The Inside-Out Business Plan? -- Your Small Business Plan in 10 Easy Questions

Writing a business plan for your Solo Entrepreneur business doesn't have to be a daunting project. If you can answer 10 straightforward questions about your business, you can be ready to go.

The key to success is to answer all of the questions in enough depth that if a friend asked you to invest in this business, you'd say yes. Most importantly, make sure you record your business plan somehow...whether you write it by hand, type it into your computer, or put it on stickie notes on your wall. Keep it someplace handy where you can refer to it when you are making important business decisions. And, make sure you review it monthly--or, even better, weekly--and update it at least annually.

1. Your Dreams: What do you want your business to provide for you? (think time, money, freedom, who you work with) Be specific--how much money, how many hours, when do you want to "retire".

2. Customers: Who are your customers and what do they want/need?

3. Products and Services: What products/services will you provide to meet customer's needs?

4. Markets: Where are your customers and what do you know about them as a group? "Where" might be geographic, it might be what kind of places they hang out, or where they go to find products or services like yours. What is their age, income, gender, hobbies, family structure, etc.

5. Your Style: How will you reach customers and what will you say? Your methods of reaching customers needs to match with where your customers are--and with a message that they can relate to.

6. Competitors: Where else are your customers likely to get this need met? Find out all you can about how your competitors price, market, and provide service.

7. Your Uniqueness: How will your product/service meet customer's needs differently than your competitors? Consider how your personal uniqueness impacts that.

8. Your Abilities: Of the skills necessary to run your business, what do you do well, and what do you need help with?

9. External Resources: What people/technology/services will support you in the skills you need help with?

10. Fulfilling your Dreams: How will your business provide the kind of working environment you desire, both in how much time you spend, how you perform your work, and how much money you make? Here's where the rubber meets the road--make sure you can show how you will sell X amount of product or service at Y price, cover your expenses, and reach the goals you set in 1. above.

Once you can answer all these questions, have it reviewed by some trusted, experienced professionals who will give you objective feedback. Consider a business coach, as one such resource!

Copyright 2004, Terri Zwierzynski - Accel Innovation, Inc.

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Terri Zwierzynski is a coach to small business owners and Solo Entrepreneurs. She is also the CEI (Conductor of Extraordinary Ideas) at Solo-E.com and the author of 136 Ways To Market Your Small Business. Terri is an MBA honors graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill. Terri has been coaching for over 10 years in a variety of settings, including 6 years as a senior-level coach and consultant for a Fortune 500 company. She opened her private coaching practice in 2001. You can reach Terri at http://www.TerriZ.com.

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In The News:

Small business is backbone of the community  Bryan-College Station Eagle
Local small business awarded $10k grant  Eyewitness News (WEHT/WTVW)

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