From the May 2005 issue of Entrepreneur

If you're in the startup phase of your business, it can be hard to see all the way to the end of this week, much less the end of a decade. But since we're all about business plans and making maps for success, we at Entrepreneur wondered if it was possible to make a 10-year plan for your startup business.

According to Thomas Kinnear, executive director of the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, it is not only possible, but it's also a good idea. "I think it's a good discipline," he says. "But the further you get out, the less you should think of it as an operational plan and the more you should think of it as a process to drive thinking." Therefore, a 10-year plan is going to look more like a compass than a road map, in that its purpose is to point you in the right direction.

When creating the 10-year plan for your business, try to engage your mind to think of possible contingencies. How will a technology change affect your product or service offering? For example, if type A technology gives way to type C technology, how will your company adapt? What's the value chain structure? Who are your initial customers? Who will they be in five years? In 10?

Though Kinnear notes advisors and investors won't necessarily believe that your 10-year plan will serve as gospel, the act of thinking about your business goals and vision with an eye toward the future is good for entrepreneurs.

"You have to think that way from Day One," says Kinnear. "If you don't get that straight . . . right away, you could really get off course, burn through [money] and end up basically nowhere."