Dwight Eisenhower once said, “Good planning without good working is nothing.” We tend to agree. While there are some small businesses that have succeeded without a plan, this is generally speaking not the best way to plow forward. As a matter of fact, lack of a business plan is one of the reasons many small businesses fail. But what gives? Why should a small business owner care about writing a business plan? And if they have one, then who needs a strategic plan or an action plan? Good questions, all – let’s take a closer look.
A business plan is typically utilized for several reasons, chief of which is to determine the viability of a new business idea to launch and be sustainable. Once the idea is validated, it acts to secure funding in the way of a business loan or through investors. It definitely helps to provide structure to the idea, and allows small business owners to determine the best way to shape its operations.
A strategic plan is used by existing organizations to describe where the business is, and where it would like to be in the next 3-5 years. It outlines specific goals and what the benchmarks of success will be. It also describes how an action plan will be put into operation.
An action plan is a document that helps guide small business owners and their teams in the day-to-day tasks of the company. It specifically defines what needs to be done, when, by whom and what resources will be needed to succeed. When done correctly, the document will help define specific processes for individuals, teams and departments.
If we were to return to Eisenhower’s quote, it becomes clear that the business plan and strategic plan are elements that go hand-in-hand with an action plan. Once each is in place, the only thing left to do is work the plan.
And as the iconic phrase goes, there’s only one thing small business owners need at this point – just do it.
You’ve been caught in the corporate hamster-wheel since graduating from college and now, you are about to take the big leap: business owner, entrepreneur. When you start mentioning your intention to family, friends and colleagues – that little thing called doubt starts to creep into the back of your head. But you ignore it, and press on, all the way to launching the business.
Then that negative voice, the lizard brain as Seth Godin likes to call it, starts to yell loudly in your head: “YOU’RE NOT A BUSINESS OWNER! YOU’RE NO EXPERT! DO YOU REALLY THINK YOU BELONG??!”
And Imposter Syndrome has solidly taken root in your brain. But there is way around this awful bout of bad juju …. And here are six ways you can combat it:
1. Reframe your fear
Every time you hear that little voice tell you that you shouldn’t be doing this, adopt the mentality to prove that voice wrong. Get angry at it, be challenged by it – and work harder in the task at hand. By reframing your fear, you will quiet that voice in your head.
2. Talk it out with a mentor/trusted colleague
Building a small business can be lonely at times (particularly if you are a sole proprietor/solopreneur), so it is essential to make sure you have a trusted network of professionals with whom to bounce around ideas. Even better, a mentor would help you process not only any doubts, but the challenges you face as a business as well.
3. Remember your accomplishments
That’s right – your accomplishments! You were driven to launch a business by something, and more than likely have had some success before. Take a step back and look at your career thus far, and remember that this in just one more step in your professional journey. You have every right to be here and now, working in your small business.
4. Provide value with every interaction
We love this one, because it is another way to get out of your head and get your hands into the work of being a business owner. Every discussion, task, networking or customer service encounter is an opportunity to focus on providing value, as opposed to listening to the little voice.
5. Stop the Comparison Game
It’s an easy trap to fall into, particularly when competing for business or networking. Understand that you are on your own unique path. Believe in your value proposition or differentiating factor. When you do that, there’s no way you’ll fall into the comparison game.
…until you make it. This old nugget still holds true today. When all else fails, fake it. No one will know.
If you’re a small business owner, you’re already pre-disposed to keeping a tight watch on expenses. Naturally, any financial decision is on that comes with some considerable thought and even some hand-wringing. After all, you’ve gotten this far on your own. You wear multiple hats on a daily basis, and have been successful to this point. Why should you spend the money? Is it worth it? The simple answer is yes, but here are seven reasons why:
1. A Consultant removes emotion from challenges and difficult decisions
Sometimes business owners can be faced with challenging and emotional decisions. Countless hours were spent building the business into what it is today. Many folks – whether it be employees, vendors or family members – helped to get it to this point. But it may be time for some hard choices. A consultant can come in with a fresh perspective and give you the unemotional and unabashed advice needed to move forward in the growth of your business.
2. Consultants are Professional Problem-Solvers
Let’s face it – this is why you’re even considering a consultant to begin with: there something amiss in your business. Consultants are able to come in and help diagnose the challenge in front of you, and develop a plan of action to help you get moving.
3. Consultants are Teachers
This is our personal favorite, and not just because we both had had experience leading trainings or teaching classes. No – the real value a good consultant brings to the table is that they help you the small business owner learn something new. Perhaps it’s a sales strategy, a client relationship system or a new payment processing platform – the consultant should give you the knowledge needed to help your business become more efficient, and profitable.
4. You don’t have the internal staff to level up
This is one major reason why hiring a consultant makes sense: you need a rock star to help you get to the next level in your business. The other major reason…
5. You don’t have the expertise to level up
This is an extension of number 3, really. And it’s a common challenge for many newer small business owners as well, particularly those who are amazing in one particular area. The need to be competent in so many areas of a business (HR, Accounting, IT … the list goes on) can be too much. A consultant can make up for that shortcoming.
6. To help launch a business
Launching may be the toughest part of getting started for some, particularly if you are doing it alone. A consultant give you an opportunity to bounce ideas around, strategize around financial decisions, and hone in on your marketing message and target audience to name a few. And of course, it’s great to have another set of eyes to review documents, licenses, and leases.
7. To facilitate change
Finally, one of the hardest challenges to overcome is that of change. It is human nature to resist change, often times because it is so uncomfortable. A good consultant knows this, and helps businesses navigate the emotional minefield that is filled with fear, anxiety and uncertainty. They also can inspire a business to tackle the change by setting digestible goals.
Finally, if you’re a business owner looking at bringing on a consultant – do your homework. Line up a few choices, ask about how they work with their clients, and seek out testimonials. When you make your choice, make sure you are ready to dive in head first with someone you like and trust.
It should come as no surprise that 2 of the top 5 reasons a small business might fail has to do with money. Specifically, small businesses struggle with cash flow and/or run out of cash altogether.
Now, there are many contributing factors as to why a business might fail. Hiring the wrong people, poor management decisions, never even writing a business plan are some of the biggest offenses. That said, if you really want to give your small business a chance at success, there are two key pieces that must be addressed:
1. Know your Price Points
We have found that B2B Small Business Owners are some of the most talented people in their field. But, when making the switch from a W2 career, they most always undercharge as soon as they launch. Why? It is a myriad of reasons, primarily rooted in fear. The solution here is simple: know your market, deliver value and understand the total cost of what you are providing, not just the face-to-face time with the client.
2. Get Good at Sales
Depending on your previous W2 life, sales might not be your strong suit. If it isn’t, understand a few things. As the business owner, you are now and always will be its chief sales person. If sales is not your forte – seek out trainings and mentors, and do it immediately. From dedicated sales coaches and customized trainings to small business consultants that provide personalized plans, there are countless ways to build and grow your sales skills.
The Small Business failure rates are constantly updated by the Small Business Administration. Nearly 1 of 5 small businesses fail in the first year and 5 in 10 fail in year five. The reasons for failure are equally well-documented. Charging appropriately for your products and services, as well as developing a successful skillset in sales are two factors that B2B Small Business Owners must embrace early in their ownership journey.