Kennard also publishes the e-newsletter, In a Nutshell.