QUESTION: I have spent considerable time developing a written business plan with many priorities. Now, I feel I need guidance to determine which one I need to implement first. What do you suggest?
ANSWER: You say you have many priorities and therein may be your problem. You will be far better off concentrating on a few critical initiatives, and focus all your energy on them.
Good managers are able to prioritize and make the hard decisions necessary for success.
It has been said that nothing happens until a sale is made. Prudence dictates, therefore, 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 critical if bills are to be paid in a timely manner.
Marketing is the function of determining who are your target customers and what are the best ways to reach them. Ideally, your product or service satisfies an underserved niche within a larger market. You must understand your competition and find ways to differentiate yourself.
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Sales involve the execution and follow-up to the marketing plan.
Customer service is a term that is often written and talked about but not always understood from the customer’s point of view. Use your own experiences as a guide.
What do you expect in your dealings with other businesses? Do you want to be recognized and greeted by your first name? Do you want a live person to answer the telephone? Do you expect the product or service you pay for to live up to its hype?
Proper management of your business’s cash flow is critical. You have payroll and other expenses that are due each month. If yours is a seasonal business, you should set aside a reserve to carry you through the slow season. Developing a monthly cash flow budget will enable you to determine when these expenses come due.
SCORE provides an excellent 12-month cash flow analysis in Excel spreadsheet form that can be accessed at http://tinyurl.com/zjc53dl
Most small- and medium-size businesses start out with a business plan. But once the business is up and running, many find that in the real world, things do not always line up with the plan.
You must constantly be vigilant and sensitive to changing conditions and willing to make adjustments to your plan as may become necessary.
Gray Poehler is a volunteer with the Richmond Chapter of SCORE, Counselors to America’s Small Business. To ask a question or request free and confidential business counseling, go to Richmond.score.org/mentors. Learn more about SCORE’s workshops on the website or by calling (804) 350-3569.