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Planning Your Business
In the beginning, there is an idea. The idea is wrapped around a belief and the belief is a catalyst for taking the first step to becoming a small business owner. You weave in gall, tenacity and an unwavering commitment to taking the idea to full realization and the next thing you know, your boutique in the mall opens its doors, your specialty restaurant has its grand opening or your internet site is launched without the accompanying bells, whistles and bouncing smile faces. You’ve just became a member of a charter group of people who are primarily responsible for keeping the economy functioning.

How did this happen?

Well, if you’re like the many who endured the terrible 1 – 3 year start up scare, you made sure that there was a well-thought out, financially sustainable business plan. As much as personality, charisma and genuine likeability may get you to the table of financial investors, once you’ve gotten past the abstract conversation common to the first few minutes of a business lunch, those who like the idea will want to know how you plan to make it work.

Planning is the rational, tangible component of an untested idea. It also happens to be the one area where most enthusiastic business dreamers commit their most fatal flaw. A business plan does more than just put the idea into words, but it also provides a clear path to putting the idea into motion. As is often mentioned to me, when working at small business seminars, the planning mode is ‘Boring’ and requires the idea person to do more than just talk a good game. I suspect that the gist of the ‘Boring’ indictment has more to with the process of moving from an abstract thought process to a pragmatic one that involves numbers, steps and timetables. Despite the level of discomfort that comes with trying to put ideas into words, the proof of this crucial step can be seen from either side of the car when driving on the I-275 corridor.

Comerica Vice President Small Business North Central Dora Brown says, “Planning and preparation is essential to starting a business since the idea is to try and anticipate the unknown. The business plan lets us know how well the process has been thought out. Have they looked at the best case and worst case scenarios? How well have they researched the industry and its competition? How do you stack up against the competition? How well do you satisfy the five C’s of competition (character, capital, conditions, competition and collateral)?

Planning is a necessary part of idea realization. It is the one aspect of launching a small business that is designed to keep the owner focused and connected to the end result. During those times when the unexpected occurs, the business plan, typically, has built in contingencies for weathering the storm. There are numerous ways to approach the process without it having to feel so burdensome.

• Visit with a small business owner and ask to see their business plan. Most are more than willing to help and do not mind talking about their own ups and downs.

• There are planning templates designed to reduce the time spent in creating a framework for your idea.

• Contact the Michigan Small Business and Technology Center, 313-967-9292 and schedule an appointment. The service is free.

• Enlist the assistance of graduate students at a local business school as part of a class project.

• Work with someone who is the ‘yin’ to your ‘yang’. My business life was always made better by that person who could think in ‘details’ to my ‘painted picture’

Businesses, like plants, do not grow overnight. I recall the insights of a former neighbor who, routinely, was featured in local home and garden magazines for her prize winning colorful floral displays. She said that she always planned two years ahead of what she had currently planted. The secret is in knowing what to do today in order to be ready for tomorrow. She was always fond of saying, “I just work my plan.”

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