"Congratulations! You have just won a delightful all expenses paid month-long vacation in Livorno, Italy. The only restriction is that you have to get yourself there."
What would be your response?
"Wow, wonderful...a free vacation. But where the heck is Livorno? And why would I want to go there?"
Would that be about right?
Most likely -- after verifying that this is indeed not a hoax -- you would rush to your computer, or to your library, and find out everything you can about this dream destination. You'd get a map. You'd explore ways for getting to Livorno. You'd set up an itinerary. You'd ask lots of questions both before you left and after you arrived.
You wouldn't dream of dashing out your front door to embark on this delightful adventure without being fully prepared.
And yet, if you're like most new businesses, you have embarked on a journey that will dramatically affect the rest of your life taking you places you never dreamed possible. And, you've done it without any kind of a plan, road map or itinerary.
New businesses are notorious for flying by the seat of their pants -- expecting to be successful and wondering why they aren't quite reaching their destination.
Ask to see a small business owner his or her business plan. After the initial shock, his or her response will most likely resemble one of the following:
Do you have a business plan? If not why not?
Do you know that a business plan is an essential working document designed to guide the growth and prosperity of your business?
Business Plans are living documents. They should never be finished.
Yes, it is true that you may need to have a polished copy to share with prospective lenders and investors but your business plan should constantly be evolving. You should be referring to it and updating it regularly.
Business plans are not difficult or complicated. You can start with a three-ring binder, a set of dividers and paper, all readily available at your nearest stationery outlet.
Your first page will be simply a name for your business and your address.
You begin by labeling one of those dividers "My Vision". And start dreaming. What are your expectations? What exactly is your business? What does your business do? How successful will it be? What will it look like? How will you know when you're successful? Get real specific with your vision. Write it all down and put that information behind that first divider.
As your business begins to take form you keep adding to your binder, building, tab by tab, until you have put into it everything you know about your industry, your market, your customers, how you manage your business, what makes your business special, your pricing structure and how it is financed. You'll revise and correct that plan regularly.
You'll gain new insight, adjust your tactics for achieving success, re-define your market, change your pricing.
With each new insight you'll have a better idea of where you've been, where you are in your journey and how your can achieve your business goals. Then you Business Plan will serve it's purpose, becoming a record of your achievements and a road map that will guide your business steadily forward toward that vision you've set for it.