I don’t want to name drop, but here is a fun story worth sharing:


A few years ago I was sitting in the green room for an MSNBC show called Your Business. I was waiting to go on and sitting next to me was a woman also getting ready to appear. As we chatted she shared that she had turned a $1,000 investment into a New York real estate empire.


As you may be able to guess, the woman was Barbara Corcoran of Shark Tank fame. I loved her story so much that I asked her if she had any tips on how she had made her small business so big (as I am always looking for tips.)


“Especially in the beginning, I always strived to make my business look bigger than it was,” she told me. Barbara gave the example of press releases her business would put out, for example, “The Top 5 Celebrity Apartments in New York.” The press would pick up her releases and before long she had created a reputation as a celebrity real estate broker.


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And while that was of course very important to the growth of her brand and business, she said that it was her two-step planning process that made an even bigger difference.


Barbara said that every year, she would ask herself and her team two simple questions:


1. “Where do we want to be in one year?”


Most small business people fall into one of two categories when it comes to business planning:


  • Either they are true believers and they have a hefty business plan that they spent a lot of time creating, or
  • They have no business plan and don’t want to be bothered to take the time necessary to create one


The beauty of Barbara’s strategy is that it is a bridge between the two camps. Instead of devoting a lot of time creating an exhaustive business plan, what Barbara suggests is that you distill your business vision down to its core.


Where do you want to be at this time next year?


Say for example that you own a blow-dry bar. You likely spend most of your time serving customers and getting the word out. You don’t have a lot of time for business planning. Fair enough. And that is why this first question is so important.


For example, if your vision is to open a second location within the year, then there’s your goal. Now let’s answer Barbara’s second question:


2. “What resources do we need to get there?”


Again, this cuts to the chase. Once you answer the first question, then really, it is just a matter of figuring out how to get there, and that’s the purpose of the second question. Figuring out what you need to accomplish your goal is the key.


What resources would the small business owner of the blow-dry bar need in order to accomplish her goal of opening up a second location within twelve months? For starters, she would need access to capital. She would also need to find the right location and would need to put together a team who could help her implement this vision. All of a sudden, the owner knows both where she wants to go and what she needs to do to get there.


Of course, your answers will be unique to your business, but the point is the same. Ask yourself and your team these two questions:


1. Where do we want to be in a year?


2. What resources do we need to get there?


This plan is deceptive in its simplicity. That is why you should do it. It is easy, it makes sense, and it worked for one of the best-known and most successful entrepreneurs.


About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

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