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Optimism Is Not a Business Plan

Smallbusiness.co.uk recently reported that a third of small businesses haven't grown in the past five years, but 76% believe that they will grow by 2020. This optimism is great, but businesses need more than a bright disposition to grow.

When asked what was holding them back, many companies replied that "a lack of capital to expand, too much red tape, and a lack of support from bank" were their biggest problems. And while these can certainly make it difficult to successfully run a small business, there was an even more interesting problem that many businesses might not even know is slowing them down.

58% of respondents to the survey said that they didn't have a business plan to help them grow. That's over half of people who, despite the statistics indicating they're having a difficult time expanding their business, don't have a plan for it. That's not good.

A business plan is a key ingredient in growing a business. In short, a business plan is a document that sets down guidelines and plans for moving into the future. It includes things like a competitive analysis, a marketing plan, financial factors, and just about everything else that goes into a business.

Many businesses use their plan to present to potential investors, but it's also very useful to those who are running the business—it helps them stay on track and follow their plan to continue moving in the right direction. If it's well thought-out, it can serve as a good reminder when you're having a tough time growing and want to change strategies.

Of course, writing a business plan isn't something you can just sit down and do in an hour. You need to give it a lot of careful thought, and do a lot of research, before you have a solid plan that can guide your business into the future. Fortunately, there are a lot of websites out there that will help you prepare, write, and stick to your plan. Here are five good ones to get you started (click a title to open the article in a new tab):

How to Write a Business Plan from Entrepreneur

How to Write a Business Plan from Discover Business

How to Write a Great Business Plan from Inc

10 Essential Business Plan Components from Forbes

7 Essential Sections of a Business Plan from National Federation of Independent Business

Writing a business plan is a lot of work, but it will serve your business well for years into the future; it will help you analyze strengths and weaknesses, see where your competitive advantages lie, and help you plan for the coming phases of growth. Don't skip this important step for success!

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