Business planning tips for 2012

    By musbacht | Small Business

    signpostssignpostsWhile annual strategic planning is common in the corporate world, many small businesses neglect this important step in preparing for the coming year. If you haven't started yet, there's still time -- and the tips below might help you.

    I recently attended a presentation on small-business planning by Pat Mayfield, author of several books and the current executive director of the Golden Gate Business Association, and she outlined several steps that can help:

    Establish a clear mission. Always start with your company mission, and align your goals to it.

    Work backwards. Start with where you would like to wind up at the end of the year, in terms of sales or other relevant targets.

    Be realistic, then try stretching. Write down what you think is reasonable to accomplish. Then challenge yourself a little to  extend the goal a little further.

    Keep in mind the worst-case scenario. "I often hear of small businesses failing because they didn't have enough reserves -- many times it's because they didn't plan," Mayfield said. Whether it's reserve funding or having all your data backed up or some other possible disaster, review what you would do in such an emergency -- it may help you do avoid it.

    Outline your strategies and tactics. Keep it simple and specific.

    Mayfield suggested using the basic questions of journalism -- who? what? where? when? why? and how? -- to guide you in writing down your plans.

    For more on planning issues, check out these recent articles:

    (Full disclosure: Pat Mayfield is a friend and neighbor of mine. I have found her books and presentations to be very helpful.)

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