The purpose of this article is to help you with your small business planning.

I will outline the keys steps needed for small business planning. Step 1 is to clarify what you want – your dreams, goals and financial targets.  Step 2 is to focus on how this will happen, starting with getting customers and then what Products and Services to sell to them. Step 3 is to define all the actions required to manage and lead your business.

This can be the first steps of a comprehensive business plan, a re-assessment of a current plan, or a method to regain perspective about your small business planning. I have followed some conventional business planning, but have also tried to include some approaches that will foster more reflection on your part.

While you read this keep in mind the objectives of this article:

  • As you read, write your goals and thoughts down as best you can, without any extensive investigation or fact-finding frenzy.
  • The focus is strategic, not bean-counting.  Find the ball-park, decide on the goals, plan, identify the daily actions required to “make it happen”.
  • It is a strategic in focus an meant to make you think.
  • A comprehensive business plan can then be formulated over time, which is well thought out – following a process that is free from pressure to complete urgently, since a plan is already in place and being implemented. You can download some of the FREE resources which may help you achieve this.

Small Business Planning STEP 1: What do you want?


Where do you want to be 5, 10 and 20 years from now? The vision should convey a simple message about where the business intends going in the near to distant future. What would you like it to achieve?  What do you have in mind for your business?  What is your primary aim? What do you dream about? Although you are busy with small business planning, made your dreams huge – they should frighten you to heck and make you hopeful all in one.

Strategic Objectives

Specify the following (add any if required):

  • Profitability targets and the most important financial results– use sheet below
  • The market position and competitive standing the business aims to achieve
  • The most important operating results to be achieved

Financial Objectives

Record the financial objectives below.  Your business vision, goals, marketing goals and plans, and sales goals and plans will determine whether you achieve your financial objectives.  Once you have set the financial results you need to assess them all and determine what will be required to attain your financial objectives.  Write a brief motivation why this is the case. This is not unique to small business planning, and is an area where even large enterprise fail.

Current 1 Year 5 Years
Sales ($) $ $ $
Less: Cost of Sales $ $ $
Gross Profit ($) $ $ $
Less: Expenses $ $ $
Net Profit ($) (before tax) $ $ $
Cash flow ($) (surplus cash on hand at any time) $ $ $

Motivate why you would achieve this.  This starts with marketing and sales.

Small Business Planning Step 2: Where will I my sales from – who will buy from me?

Now that the key goals have been recorded, the most important question is “Where do the sales come from – which customers and what products?”  Even more important, “Where will the sales come from in future – which customers and what products?”  That is the focus of the following table. Focus on Customers first and Products second. Do not try to combine them at this point – a natural tendency but it will create enormous complexity – unless you have only a few customers and products. Do not make the mistake of thinking that since your are not that big this can be done on the run. Small business planning without a plan around who you will sell to and what you will sell is not a good idea.

Name/ group Which CUSTOMERS do the sales come from currently? List the Customers of Group them Which CUSTOMERS will the sales come from in the next year?
% of Sales $-value % of Sales $-value


Name/ group Which PRODUCTS do the sales come from currently? List the main Products or Group them Which PRODUCTS will the sales come from in the next year? 

List potential new Products/Services

% of Sales $-value % of Sales $-value


Small Business Planning Step 3: What will I do about it? (Making it all happen – taking action)

Targets set?  Start taking action by focusing on some of the areas listed below.

Customer service and support

Why do your customers buy from you and not someone else?  Why do or don’t they stay loyal?  What drives them?  What are the benefits they gain from your products or services?  How will you find all this out?  Knowing this should form the basis of your marketing and sales planning.


What market position and competitive standing will you aim for?  How will you get the Attention of your market?  How will you arouse their Interest?  How will you create a Desire for your product/service?  How will you get them to take Action (buy)?  By when and how?

Sales plan

Your marketing should move people to take Action.  Selling is concerned with that Action being a successful sale.   Consider the following steps and start formulating a sales plan.

  1. Prospecting (identifying potential clients),
  2. Getting an Appointment – any form of agreement for you to introduce your service (from a formal appointment to an informal discussion on a shop floor),
  3. Building the sales (the part where you have obtained their agreement to introduce your product/service and are now building towards a sale), and
  4. Closing the Sale.

Small business planning should strongly focus on this ascpect. Gaining customers is the lifeblood of your business.

Good organization

Who will do what, especially to see that goals and plans are met.

Leadership & People management

Focus on the things that need to be accomplished. What should you focus on doing (from a leadership and management perspective)?  What is the role of your people in terms of the preceding financial objectives and the marketing and sales plan?

The Big Picture

Which issues (regulations, economy, interest rates etc.) will affect your industry?  What will or may change over which you have no control?  The focus is on the future.  How will your business respond?


You should have:

  • Clear financial targets – Sales, Gross and Net profit.
  • A clear picture of who your customers will be.
  • A clear picture of what products you will sell.

And most importantly…

  • A list of key actions you need to take to achieve all of this.

Best of luck with your small business planning, and may your hopes, dreams and business ventures all be hugely successful.

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