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10 Questions to Ask Yourself in Planning for Your Small Business

Published on Jan 6, 2011


Check out '10 Questions to Ask Yourself in Planning for Your Small Business' at 'Time to Start Up,' the small business blog by BizFilings.
The New Year is here whether you like it or not. And maybe 2010 was so-so for you or perhaps you had a stellar year that you hope to repeat. No matter how your year was in 2010, you still need to plan, plan, plan for 2011.business plan_opt Here are 10 questions to ask yourself and to help you in your quest to steer your small business to success.
  1. What's your definition of success? It is the most fundamental of questions but is often forgotten. Do you define success by numbers or do you measure success by overall growth? What gets you out of bed every day? What do you hope to achieve?
  2. What's your strategy? As Tim Berry, founder of president of Palo Alto Software, says, "Business strategy is like sculpture: it's about what you take away and what you leave behind. It's as much about who isn't your target market as who is. And as much about what you're not doing as what you are. How are you different? What would your customers say? Do you know your strategic focus, and do your team members know it?"
  3. What are your primary tasks? Do you know what's at the top of the heap heading into the New Year and why? According to Berry, "Strategy means nothing without concrete specific business actions to implement it. Do you know what's next? If you're part of a team, does the whole team know?"
  4. Are you accountable to task dates and deadlines? People need a carrot dangling in front of them as a motivator. That's why concrete goals need to be established to track results.
  5. Does every task belong to someone? Berry's words of wisdom: "You need to assign responsibilities to specific people, not groups or committees. Do you really know who's doing what? Does everybody on the team know? Is peer pressure in operation, with metrics that measure performance, and that, preferably at least, all the key players can see? We're looking at accountability here, and that's vital to management. Business needs owners, owners need metrics, and metrics need tracking." Amen!
  6. Do you know how to measure results? Metrics and more metrics. Being able to measure results generates responsibility and management. Berry suggests a performance metric like, "dollars, presentations, trips, proposals, closes, page views, subscriptions, calls, minutes per call, etc."
  7. Are you forecasting the vital numbers? Let's face it. Cash is king. Project future sales, and costs and expenses. Forecasting is a critical part of the process. Berry says, "If you're just watching balances, you aren't managing that well. You're risking surprises and losing opportunities."
  8. What are your main assumptions? Track your assumptions AND how they evolve. Valuable lessons can be cultivated from this process.
  9. When is your monthly review? Consistency is key. Berry says, "You have to schedule reviews in advance, stick to the schedule, review your assumptions and make changes to reflect changing assumptions, results and needs. Without regular reviews, your planning is just a plan, use once and throw away."
  10. What needs to be addressed or changed? "The business environment is about constant change, and you need the planning process to manage that change. With planning process, tracking, plan review, plan vs. actual analysis, you end up steering a company toward its goals," Berry says.
Want to learn more about business planning? Check out Business Owner's Toolkit.