Business plan

Ask for SCORE: After Developing a Business Plan, Be Ready to Make Adjustments | Economic news

QUESTION: I spent a lot of time putting together a written business plan with lots of priorities. Now I feel like I need guidance on which one I should implement first. What do you suggest?

ANSWER: You say you have many priorities and this could be your problem. You’re much better off focusing on a few critical initiatives and putting all of your energy into them.

Good managers are able to set priorities and make the tough decisions necessary for success.

It has been said that nothing happens until a sale is made. Prudence therefore dictates that sales and marketing be a top priority.

To ensure long-term success and customer loyalty, good customer service is another. And adequate monthly cash flow is essential if bills are to be paid on time.

Marketing is the function of determining who your target customers are and what are the best ways to reach them. Ideally, your product or service caters to an underserved niche within a larger market. You need to understand your competition and find ways to differentiate yourself.

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Sales involves executing and tracking the marketing plan.

Customer service is a term that is often written about and talked about but not always understood from the perspective of the customer. Use your own experiences as a guide.

What do you expect from your relationships with other companies? Would you like to be recognized and welcomed by your first name? Do you want a live person to answer the phone? Do you expect the product or service you’re paying for to live up to its hype?

Good management of your company’s cash flow is essential. You have payroll and other charges that are due each month. If yours is a seasonal business, you should set aside a reserve to get you through the low season. Developing a monthly cash budget will allow you to determine when these expenses are due.

SCORE provides an excellent 12 month cash flow analysis as an excel spreadsheet accessible at http://tinyurl.com/zjc53dl

Most small and medium businesses start with a business plan. But once the business is up and running, many find that in the real world, things don’t always go to plan.

You must be constantly alert and sensitive to changing conditions and ready to make changes to your plan if necessary.

Gray Poehler volunteers with the Richmond chapter of SCORE, Counselors to America’s Small Business. To ask a question or seek free, confidential business advice, visit richmond.score.org/mentors. Learn more about SCORE’s workshops on the website or by calling (804) 350-3569.