Review Your Business Plan to Prepare for a Successful 2017

December is usually consumed by the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, but did you know it’s also National Write a Business Plan Month?

While writing a business plan is important for new entrepreneurs, existing business owners can use this month to review their plans too.

Your business plan is a living document, which means your plans aren’t set in stone. If you see your business starting to drift off from the original plan you set for it, you can make choices to put your plan back on course or to forge a new path.

So this month, I challenge you to take time away from holiday preparations, decorating or running the sales floor to revisit your business plan. Maybe it’ll only take you an hour, or maybe you can set aside a whole afternoon.

In one aspect, this is a review exercise. You’ll go over what you’ve achieved, and you can of course congratulate yourself as you observe how far you’ve come. But your business plan can also serve as a planning tool for the coming year.

As you read through your plan, consider the following:

What are my overarching goals for 2017?

Does my original business plan set out to meet the same goals, or do I need to adjust?

What are my financial projections for 2017?

If you’ve been in business for several years, you may be able to look at this version of your business plan to prepare your 2016 prediction to reality. Where were you accurate? Where did you fall short? Can you tell why your projections didn’t match up with your business performance, for better or for worse? Let the numbers guide you toward an ambitious, but pragmatic 2017 projection.

What do I need to do to help me succeed next year?

This question can also be aided by examining your projected and real finances. Do you always say you need a clone of yourself? Maybe it’s time to hire an employee. Maybe you hoped to improve the packaging of your products but never had the time to investigate vendors for the task. Can you make time and find funds to do that now?

What are my weaknesses, and how can I work around them in the future?

Your business plan includes a SWOT analysis, evaluating the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for your own business compared to your competition. Go back to the “weaknesses” portion of that report. Do you still agree with what you listed for your business? Are those weaknesses still true for your business, yourself as the boss, or both? Whether you’ve added skills and strengths to your business endeavor or you’re still struggling, think about how you can grow — or call in more help — in 2017.

When you’re finished, you’ll probably have a lot of ideas for your business for 2017 and years to come. The beginning of the year is a great time to set up a meeting with a SCORE mentor to talk about how to help your business grow.