Business Strategist Shares Insights for Plan

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<strong>New Orleans &mdash; Sept. 25</strong><br />Take a good look at that store on the corner. There is a 10 percent to 12 percent chance it will not be there next year, according to the Office of Advocacy for the Small Business Administration.<br /><br />”If you&#39;re new you have about little chance of surviving five years,” said Desiree Young, owner of VentureWalk Business Partners. “Still, such odds do not seem to damp the desire of entrepreneurs.”<br /><br />An estimated 671,800 small businesses with employees opened their doors in 2005 (the most recent year with statistics available), even as another 544,800 were expected to close theirs that year.<br /><br />”A lot of businesspeople start out with good intentions,” Young said. “They may have an idea of the goals they want to accomplish and may even write them down, but then stick them in a drawer while they deal with the daily issues that consume their time. <br /><br />”I often ask business owners, &#39;Can you tell me what your top three goals are without looking at that piece of paper? Do you even have a piece of paper that outlines your goals this year, what about this month?&#39; Usually, they don&#39;t have an answer. Andd that&#39;s where the problem lies.”<br /><br />She offers these ideas to get a plan in action:<br /><br /><ol><li><strong>Keep in mind the audience. </strong>Throughout the writing of a business plan, know the intended audience and why the plan is being written. “Whether it be a banker, an investor, or a potential business partner, your plan will need to be tailored for each,” Young said.</li><li><strong>Business plans are not just for start-ups. </strong>”Even if your business is thriving, you want to ask yourself what changes need to take place to take it to the next level. If it requires going after a different market, developing a new product or service, or rebranding what you do presently &mdash; a new plan should be developed,” she said.</li><li><strong>Strategy is the core of your business plan. </strong>The first half of the business plan is geared to helping develop and support a solid business strategy. Look at the market, the industry, customers and competitors. Look at customer needs and the benefits of current products and services. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each competing firm and look for opportunities in the marketplace. “All of these steps are largely aimed at helping you create a strategy for your business,” Young said. “The second half of the business plan shows how you will execute your selected business strategy. Your products and services, marketing and operations should all closely tie in with your strategy.”</li><li><strong>Think competitively throughout your plan. </strong>”In today&#39;s crowded marketplace, you&#39;re probably going to have serious competition, no matter how creative your business concept is,” she said. “Realistically identify where you will do things in similar manner as competitors, where you will do things differently, where you have real strengths and where you have real weaknesses. Then, capitalize and brand your strengths while you work to leverage your weaknesses.”</li><li><strong>Don&#39;t over-reach with your business plan. </strong>A lot of business plans sound good on paper but don&#39;t work in the real marketplace. “It&#39;s difficult to attract people to a new product or service,” Young said. “To get them to do business with you, you need to do more than simply attract them to your business. You either have to steal them away from someone else&#39;s business or create them by developing a need for what you have.” Although it&#39;s easy to overestimate sales projections, it&#39;s just as easy to underestimate costs &mdash; especially for a start-up. There is always going to be a hefty amount of cost overruns, expensive problems and items that can be overlooked. So, forecast conservatively and try to have an extra cushion of cash tucked in reserve.<br /></li></ol><p>The key, Young said, is to create a strategic business plan &mdash; and stick to it. </p><p>”Here&#39;s an important question to ask yourself and your team three times a day: &#39;Is what I&#39;m doing right now moving me toward one of my goals?&#39;” she said. “If the answer is no, you know what to do: Fix it and refocus. If the answer is yes, congratulations &mdash; you&#39;re on track.”</p>

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