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Planning brings the future to the present so you can do the right things now.

Too many businesses are started without having any kind of business plan in place. Unless the banks or potential investors want to see a plan, there is absolutely no plan – there is only a dream or big idea put in motion. And that’s why, for so many, years later there’s been a lot of spending and very little (if any) revenue to show for it.

Here are 3 ways you can instantly change that!

1. Stop putting it off.

Don’t wait to write a business plan until you think you have enough time. The busier you are, the more you need to plan. You can lose everything by not having a solid, focused strategy for winning the business game. If you’re maintaining a priority list with a great many things on it you are definitely not focused and certainly aren’t being strategic. That approach is rarely, if ever, effective.

A good business plan presents an overview of your business – now (year 1), in the short term (years 2, 3 and 4), and in the long term (5 years from now). It doesn’t just describe what your business looks like in these critical stages, it also defines how you’ll get from one stage to the next, as specifically as possible.

This means you’ll include major milestones and key events that are most meaningful to your business. For example:

– signing your first, 100th and 1,000th client,
– growing your list to 1,000, 10,000 then 100,000 subscribers,
– selling your first, 100 and 1,000 units of product, or
– making your first $1,000, $100,000 or $1,000,000.

Whatever milestones you decide to focus on as key success indicators, your business plan should also outline all the major steps you need to complete to achieve them.

2. Don’t ignore cash flow.

Sales are exciting; profitable sales even more so! But don’t fall into the trap of thinking your business is safe as long as sales are strong enough that when you subtract your costs and expenses you’re left with a reasonable profit.

You don’t spend profit in your business; you spend cash. That is why understanding your cash flow, and managing your business accordingly, is critical to your success. Including a cash flow calendar (or table) in your business plan can save you from financial disaster.

3. Know your competition.

There’s no such thing as no competition. Every successful business has direct and indirect competitors. Know yours. Monitor the playing field. Keep an eye out for new players and changing rules of the game. The market is never static.

Know what differentiates you from your competition, how you will position your business against theirs, and how you will create a competitive advantage and communicate it to your target market. Put these critical details right into your business plan so you can stay on track as the year unfolds.

Preparing a business plan isn’t as hard as you might think. You don’t have to write hundreds of pages; a single page can be enough. It’s the thinking behind your planning, not the size of the document that makes all the difference to your ultimate outcome.

More next time. Until then, remember to LOVE YOUR WORK, whatever it may be.

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