Sunday, August 3, 2003

A business plan helps you grow

Expanding firms

By Rhonda Abrams
Gannett News Service

Last summer, I took my own advice. With my employees, we developed a comprehensive business plan for my company. Having made the decision to grow the business, we first had to be clear about what currently was at the heart of our business.

Like many entrepreneurs, I had started out with one kind of business, but in response to customer requests or attractive one-time situations, my business changed. To take my business to a higher level, we needed planned growth. That meant developing a business plan.

Start at the beginning

But you can't figure out where you're going unless you know where you're starting from. So my employees and I set about defining our core business.

The results?

Greater focus. By identifying our core products and core customers, we realized we needed a stronger emphasis on what our customers depended on us for.

New products. We realized our customers wanted and needed additional business plan tools.

Specific target milestones. We gave ourselves tangible objectives so we could measure our progress.

New name. We felt we needed a business name that better reflected our new, stronger emphasis on business plan products for serious entrepreneurs. So, as of last month, my company has a new name - The Planning Shop - and a new Web site,

Define the core

If you're considering growing your business, begin by defining the heart of your current enterprise. As you answer the question, "What's at the core of my business?" examine these areas:

Core competency. At what do you excel? What do you do better than your competitors? You're most likely going to build your business plan around your core competency.

Core product, service. What's your best-selling product or service? That's where you get the lifeblood of any company - cash flow.

Core profit center. While your core products or services may bring you the most cash, they may not necessarily bring you the most profit. Sometimes the one or two offerings with high profit margins carry the rest of the business.

Core market(s). What kind of customer(s) do you truly depend on? Are you doing enough to serve them? Perhaps you need to beef up your offerings for that customer group.

Core values. Every business is shaped by the values and ideals of its leadership. Do you have a commitment to quality, to social or environmental responsibility, to maintaining a certain type of workplace?

Core goals. What do you hope is in your future - and the future of your company? Are you clear about how much you want to grow your business?

I'm delighted to say that one year after our business plan process, we've reached nearly all our goals. We're now about to sit down and, building on the core of our business, develop a business plan for the coming year.

Rhonda Abrams is the President of The Planning Company and the author of "The Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies." She is a popular speaker and seminar leader. Visit Rhonda's new Web site at

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