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Where Is Your Business Plan?

16 Dec

You can find comfort in a business plan. I wrote my first business plan in late 2009 even though I started working for myself in 1992. Today’s economy is different. You need a framework for making good decisions. You need to know specifically what you want to do and what you don’t want to do. You need to know who else is doing it and how they price their goods and services.

Yes, I’m talking about homework. Just because you’re not a student does not mean you are exempt from homework. Your homework project is to create a business plan.[i]

You can start small. I launched the Small Business Administration’s business plan template and completed the “Products and Services” section first. I listed two products and then saved my changes as a Microsoft Word document. Later that week, I realized that I forgot an additional seven products and services that should be in the business plan. I opened the plan, added more products, and then saved it.

I set an Outlook reminder for the first day of each quarter to update the business plan. The following quarter arrived and up popped the reminder. I looked at the plan and decided to generate my profit/loss reports for the previous two years. I saved them as PDFs in the same folder as my business plan.

The following quarter, I realized that I switched vendors for one of my services. I updated the business plan with accurate info regarding this new vendor. I also wrote where I think my industry is going. It’s part of the plan and I feel you owe it to yourself to at least write your ideas, whether they are right or wrong.

My business plan is not finished and yours also may never be finished. I have a rather weak entry under the “Competitors” heading. I see some folks marketing themselves in my niche but they do not have the training, experience, or business savvy that I do. However, they exist and they can grab business. Competitors come and go, and I have to be conscious. This section may end up changing every time I open the business plan. That may be the case for you too. It is not good and it is not bad. You need startup funding, and to obtain it you should have a business plan in place first. Startup money is used for office space (if necessary), a web site, marketing, phone, car, printing, postage, insurance, and staff. You can fund this business yourself with funds from a personal savings account, investors, family members, and friends, but be careful before asking anyone to invest in your business…they may start telling you what to do. Regardless, you will need a business plan before you ask anyone to invest in your business.

My friend who is a vice president at a large bank reads business plans all day. Some of them are longer than 90 pages. He reads them and usually denies the applicant’s request for funding. He says some plans are beautiful, but they do not convince him that the company would be a good risk. I can only wonder how much time new business owners spend writing 90-page business plans when they should be spending their time and energy running their companies. If you think your company is a good risk, explain why in your business plan.

*****

Mark Anthony Germanos is the author of two books, Escape the Cubicle: How to leave your corporate or government job for something better and How to Make Computer Systems Work for You. He has faith in a slow but sure Sacramento business revival. Sacramento small business owners are leading the way. His second book, Escape the Cubicle, is for those who want to escape cubicle jobs and become successfully self-employed. Escape the Cubicle answers the questions: "How can I grow my business" and "How do I become my own boss."

Mark is the President of Cameron Park Computer Services. As a business owner and computer networking consultant, he has seen habits that successful Sacramento small business owners embrace. He helps Sacramento small business owners embrace those habits to increase their profits, efficiency and happiness. An advocate of Sacramento business revival, Mark believes everybody should run their lives like a small business, perform SWOT Analyses and use social media campaigns to improve business. He used to say “social media is stupid.” That was until he attended a conference and saw how Sacramento small business owners can use social media campaigns as a valuable tool. Since then, he has earned more than $40,000 in business via social media. His Sacramento small business clients also have five-figure returns. Sacramento small business owners that launch social media campaigns give themselves a comparative advantage over those who lag behind. Mark does not do everything, but his clients do receive great results and participate in the Sacramento business revival when they follow his advice.

Mark moved from Chicago and restarted his business in California with a cell phone and a Honda Civic. An active triathlete, he has a life, a dream wife and a dog. For additional details, visit http://markanthonygermanos.com. Twitter: http://twitter.com/markgermanos. Facebook: http://facebook.com/markanthonygermanos. LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/markgermanos.

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