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On Costco.com, enter
“Connection.” At Online Edition,
search “Rhonda Abrams.”
THINK OF HOW much, and how quickly, the world
of business changes and how critical it is for you
to stay on top of developments that affect
your bottom line. Way back in 1991—
when the first edition of my book
Successful Business Plan: Secrets &
Strategies (The Planning Shop) was
published—the Internet as we
know it didn’t exist; long-distance
calls were expensive; faxes were
considered a new, fast way to
communicate. There was no
email, no e-commerce and
no global competitors for
Now, business is mobile, global,
social. That’s one reason business
plans are so important, even for existing companies, as they help you adapt to changing realities,
whether opportunities or threats. That’s why, in the
latest edition of Successful Business Plan: Secrets
& Strategies, published in June, I look at new
developments affecting companies
today, including the following.
Crowdfunding. The ability to raise
money from a large number of people
over the Internet can help you launch a
new business or a new product. You can
not only raise money, but build a base
of fans. If you’re thinking of expanding your
product or service line, as well as starting a new
company, you need to know about crowdfunding
(see more about crowdfunding on page 15).
New social media platforms. If you
don’t use it right, social media can eat up your
company’s time and money. You need to figure
out the right sites for your business, choose
effective tools to reduce time and, most
important, set realistic goals for what you can
accomplish. You need to consider social media
as part of your business plan.
The cloud. Running critical business services
over the Internet, rather than on-site, has created
a fundamental shift in business operations, often
dramatically lowering costs and increasing
a company’s speed, power and
productivity. In your business plan,
evaluate which of your business
operations could be improved
with cloud-based solutions.
Lean startup. New
approaches, as well as new
technologies, make it easier and
cheaper to start a business faster.
In your business plan, determine
your minimal viable product—not
always an easy standard to judge—
Developing an annual business plan
helped me to twice save my own company, but
it also helped me grow my company and take
advantage of what’s new in business. C
What’s new in
RHONDA ABRAMS: STRATEGIES
Rhonda Abrams is the
president of The Planning Shop, a publisher
of books and software
for entrepreneurs (www.
AH, SUMMER. Warm weather,
sunny skies, getting out and
about, socializing. Lots of opportunities to make contacts, which
could lead to more business.
Yet, according to Susan RoAne,
the author of How to Work a
Room: The Ultimate Guide to
Making Lasting Connections—
in Person and Online (www.
susanroane.com), “Most people
are completely overwhelmed by
the thought of [networking or
socializing]. In fact, 93 percent
of people self-identify as shy.”
RoAne, a Costco member, offers
these tips to help any guest—
regardless of the type of function—make a good impression.
• Dress appropriately for the
occasion. If you’re not sure, ask.
• Arrive within 15 minutes of
the appointed hour, unless it’s
an open house.
• Greet the hosts, whether
it’s a business or purely social
• Introduce yourself to other
guests. Don’t expect the hosts
or others to do it for you.
• Circulate. Excuse yourself
graciously and move on. Converse with as many guests as
possible. To prepare, read the
newspaper or content curators
such as The Daily Beast and
• Avoid controversial topics.
Curb your enthusiastic use of
naughty words, but don’t curb
• Avoid overindulging in food
or drink. The good guest behaves according to the “
everything in moderation” mantra. C
FOR THE OWNER of a really small business, especially if it is just mom or pop or
with a single employee, making time for
a vacation is critical for the safety of the
business, according to Costco member
Scott A. Leonard, founding partner of
financial advice company Navigoe ( www.
navigoe.com) and author of The Liberated
“This is less about getting away from
the business than putting in place the plans
for when the owner is not available,” he says.
“The business justification for taking two
one-week vacations a year is that you need to
have a plan in place, and the
plan needs to be tested, before
there is an emergency.”
He offers these suggestions for
owners who need a break.
• Use time-tracking software for
a few weeks to track what you are
doing. A lot of inexpensive software is
available for people who bill by the hour,
and that software can be a great tool for
tracking and analyzing what you do day by
day and week by week.
• Use the output from the tracking soft-
ware to create a checklist of the activities
that you perform, so that your substitute can
• Talk with some of your key clients, and
ask them how they want to be notified in
advance of your absence.
• Talk with your key vendors and suppliers
and see if they have any ways to help lighten the
workload the week you are gone. It is in their
best interest for your business to stay successful.
• Test your technology before the vacation. If you are planning to check voice mail
from the road, don’t make your vacation the
first time you call in to your office phone
which of your