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Dr. Troubleshooter

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By Roger Fritz

Every business has problems. But entrepreneurial survivors solve their business's problems as they arise, and grow by converting those solutions into future opportunities.

Dr. Roger Fritz has more than 40 years of experience as an educator, manager, corporate executive, university president, small-business consultant, and author of 28 business and management books.

This month in Dr. Troubleshooter's waiting room, we discover the importance of planning.

Problem: Too often, you have the feeling that you're flying by the seat of your pants or working day to day without any well-conceived idea of what you ought to be doing. As a result, you often feel that you're doing things to keep busy, but not actually making progress toward your long-range goals.

Diagnosis: From the very beginning, your business needs a well-defined plan, designed to keep you on course and prevent you from straying too far afield. Good intentions don't get the job done. Like a road map, a solid business plan will help guide you where you want to go. A business plan actually serves five key functions:

* It communicates your ideas, research and plans.

* It provides essential information for potential sources of funding, such as prospective partners or bankers.

* It provides the framework on which to build your business.

* It provides a yardstick for measuring your company's progress.

* It provides a way to evaluate change, not only in your business, but in your industry, your market and yourself.

Prescription: Prepare a detailed business plan, which entails:

1. Defining your goals. Be brief. Be specific. Make sure they are measurable.

2. Collecting all of the relevant data. Get input from internal and external sources. Tap customers, suppliers, bankers and advisors. Consult the library, applicable trade associations, the chamber of commerce, colleges and universities.

3. Developing the plan. Select and train new employees as needed. Acquire new equipment if necessary. Form new business relationships. Determine how to finance the plan.

4. Implementing the plan. Set your plan in motion by delegating key assignments. Revise your plan as needed.

Excerpted with permission from Roger Fritz's The Small Business Troubleshooter: 152 Solutions to the Problems Faced by Every Growing Company (Career Press, $16.99, 630-420-7673).

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