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Decisions are a daily concern in your small business. They become second nature. But do you step aside now and then to make the "if / then" decisions?
Planning ahead sorts through the possibilities of "if / then" and brings up some alternative courses of action.
If the economy goes south, then I'll concentrate on certain products/services not emphasizing the rest. If this type of advertising does not work, then I'll shift to alternatives. If a big box store comes to town, then I'll begin offering the things they don't carry.
Example: Joel had time to plan ahead. WalMart announced some 18 months ahead that the company would be opening one of their big stores nearby. Joel feared for the future of his small hardware store, and he soon arrived at a "planning ahead" decision. He would move from the cramped, in-town location to a suburban location on a main road. Simultaneously, he would change the direction of his business. Contractors and homeowners already came to Joel's place to rent the power tools and equipment they needed for a day or two. In his sprawling new location, Joel would have more room and could add more rentals. Today, Joel is in his new place, offering more and more rentals--including trucks and trailers. He has been able to add a repairman to keep the equipment shipshape. He still offers high quality hardware items and power tools for sale--concentrating on items not carried by WalMart.
Sometimes, owners of small businesses get comfortable with the business running itself. But the marketplace is continually changing. You already know how to plan ahead, but it can take an outside force to kick start the big decisions.
Example: Artists can have a difficult time connecting with the buying public. Juan loved to draw. Growing up, he honed his skills, including painting in oils. He attracted interest, but he noticed that people at shows and festivals bought pen and ink drawings of homes, buildings, bridges and the like. He thought about it, and he decided to concentrate on building a following with people interested in pen and ink. Doing these are easy and quick for Juan, and the word spread quickly. People now call him to come and do a drawing of their home, barn, and other local structures. This is now supporting Juan, and he uses his spare time to produce more oil paintings. His reputation is spreading as an artist to watch.
Sometimes, an interim path can be the road to the goal you want to eventually reach. Don't disparage baby steps to get you there. Put the if / then decisions to work in your business.
When your business shows signs of slowing, it's time to hunker down, plan ahead and figure out a better path forward. No better time than the present to tackle the if / then decisions.