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Expert Advice to Grow Your Business
January 2011 
Rhonda Abrams
Plan for Success in the New Year
Rhonda Abrams, Founder and CEO
The Planning Shop

Entrepreneur and author Rhonda Abrams has provided business planning expertise to thousands of entrepreneurs with her USAToday column, "Successful Strategies". Her latest start-up, The Planning Shop, offers books and tools for business planning and development. This month, Rhonda shares some thoughts on planning for success in the new year.

Expert Tips from Rhonda: Plannng for Success in the New Year
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Q: How often should an entrepreneur review and update his/her business plan, and what areas should be watched most closely?

A: Conduct a regular annual review. This doesn't need to be overly extensive - look for changes in your target market, areas that may need to be reprioritized, and ways to improve the efficiency of your operations.

Every 3-5 years is when you do a more comprehensive review, and look for ways to really move the needle.

Finally, review your plan after a major shift in your industry or other critical event. We had to do this when the retail publishing market - the core of our business at the time - suddenly declined in 2008. Everyone in The Planning Shop was involved with offering and critiquing ideas. That effort is why we're still here and thriving.

Q: Why should every small business owner, even those that are doing quite well, commit to short- and long-term planning?

A: Planning gets you out of "reactive mode". Many small business owners think the path to success is doing one thing, then doing more of it. If the market falls off, your instinct is to make more sales. But you can't make sales if there's no market to sell to. That's why you need to continually be aware of things that can affect your business - both threats and opportunities.

Q: What is the key to designing jobs and responsibilities that will best meet the needs of your business?

A: Make a list of your needs and priorities and see which ones can be grouped together. A common mistake is to have one person do multiple things that actually require differing skill sets and personality types. By having a clear idea of what you want the person to do, you're more likely to attract applicants who fit those needs. And you may find the best answer is to go with part-time employees or consultants.

Q: What is the most valuable insight a SCORE small business mentor can offer to an entrepreneur as he/she develops their business?

A: A SCORE mentor fills an important role as supporter and encourager. People often doubt what they can learn and do. You need someone who can provide expert guidance, and show that success is possible if you choose the right business, critically evaluate the competition, plan carefully, and follow good business management practices.

Plan for success with a SCORE mentor.
Ask a SCORE mentor your questions online or meet in-person at your local SCORE office.

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