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You Thought It Would be Easier

By W.W. Mayes

I will continue with our series on building business plans but I first want to share some insights that I have gained by helping a business out recently. I do consulting on the side with businesses and I find that one thing tends to be a consistent problem with many businesses, big and small. They do not want to do the hard work of up-front planning.
Planning is not one of those sexy things that we like to think of when fantasizing about a business. Most people want to think about the big deal that will make them wealthy or about how they can order people around and not have to take orders from a stupid boss anymore. People tend to fantasize about all the sales that they will get because they think they are the world’s best salesman. I have seen more superstars fail when starting a business than serious people who are considered boring but who plod along every day, moving toward their written goals.
It is said that everyone wants to be rich but no one wants to work for it. From my personal experience things are much better when you have earned them. Planning is very difficult work. When you are planning out your business you have to be critical of everything you put in to your business plan. You even need to plan to review your plan on a regular basis to determine if it is still correct for you and your situation.
While working with a business owner this last week I found that I had to be very honest with this person. They had started a business that had a good concept but not much else. This person was doing everything on the fly. You can get away with that for a short time but not for very long. This person was having problems with employees, with clients, with revenue, with sub-contractors, with everything and everyone. What I saw was a person acting like that little boy who was trying to plug a hole in the dam with his fingers.
One advantage that acting as a consultant provides is that you can step back and look at things from a distance. When you are in the middle of the fight for business survival it you cannot see the forest for the trees but you need to. I believe this business owner will be fine as long as a few steps are taken:

Stop and think about what you are doing and how it will impact your business and relationships. You must take time to think and you must do this often.
Define what you honestly want to accomplish. Too many people say that they just want to make money. Well that’s not good enough. Why, How, What, Where, and When must be clearly spelled out.
Be prepared to tell those who care more about themselves than the success of the business to step aside. You only have so many hours in the day and you can’t afford to waste time on negative, selfish time suckers.
Determine how much time you can realistically afford to commit to your business project, and get buy-in from your loved ones. You must keep some balance in your life. Get rest. Spend time with your spouse. Relax some. If you burn out or become ill while doing the buildup of your business, things will most likely fall apart.
Learn to say “NO.” If you have to, stand in front of a mirror and say “NO” one hundred times. People do care about what you need and want for the most part. It is not that they don’t care about you. It is that they care about themselves more. It’s not personal. It’s selfish. You will have to tell people “NO” and you may not like doing this.

Next week I will begin the discussion covering “Balance Sheets and other Accounting Issues facing businesses but for now take some time to reflect on the above statements. The following are five important tips from the SBA when working on a business plan:

The business plan should tell a compelling story about your business, explaining who, what, when, where, how and why.
2. Your plan should be focused and clear. It is not about the number of pages or style of the cover.
3. The plan should define specific business objectives and goals with general parameters to guide the organization.
4. Writing a business plan should force logic and discipline into a business.
5. A good business plan is a living document. It should be updated regularly.
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