I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business.

Business Plan

“So, you two aren’t on the same page,” I offered, in an effort to soothe the raving woman on the other end of the phone line.

“The same page?” she shouted, “We aren’t even in the same book!  Last year, we agreed to expand the business.  Now that it is time to make a move, my husband is acting like he’s hearing about this for the first time! He actually said, ‘No need to rush into anything.  More trucks, more bills and more employees?  Sounds like more headaches.’  Can you believe it?  I’m ready to leave him, and this business.”

“How about a retreat instead?” I responded.  “Take a day or two to update your business plan.  Work together.  Write it up!  Then, refreshed and reunited, you can move forward.”

She settled down a bit.  That sounded better than getting divorced and looking for a new job.

How about you?

Are you committed to a plan of action, but your partner isn’t buying it?  Or, perhaps you are reflecting on the New Year, wondering what happened to the last one.  Maybe you are ready to lay claim to the dreams that caused you to start your business in the first place.  Or maybe you are wrapping up a great year…and want to make sure you have a sound game in place for your terrific employees.  These are all good reasons to update – or create – your business plan.

Here are some ideas for structuring your annual Small Shop’s Strategic Planning meeting.

  • Who attends?  In a Small Shop, all the owners definitely should attend.  The managers…maybe.  If the owners are at odds with each other, they should hammer things out before dragging the employees into it.
  • You’ll need at least a day.  What?  You can’t spare a day?  The company will be fine without you for a day.  Pick a day and stick to it.
  • Go away!  Book a hotel room.  Or, check out your local libraries.  They often have nice meeting rooms that you can use.
  • Bring food and drinks with you.  Have refreshments available all day long.  No alcohol.  You want to maintain clear thinking and steady blood sugar levels.
  • Be the leader.  Print up and hand out the agenda a few days in advance.  Spend an hour or two – no more – on each of the exercises:
  • The Mission – Why should this business exist?  What’s the point or purpose?
  • The Elevator Speech – How can you communicate to your customers what problems you solve, and how you can solve them differently and better than anyone else?
  • Your Goals – What do you want to achieve this coming year?  The next?  How can this business serve your lives?
  • The Organizational Chart – Who does what?  Who else can help?  What would they do for you?
  • The Financial Plan – How will this business make money and how much?  How much will you need to charge to make it work?
  • The Marketing Plan – How can you get enough of the right calls, at the right time, from the right customers?
  • The Top Projects – What projects could you energize that would help you solve your most pressing problems or capitalize on your most compelling opportunities?  Pick no more than five, and leave the rest on the list until you get one of the five done.  Assign a leader for each project, and a due date.It’s OK if you don’t ‘finish’ an exercise.  Just get started.  Plan to meet weekly to assess your progress and update the plan.  Assemble your work in a three ring binder.  That’s your business plan.Retreat!  Make sure you are all on the same page.  Make sure your business is working.  Make sure it’s working for you.  Before you give up…give it a go.

Here are some facts from Visa Business for wrapping up the year and looking ahead to 2014:

Visa Business December Infographic