Small business planning goes beyond just writing a business plan. It's taking the proper steps to ensure success and long-term growth. The number of business tips and advice can overwhelm the new business owner who just wants the process simplified. Rather than worry about writing a 20-page business plan, come up with a solid strategy for each of the following three areas that are most challenging to small businesses:
Your business planning must incorporate a marketing mix of offline and online strategies that will help you soar above the competition. This means you need to research the following about your competitors:
- Strengths and weaknesses
- Information about existing customers and purchasing habits
- Competitive advantages
- Marketing methods
Remember that your competition may be online if you're in business to serve your local market. The more you know about them and how to distinguish yourself, the better you'll be at remaining competitive.
You'll also need a combination of various marketing strategies to help you reach customers and cause them to buy your products or services. Some strategies to try are:
- Publicity campaigns, including submitting press releases to local and online media or appearing as a guest on radio
- Online advertising on high traffic or authoritative websites that serve your target market, or pay-per-click advertising
- Blogging on your website or as a guest blogger on another blog
- Podcasting that you produce and host, or appearing as a guest on other podcasts
- Word of mouth marketing, including asking leads for referrals.
Not all good marketing ideas work well for every business. You'll have to pick and choose which will be a good fit for your industry, and that's determined by which will actually make a sale.
Another challenge to overcome in business planning is proper and timely financial management. Unless you're in the finance industry, you might enjoy doing the other aspects of your business, such as delivering products and services to customers. However, poor finances are often the culprit of business failure. You can avoid this by:
- Up-to-date bookkeeping, either done by you or outsourced to an independent contractor
- Pulling and reviewing financial reports on a monthly basis, such as a profit and loss statement and your statement of cash flow
- Keeping accurate records of your inventory, including existing and future inventory and supplies
- Understanding basic financial principles, including accounts payable and receivables
Your accountant can help you set up our books and explain the basic principles you need to help you run your business. You can also research the websites of industry trade associations to obtain financial information on industry norms, and compare it to your own.
The first person you'll need to plan to manage is you. Then, you have to consider how your business will grow beyond you, and the management skills and systems you'll need to put in place to manage a team. If you're working from home, you'll be working primarily with independent contractors, and will need to manage people remotely. These can include:
- Accountants and Attorneys
Your ability to effectively manage a team will impact the growth of your business and your ability to run it smoothly. Therefore, you shouldn't neglect this aspect of your business planning, even if you're the only help you've got starting out.
Once you take care of these three major aspects of business planning, it's time to dive in and start your business. If you skip this step, you'll soon find yourself facing an uphill battle.
Daphne Mallory, Esq. is the co-owner of Mallory Writing Services and has written more than 100 articles helping home based business owners and entrepreneurs start and market their business. You can learn more about her here.