Managing a Small Business: The Value of Planning
By Paul L Nolta
As a business consultant, I get the opportunity to meet and discuss a multitude of business issues with clients. All of them are interesting, some of them are challenging, and some of them could have been addressed earlier if the business owner had taken the time to create a plan or timeline for addressing them. There are different ways to plan and some of them will be discussed in this article.
The first plan that any business owners should create is, of course, the business plan. I know that many of you that are successful business owners will say that you succeeded without a business plan. Of course, you are right, but I bet that – in hindsight, you would admit that you could have avoided many of the pitfalls and mistakes you made if you would have had a business plan. You could have probably taken advantage of many missed opportunities because you did not see them until after the fact and, of course, it was too late to take advantage of them then. A business plan is like a roadmap. Without one, you may still get to where you are going but the going may be rough and tortuous and full of potholes.
Another plan may deal with networking. As many of you know, there are various ways of marketing your business for little – to – no cost by attending community functions, chamber events, networking functions and other events. One of the ways to be successful at this kind of networking is to plan ahead. Make sure that you have plenty of business cards and, perhaps, brochures available. I cannot tell you how many times I have been at networking events and have met someone that might be of service to one of my clients and asked for a business card and have them reply that they did not have any with them. They just lost some potential business. Also, plan on whom you want to try to meet or contact at these events. This planning entails, not only identifying who but, what value you would bring to them or their business and how you would articulate or demonstrate that.
Cash flow management is another key area to plan for. I have had many clients that have come in seeking assistance with obtaining a loan. After introductions and a few questions, I usually end up asking them when they need the money. Quite often, I get the answer “next week” or “as soon as possible”. I then try to bring reality to the situation by helping them understand the need to plan and create a timeline of events leading up to the funding of the loan. We identify each step required in the process, and timeline those out over the next few months. This helps my clients focus on the actual steps required and alleviates much of the stress in opening, expanding, buying or selling a business. It allows them to focus on one step at a time and not worry about the end result until it is time or occurs.
Finally, the last plan we will discuss in this article is a “To Do List.” Some people may not be aware that this is a plan but it is and allows you to focus, prioritize, and complete many tasks that you may have forgotten or overlooked in your busy day. It ensures that you will call back clients, check on the back-ordered customer product, do follow-up calls, and many other activities that are easily over-looked on a busy business day. To show you that I practice what I preach my Monday’s To Do List includes: calling the SBA; writing this article for our blog; turning in my monthly expense report; scheduling a seminar; and working on a client’s business plan demographics.
I hope that this was helpful to some of you. Next time, we will discuss how to qualify for a business loan.
Paul Nolta is a Business Consultant with the Inland Empire Small Business Development Center, a non-profit organization that provides free consulting services to small businesses in the Inland Empire. The SBDC, under contract with the City of Temecula’s, Temecula Valley Entrepreneurs Exchange provides free consulting services for businesses and citizens of Temecula Valley. Paul can be reached at 951.781.2345.