One problem that many entrepreneurs face is uncertainty about the future. Creating a business plan entails putting a lot of thought into achievable goals for the first year or maybe even the first two years of managing your startup, from getting funding, setting up a supply chain, finding a location, hiring, and opening the doors, to marketing, making sales, managing cash flow, and staying afloat until you actually start earning some money. And it can be difficult to create a long-term plan for your startup when you lack not only the experience that would be your springboard for setting goals, but also the data concerning sales trends from previous years that could help you to figure out the best means of setting and meeting new goals for the coming years.

However, you can’t fly blind if you hope to make your business a success. Setting long-term goals at the outset, along with a road map to get you to them, is important if you want to continue expanding and moving forward. And keep in mind that you can always adjust accordingly as you get new information. But first you have to get started, and that begins with assessment.

Before you open your startup, your long-term goals are likely to be very general, branching logically from your well-developed, short-term goals. And you may even have a rough plan as to how to reach these goals. But once you’ve gotten the ball rolling on your business you need to start collecting data any way you can, tracking patterns for sales, customer retention, and any other data that can help you figure out what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and how to best chart the course ahead. With this data, you can begin to assess the state of your business in order to determine your short and long-term goals and how to best reach them. Sales data, surveys, and other real-world collection methods can be useful, but don’t neglect the treasure trove that exists online thanks to SEO and social media metrics.

Delving a little deeper into your plan is the next logical step. Set up a document on a year-by-year basis for upcoming years. Begin by writing down your goals, or where you hope to be and what you hope to accomplish by then. From there you can look at each goal (assuming you’ve met your previous goals) and create an in-depth plan, including the steps you need to take to reach it. And remember that you can’t do everything on your own. Most businesses aren’t a one-man-band. Your employees are valuable resources that can help you to reach your business goals, so use them accordingly and don’t hesitate to delegate tasks to the most qualified staffer.

Your startup business plan won’t likely have a very detailed outlook beyond the first year or two, and that’s to be expected. But small business startups that take the initiative to begin collecting and analyzing data from the get-go can quickly begin to flesh out a long-term plan for operations and expectations. And knowing where you’re going and how to get there is the best way to ensure that you reach your goals and realize professional success.

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