Before you start any business plan or any time you revisit your plan, you need to keep these 6 rules in mind. In order to be effective, any set of rules must be short and direct. These are.
1. Be Profit-Oriented. Your business must be focused on profits. Today, we here about business focusing on social causes, neighborhood development, community turnarounds, and job creation, but none of these are possible without profits. Profits are the life blood that may flow out to investors, business owners or social causes. Cash flow is king, but profits are the goal.
2. Be Honest. Don’t lie to yourself. If three people can’t cover the hours or do the work, then plan for more. Your daily sales are not going to start out great. Your restaurant or plumbing business is not going to have $10,000 in daily sales on opening day, and may never reach that level. I recently saw a business plan that was way off from possibility. With an average sale of $15 per customer, 50% of the local population would have to shop at the store every week. I’m sorry, that just isn’t going to happen. EVER! Remember, if you lie to yourself, you will always catch yourself in the lie!
3. Be Qualified. If you don’t know how, or what, or who; then you have to learn, hire, or get a partner. A few classes at your local community college, Small Business Development Office, or online can mean a world of difference to your business. Find a consultant, a coach, or another business owner to help mentor you. Ask your accountant and banker lots of questions. If you don’t understand it, then keep asking them, or ask them to recommend a book for you to read that will help you. Lastly, if you don’t understand it, then don’t do it.
4. Be Thorough. Don’t wait until later to figure it out. Do it now. What are your cash handling procedures? What qualifications are you looking for in employees? How will you handle sick days. What advertising do you need to do, and how much will it cost? Walk yourself through one week of operations on paper. Are you going to offer credit to customers? What if they don’t pay? Who is going to do your tax filings? Find an attorney and meet with them before you need them. Research and double check your work. By reducing your surprises, you will increase your likelihood of having a successful plan.
5. Be Committed to Meeting Everyone’s Needs. It’s not really your business. It’s everyone’s business. If you think owning your own business means you don’t have a boss, you’re wrong. You have lots of bosses with lots of needs. These needs are your new boss, and you had better pay attention to them. Your service or product must meet your customer’s needs, but it goes beyond just this. Perception of your product or service is a large part of the customer experience. Your employees are a large part of this experience. You need to meet your employee’s needs. If an employee is having trouble at work because of childcare issues, you need to help. This doesn’t mean that you pay for it. Maybe you rearrange their schedule for a day or two or give them an extra hour for lunch so that they can visit a daycare during the day. Better yet, you make the calls, talk to your friends for a recommendation, and be helpful. It will pay dividends in the long run. Help your suppliers and they will help you. Take delivery a day early if you needed, or stay an hour later to meet a truck that is running behind because it broke down. Accept a partial shipment so your supplier can help another customer who has an immediate need. You will end up getting better service, better prices, and better terms. Stay committed to their needs, and they will stay committed to you.
6. Be Flexible. Change is inevitable, and you will have to change with it. Don’t be defensive about your ideas or your plan. If it has to change; then change it. Many times we think about our business as our child. Changing your plan or your business is not giving up on your child, it’s molding them. Pay attention to what is happening around you. Don’t go through life or your business with blinders on. This goes back to being honest. If it has to change it has to change. In the last 15-20 years, Blockbuster video has had to be dragged forward. An initial leader in the business, it resisted change and was unable to deal with competitors. Once Blockbuster became reactive and not proactive, the writing was on the wall. They have weathered many years when a small business would not be able. Create, Adapt and Conquer!
These are the basic rules to follow. The core of ideals of your plan. If you already have a plan, use these rules to review. Especially if your plan or your business is not working. They seem simple, and they are simple, but the simple things are what get us in the end.
So Obey The Rules!