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Planning comes naturally to the small business owner. You tend to concentrate on where you're headed and what needs to be done today to get to tomorrow.
The past is important. It teaches us valuable lessons. Good and bad avenues have been traveled by all of us. We owe it to ourselves to learn from the past.
But business planning is all about tomorrow. And nothing in your future is more important than the markets you serve.
Your customers determine your future. That outrageously complex computer game you devised will not turn into a business if no one buys it. That new beer you brewed and bottled will remain on shelves if no one buys it. And you grow tired of looking at all those pictures you painted that stare back at you in your studio.
Start your planning process with the most important aspect--marketing. Like the good witch says in the Wizard of Oz, the place to begin is at the beginning. And the beginning of your business plan is with marketing. Today's marketing.
Who are your customers? How do you find them? Is their need a continuing one that you can supply? How will you expand the customer base in the future? What's the competition? Have you accounted for the changes that future technology will impose? Is marketing and selling one of your strengths? If not, how will you compensate?
The answers to these questions will help you through the daily grind. The answers also provide the basis for the most important part of your business plan. You can carry it around in your head, or you can write it down. Writing it down will bring new questions to mind.
Writing a business plan is not difficult. Start by jotting down ideas and thoughts as they occur to you. I've done this in the past--I simply collected the pieces of paper in a box and after a month or so, picked through them. Those ideas that made sense I put together into a brief write-up. This is the beginning. Do this several times, and you'll see a business plan emerge for your future business.
This gets you started on a business plan. Tomorrow, I'll write more about this and the next step. Stay tuned.
Don't neglect planning. Whether you do it in your head or on paper, it's some of the most important work you'll do. Ultimately, you want to know where you're headed so you can take some steps to get there. Otherwise, your business will meander along and your daily work will gradually lock you into a path that you might not want.