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If Your Business Doesn't Have a Plan, You May Soon Not Have a Business!

Small-business-blog-business-plan-evolveMuch has been written about the need for a business plan. But most often it's in the context of a document that's used to raise money, often creating a masterpiece of dazzling charts and colors, with writing often worthy of a Pulitzer Prize.

But the long and the short of it is that developing a business plan may be the second most important task in creating a foundation for success for an entrepreneur. An army wouldn't go into battle without a battle plan. Nor should a business. And while, it, ultimately, may help you get necessary funding, it should provide a roadmap for how the business will operate from day one and be continually updated as business and market conditions dictate. It should be a living, breathing document.

And, oh, what is the MOST important task in creating a foundation for success for an entrepreneur - it's the implementation of that plan! There, are, literally, thousands upon thousands of great business plans, but only hundreds upon hundreds of great implementations!

So let's start. Forget the pretty templates. Just get to the basics and keep it simple.

First and foremost, be able to simply describe your business concept. For this, use my "Aunt Tilly Rule." Be able to describe your business in one or two sentences so that even your elderly Aunt Tilly can comprehend your business concept. This should encompass what it is you do (products and/or services), to what target market, to solve what market need. Once you've done this (and you will be constantly modifying it as your business evolves) you now have a crisp definition that you can use when you meet prospective customers, suppliers or, ultimately, investors. Plus, if Aunt Tilly can understand it...so will they!

Next, know your battlefield - its topography, enemies and allies: Understand your target market(s), your ideal customer profile, your competition and potential strategic partners. Define, research and size your market as thoroughly as you can. And remember your market should be defined by the your ideal customer - that is, the customer whose needs your product or service meet as well or better than anything out there today.

Define and describe your product(s) and/or service(s). What features, functions, most importantly what benefits it offers your target market - how it/they fulfill the needs described, previously.

Establish three year financial goals, monthly for the first year, quarterly for the second and third. These will be the yardsticks you measure against. And a caution here. With tongue, firmly planted in cheek, please make sure these goals are on paper, as opposed to etched in stone. Easier to change them that way...and they surely will need to be changed as market and business conditions dictate. But they remain the scoreboard of your business plan implementation.

Further, develop a simple set of strategies and tactics that have as their foundation how to most effectively deliver your product(s) and/or service(s) to your target market to meet your financial goals. They have to be connected. Essential in these strategies and tactics are marketing and sales. In short, how will you create awareness and interest in your product(s) and/or service(s) and how you will convert those qualified leads into actual sales. You can develop other strategies and tactics regarding operations, customer support and organizational development, but if you focus on sales and marketing, you're focused on the most important elements of the business - customers and revenue. The rest just supports those two.

Establish short-term milestones regarding key tasks in product development and strategy and tactical implementation and manage them tightly.

Finally, once more, keep it simple but direct. Document it, live with it and, above all else, focus on its implementation. It is your bible., your battle plan, your livelihood. In a later post, we'll talk about how to turn this battle plan into a plan to raise funding.

Master Yoda knows these things. His job it is. May success be with you!

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