Where Do You Think You’re Going?

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Want to hear a very surprising statistic?

According to the latest Staples Small Business Survey, only 28% of small business owners have any sort of five-year plan for their business. Now, do they have to have a plan? Of course not, but by the same token, ask yourself this:

Would a pilot ever fly from, say, Los Angeles to New York without some sort of flight plan? Of course not. The flight plan tells the pilot in what direction he or she needs to head, how much fuel will be needed, important landmarks to look for on the way, and so on. Flight plans help pilots know if they are headed in the right direction or are flying off course.

Well, that is what a plan for your business really amounts to as well. It is your “flight plan” for success.

Well, that is what a plan for your business really amounts to as well. It is your “flight plan” for success. It helps you too know whether you are headed in the right direction or not, and whether you have enough resources to get where you want to go.

Maybe it is not surprising that so many small business owners surveyed had no five-year plan. After all, Michael Gerber, in his great book The E-Myth, famously stated that most small business people are so busy working in their business that they fail to work on their business. Certainly the Staples survey bears this out: Of the small business owners that do have a five-year plan, 78% say their plan is simply “to grow/expand their business.”

There is real value however in creating a more detailed plan than that. Now, I am not saying that you need to create a full-fledged business plan because, A) that is probably unnecessary if you have been in business any length of time, and B) in all likelihood, you don’t have time to do it anyway.

So let’s be realistic and consider what you do get by coming up with a basic roadmap for your business. Let me suggest that there are four tangible benefits from coming up with such a plan:

1. It will help you crystallize your vision: Wanting to “grow your business” is all well and good, but what does that really mean? One thing that productivity experts agree on is that the more clearly and specifically you can state your goals, the more likely it is that you will achieve them. Fuzzy dreams often lead to fuzzy results.

2. It will help you establish realistic business milestones: You are the pilot of your business, and you too need to know what landmarks to look out for. Both short and long-term milestones can help you get to where you want to go.

3. It will help you be smarter about your business. Should you stay where you are, or should you look for cheaper digs? What about opening that second store – good idea or not? The best way to know the answer to vital questions like these is by having a plan and following it.

4. It will help you get to where you want to go: According to the Staples survey, a whopping 84% of small business owners said that if they had unlimited cash, they would spend it smartly, on either

  • New technology and equipment (34%)
  • Marketing and advertising (33%)
  • More inventory (21%)
  • Bonuses and/or gifts for employees (20%), or
  • Hiring more staff (10%)

But the good news is that you don’t have to hope or dream for that extra cash; if you plan right, you can generate that extra income on your own. And that in turn will allow you to do any of the above, or whatever else it is you want to do in your business.

Check out the Staples Small Business Center with tips, deals and products to help make more happen at your small business every day.