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        Another AHBBO Article
        Putting the Plan Back In Your Business Plan

        © 2013 Elena Fawkner

        Very little that is worthwhile in life happens by accident.
        Cause and effect dictates that worthwhile results come from
        worthwhile efforts and the converse is also true.  It's
        basic goal-setting theory.  Set the goal, put in place
        the steps that will eventually lead you there, carry them
        out and you will eventually reach your destination.  Think
        of a business plan as a goal-setting tool for your business.

        There are two main purposes for writing a business plan.
        The first is to help you to manage your business.  The
        second is to raise capital.  The focus of the business plan
        for each purpose is different.  In this article, we are
        focusing on the business plan as a tool to help you manage
        your business.

        Why Write a Business Plan?

        There are many reasons why a business plan is a valuable
        tool when it comes to managing your business.  Most
        fundamentally, it helps you 'set your sail' in the direction
        you want your business to go.  Rather than drifting along
        aimlessly, being tugged this way and that by random currents
        and puffs of wind, a business plan helps you steer a
        predetermined course and stay on track.

        A business plan also facilitates focus.  It can help you
        keep your attention where it is required ... on those steps
        you need to take to bring you closer to your objectives.
        This creates a results-oriented mindset which helps break
        the inertia that can result from a lack of focus.

        The process of creating a business plan can help you to
        anticipate hurdles and threats to your business and to
        formulate actions to overcome adverse contingencies.

        A business plan also serves to keep your business on track
        by reinforcing your vision for your business.  It acts as
        a check and a balance, something against which to weigh
        a proposed action.  Does the action further the purposes
        you have outlined in your business plan?  If so, go for it.
        If not, it is probably just a distraction.

        Things to Think About In Your Business Plan

        A good starting point to begin thinking about the elements
        of your business plan is to carry out a SWOT analysis (what
        are your business's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities
        and threats)?

        The strengths you identify will become the foundation for
        your competitive focus.  You want to think of ways to exploit
        your strengths here as these are what will set you apart
        from your competition.  For example, you may be particularly
        good with people.  Use this talent in the customer service
        aspects of your business to distinguish yourself from your
        competition who may be lacking in this area.

        By identifying weaknesses, you can plan for ways to compensate
        for them.  For example, you may be in a business where you have
        to wait for some time to be paid by your clients and as a result
        you may be vulnerable to cash flow shortfalls from time to time.
        By recognizing this potential weakness in your business, you
        can take steps to minimize cash flow difficulties by arranging
        for an overdraft facility with your bank.  Or introducing an
        incentive for clients to pay you earlier such as an early
        payment discount.

        The opportunities you identify become the cornerstones for
        your business development.  What opportunities exist that you
        can exploit in the next 12 months to develop your business?
        Think here in terms of things like technological advances
        that you are in a position to exploit but your competition is
        not, possible joint venture partnerships, or the exclusive
        rights to XYZ patent that you have negotiated.

        Finally, the threats you identify become the foundation for
        your contingency planning.  By recognizing the threats that
        exist to the future health of your business before they
        become a reality, the better placed you will be to implement
        contingency plans in case the worst happens and the better
        prepared you will be to ride out the storm.

        Deciding on Your Plan

        Once armed with your SWOT inventory you can begin to
        refine your thinking in terms of coming up with an overall
        strategy for your business.  Remember, you want to exploit
        your strengths and opportunities and minimize the impact of
        your weaknesses and threats.

        Once you have your overall business strategy in front of you,
        you are then in a position to reformulate the elements of your
        SWOT analysis into specific goals and objectives.  Write
        objectives to support every goal for every area of your
        business.  Think about your products and services, customers,
        competition, image, customer service, marketing and advertising,
        financial objectives and the like.  For example, one of your
        goals may be to introduce a second or a third product line
        in the coming twelve months; or to launch a new advertising
        campaign or to negotiate a more favorable line of credit with
        your bank.

        By the time you are done, you will be very clear in your
        own mind where you want your business to go and what you
        need to do to get there.  In turn, this awareness will help you
        to recognize new opportunities as they present themselves.

        Finally, bear in mind that a business plan is just that, a
        plan.  It is not carved in stone and, as with any plan, be
        prepared to be flexible and make changes as circumstances and
        priorities change.  Work with your business plan and treat
        it as a living, breathing, organic part of your business.  By
        constantly keeping your plan in mind when making business
        decisions you can rest comfortably, knowing  you are steering
        your business in the direction YOU want it to go.

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        Elena Fawkner is editor of Home-Based Business Online. Best business ideas and opportunities for your home-based or online business.

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