November is upon us. As I mentioned in my weekly email (sign up here), you've got just over eight weeks until the new year. Whatever religion you practice, you've got at least one holiday wedged into that space. In the U.S. we have a Thanksgiving holiday thrown in the mix.
It's a great time to bring a little balance in your life, slow down a bit, and put things in perspective.
Some people are facing personal and business challenges as they look ahead.
Whatever your situation, it is much better to have a future that's planned instead of an unknown future that will simply happen to you.
Nobody wants to fail, but very few people plan to succeed.
In the SMB space it is particularly true that very few people plan at all. We work to stay on the cutting of technology, but that's not a plan.
Most small businesses don't have a business plan. Most don't have a marketing plan. In fact, most don't even have an Excel spreadsheet that tells them whether they're making money or losing it!
1) I know I should, but I don't have the time.
2) It seems complicated.
3) I have more important things to do.
4) I know where I'm going; I just haven't written it down.
5) I bought the software, but it looks more complicated now than it did before.
Excuses, excuses, excuses.
I could give you a lot of platitudes about why you need a business plan and a marketing plan.
[e.g., If you're failing to plan, then you're planning to fail; Before you climb the ladder of success, make sure it's leaning against the right wall; If you don't know where you're going, then any road will get you there.]
But you already know all that.
And yet, chances are very good that you don't have a written business plan or marketing plan.
Let's change that.
In 2009, let's ALL have some kind of business plan. Let's look at your excuses again:
1) You do have the time: You've got eight weeks before the new year.
2) It's not complicated.
3) You do not have more important things to do.
4) You might think you know where you're going, but if you can't articulate it to someone, then you probably can't articulate it to yourself. If you really have it all worked out, then this process should take about 15 minutes.
5) Software is great. But let's get something down on paper first, and plug it into the software once you're ready. In the meantime, you'll at least have a business plan.
In the next few blog posts, I'm going to walk you through a simple process to accomplish three things that improve your success in 2009:
- Create a brief written Business Plan
- Create a brief written Marketing Plan
- Build a very simple process so that you'll actually use these and get value out of them
If you know me at all, you know what's next:
Go get yourself a 3-right binder.
A skinny one is fine. Maybe 1/2 inch is all you need.
You should be relieved at this point. Since we're using a tiny little binder, you know the Biz Plan and Marketing Plan will be succinct, to the point, easy to create, and easy to use.
If you work for a multi-national corporation with 99,000 employees and you want to go through this with us, then you'll need a bigger binder. But if you're a small business with 0-19 employees, then I think you'll find this useful.
When you boil a business plan down to it's absolute basics, it needs to contain just a few things:
- Where we are and how we got here
- Where we're going (overall goals) and how we'll get there
Each of these has a finance component, which we're going to make very simple.
I've created a simple Excel spreadsheet you can use as a starting place if you don't already have one. Go to http://www.greatlittlebook.com/Products/BizPlan.htm to download the sample spreadsheet. Free.
You'll get a zip file with an Excel spreadsheet and three PDF documents (the three pages of the Excel spreadsheet.
If you can't open an Office 2007 format document, this might be a sign that you are in the wrong career.
Poke around and play with that spreadsheet. Make a copy for your own company so you can always go back to the original and look at formulas, etc.
I'll discuss that spreadsheet in some detail here. Stay tuned.
Get out your calendar. One month from today you'll have a written business plan!