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Business Planning for Success

By Greta Schulz, ProActive Training

Businesses are failing daily - not because business owners didn't start a viable business or because of a weak economy - but because of a lack of planning. That's right--PLANNING! I'm talking about the kind of planning that it takes to generate sales.

Many a business owner has started out with talent and an idea about bringing a product or service to the marketplace. Along with the skill related to the product or service there is the initial plan to finance (usually under-finance) advertising, direct mail and/or public relations along with a spreadsheet of projected sales for growing the business. Then there is the task of either hiring a sales force or having the owner(s) wear the sales hat. Either one can be the formula for short-term death without a "Working Sales Plan".

I heard a great quote from the book The E Myth, (which translates to "The Entrepreneurial Myth"). Here's what happens. Someone says, "I really love to cook, so I am going to open a catering company." Then that person has "an entrepreneurial seizure" and thinks that because Uncle Joe always compliments her pies and all of her friends ask for her recipes that she's got the makings of a business. Wrong! Remember that your product or service is merely the venue you use to make money in your business. Working on your business is the most important thing you can do, not working in it. What does that mean? Stop cooking and start marketing and planning how the pies are going to get sold! 

Here are some basics that you need to be able to answer before you open those doors.

Profile. What should your customers look like? If you already have an existing business, then what are the character traits that make up your current customers? To identify your customer base, you want to recognize things like type of business, industry, size of business, potential buying power, number of employees and the like.

Categorize. Breaking your customer base into somewhere between 2 and 4 categories can help to eliminate putting all of your eggs in one basket. These categories can be based upon size of business, amount of business conducted with your company, type of business, etc. The idea is to develop a modular plan for each category of business.

Establish a mix of categories that matches up to your spreadsheet projections. It is not unusual for a business owner to start a business with a customer already in place. Often the business is totally dependent upon this initial customer; and the bigger and better this customer is, the easier it is to be busy and get comfortable with the instant success of a new business. The message here is to build a strong foundation of customers so that no single customer keeps you in business nor puts you out of business.

Map out your plan. Since most people are dominantly visual, it is advisable to develop a visual road map so that you can see where you have to go and where you are along the way at any point. This method helps you to identify if you are spending your time in the wrong places.

Be willing to DREAM. What would it be like if you could move time ahead by one year and look back upon the previous year? You can. In fact, if I asked you to pretend that 365 days had already expired and you had just completed a very successful year in your business, could you tell me what made that year successful? Now you have the beginnings of your next year's "Working Sales Plan". The more detail you can identify, the stronger you can make your plan.  I have many a client that I ask what is going to make them different.  How will they be successful?  I worry when the answer is, "because we're the best" or "we have great customer service."  My answer is,"and...?"  Who cares if you have the greatest widget ever made?  Does McDonalds have the best hamburger?

Above you have the five elements of building a "Working Sales Plan." The two most important elements necessary to make your plan a success are Commitment and Desire.  Desire means the hunger to really want to be successful. Not, "oh that would be nice" or "I hope" but a burning desire to make it happen. The second is to be committed to do whatever it takes to get there, WHATEVER IT TAKES!!  

So you don't have a plan? How's that working for you?

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