We’re 15 days from 2010. It’s time to give your small business a jump start. That means planning, record keeping, and goal setting. I have four suggestions for you.
1. Draw up a Simplified Business Plan.
I know you don’t want to do a big, five pound business plan, like you would do to apply for a loan. That’s why I made up the Simplified Business Plan a decade ago. (really) I did a version of this for all my businesses last year, and I’ve just updated it for 2010.
Here are the parts I think are important for an annual mini-business plan:
- Describe the business. One sentence will do it.
- Tell about your markets. List some existing clients, and a one sentence description of your ideal new clients.
- Set measurable goals for the year. You may want to start with your 2009 results, or you may want to get away from that, and start fresh.
- List the actions that will take you towards those goals.
2. Write a Simplified Marketing Plan.
Once again, you don’t need a huge formal document. You just need something to help you move forward. Thus the Simplified Marketing Plan. Here are the four steps:
- Name and describe each market you need to reach. Your business probably has several different markets or several different classes of customers.
- Tell what methods you will use to reach them. Each class of customers can be reached by different media or methods. By listing all the different potential methods, you can start the process of deciding which to use.
- Establish the cost in time and in money. Each media or method takes time and money to implement. This is one of the best ways to decide which to use, and which to set aside.
- Mesh this with your daily habits. This is where you take action. Find ways to make marketing part of what you do every day. Also look for ways to make the most of each action, to make your action work across more than one of the different media and methods you listed.
The combined Simplified Business Plan and Simplified Marketing Plan for my multi-part consulting businesses fits on two pages. (OK, so it’s two pages single-spaced, but still. It should be short.)
3. Improve your record keeping systems.
Most small businesses have a serious weakness in their financial record keeping. (Admit it: you know I’m right.) Here are several ways you can improve your system, starting with the smallest businesses and working up in size:
- Glenna Mae’s Simplest Accounting Method: the envelope system. If you’re a small enough business to stick with a simple paper solution, this is the system for you.
- Outright.com simple online system. If you want an online solution, but something very simple, I like Outright. It’s free, it’s simple, and it lines right up with US income tax categories. If you are using the popular FreshBooks invoicing system, the two integrate easily.
- WorkingPoint business management system. This online tool brings accounting together with invoicing, contacts, inventory and more. There is a free level and a paid level. I’ve played with it some, and I like the way it works.
- QuickBooks software. It’s not free, it’s not online, but it is familiar and effective. I’ve taught courses on QuickBooks a whole bunch of times, and I’ve worked with Intuit on a couple of projects: I judged two contests for Intuit, they gave us some copies of QuickBooks to give away, and they even bought an ad from us once. I’m a fan and a user of QuickBooks. So, we’ve met. Nothing I’ve found works better for complex small businesses.
4. Make an index card reminder.
Take the list of goals you made in your business and marketing plans, and transfer it to something like an index card. You want something you can refer back to each and every week as you work. Because that is point of planning: to influence your behavior.
I did this last year, and I’ll update it for this year. It makes a terrific guide for doing regular check ins. How am I doing? It’s easy to tell, because I have this index card with all my goals on it!
What are you doing to launch into 2010? What works best for you?
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