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Don't Stress About Your Business – Just Plan!

Small-business success is never easy, but many business owners make mistakes that almost guarantee failure.

A widespread mistake is not planning. Although many businesses generate plans for loans or other needs, all too often the documents then set on a shelf and are not updated as conditions change.

And conditions will change. Your market can morph for any number of reasons. A competitor may open around the corner or on the Internet. Suppliers, vendors and other critical sources can disappear, raise prices or otherwise cause disruptions. As much as humanly possible, you must plan for these.

Take a Hard Look

Although most business owners know they must plan, most also find it difficult to find the time to do so. But budgeting time to think about your business is just as important as budgeting resources for necessary expenses. In fact, time for planning may be THE most important resource of all.

Of course, you need to know what to plan for, and that takea research. But assuming you have an idea of market trends, competition and more – which is increasingly available on the internet – your biggest challenge may be finding the time to put this in perspective and use it to create an actionable plan to ensure your business succeeds now and in the future. Everyone is different, but doing this might require that you set aside time when and where you won’t be interrupted. But whatever your time constraints and method of planning, formally set aside time to do this and time later to update your plan.

Cash Cows

The first area of analysis probably involves your customers: who they are, who they may be in the future, what trends or threats could take them away and what could add to their numbers and their frequency of doing business from you. It’s old advice, but analyzing your best clients and what they have in common is a good first step. Looking for similar opportunities with potentially companies is probably the best way to grow your business.

Conversely, don’t have a plan that’s little more than doing more of the same thing you always have. Because your competition and market(s) will change, more of the same is not a plan. Better is to examine likely challenges. Look where you have spent resources without comparable return. Examine what developments might threaten your business: technical change, social developments or other trends. Don’t be the owner who expanded his horseshoe business just as Henry Ford rolled out his first autos.

Clearly that requires a good understanding of a whide range of trends going forward, but it may also require looking back. Some of your best research will come by reviewing your previous year or two of business. Were your customers making any notable changes? Are they buying more or less of certain goods or services, asking for somehting you don't have more than occasionally? Your work almost certainly won't be this simple or transparent, but these are the directions you want to look.

Big Priority

Another area that’s easy to overlook involves one of your most important assets, your team, and part of your planning should include time with your staff. A good concept involves the idea of your “internal customers.” Though not new, the concept deserves attention. Your employees, your internal customers, need to have good morale and the tools they need to do their jobs. Your clients will rarely be better served than how you serve your staff. Your employees also have good ideas about your operation that you should consider. Talk to them.

Talking with your employees will also show them that you value them. That can also be critical to keeping them in a competitive employee market, which is important of itself, and is an opportunity to focus them on your organization's core values. This can pay dividends in many ways. For example, an important element of your success will turn on customers experiences. Few things can impact that more than a motivated staff.

There’s of course is more, but these areas are easy to overlook in your daily grind and that’s a mistake you can’t make for long and succeed.

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Midwest Small Busness Finance | 7001 N Locust St. | Gladstone, MO 64118 | Phone: 816-468-4989