Developing a Business Plan for Success

If you're a self-employed accountant, you're doing your business a disservice if you haven't prepared a carefully thought-out and written business plan.

Ugh, you're thinking. That's a lot of hard work, and I don't even know how to get started. Besides, my business has been rolling along fine without a hard-and-fast plan. The world's changing too fast anyway, right? Why expend all that time and energy drafting concrete plans when circumstances are likely to be completely different six months from now?

Well, here are two facts that might surprise you:

One, you don't have to know the right way to write a business plan. You know your business better than anyone else, so you know best what to plan for: future growth, additional services, changing focus, and so on. However you describe those goals - and your roadmap for achieving them - that's the right way to write your business plan.

Two, a good business plan shouldn't be carved in stone. Your plan needs to be flexible because work and life will always throw you curveballs. Maybe a new industry will move into your area next year that creates a fresh market for your services. Maybe you'll decide to franchise your operations. Maybe you'll choose to teach accounting, or move into consulting. That's OK. For now, focus on creating a plan that works for you today. When things change, revise your plan.

How do you get started? Begin by asking yourself the following questions - your answers will lay the foundation for your business plan:

  • What do I hope to accomplish in my work? What mission statement best sums up my vision for what I want my business to be?

  • What is my edge? What makes my business unique, and how can I make the most of that?

  • What is my target market? Which types of clients, or what kind of work, am I most interested in?

  • What is that target market's growth potential? How can I take advantage of that growth ... or improve my odds if the market is declining?

  • How can I regularly market and promote my business? Where are my dollars and efforts best invested?

  • What are my cash flow projections for the coming year? What about expenses? How much do I expect to earn? How can I improve on those projections?

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