Photo credit Brindleberry Custom Pet Photography
I was recently reading about the vision of dogs and how they have poor vision up close, but much better vision at a distance. It led me to thinking about how as entrepreneurs we must have exceptional long term vision and plans for our businesses. I love setting goals and planning for my business. It keeps me motivated, inspired and is a way for me to ensure I am on track. I have been surprised at the large numbers of entrepreneurs that do not have a business plan as I consider this document a vital part of my business and the success I have experienced. The business plan I have for dogma outlines my 3-5 year goals and plans. I rewrite it once a year and review it every 6 months. I also do a strategic planning document that outlines short term goals that I write yearly and review with my management team every 3 months. I discuss the strategic planning in more detail on this post.
So what exactly is a business plan? It is a document that outlines the structure, products and services, financial forecast and goals of your business. It also outlines your competitive niche, the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and marketing plan (which I also keep as a separate document that we will discuss more at another time as well). I am not going into the details of writing a plan as there are many great resources online that help you to develop a business plan, such as this page at entrepreneur.com. If you are just starting, I highly recommend using a software program such as Business Plan Pro. I used this one when I first wrote the Business Plan for Dogma. I was really struggling with getting it started and it was excellent and helping me through the process. You will only need to purchase it once as it provides you with the structure and all of details you will need to develop one, and then can just update it each year.
I know we all feel busy as entrepreneurs, but you must schedule the time to focus on your business through activities like writing your business plan. If you are pressed for time, or just have a hard time getting it started, break it down into sections and write a small bit each day. If you are not a skilled writer, put your ideas and key points together and hire someone to write the business plan for you. It is a good idea to schedule the time for reviewing your plan/goals each year as well. I do this at the start of each calendar year as it is a quiet time for me over the holidays and something about the start of a new year motivates me.
Setting goals and documenting them are critical for an entrepreneur’s success, and creating your business plan is one of the best ways to do this. If you are looking at financing or leasing a property, they will likely request a formal business plan for them to review. A business plan demonstrates that you are serious and have put careful thought into your business. It is easy for time to fly by and for us to get caught up in the day to day operations. If you do not put the time into focusing on the goals for your business and reviewing your progress, you may find yourself trying to recover from losses, implementing unsuccessful programs or a downward slide with your business and not knowing why. A business plan may not guarantee success, but running a business without it can cause you to experience challenges in achieving your goals. Stay focused on what’s important each day, but do not forget about your long term vision and plans.