When you launch a new business, there is so much to think about that it is tough to plan for the future any further than from day to day. Obviously, planning is an essential element of any successful business, but in the beginning, you aren’t thinking about the years ahead, you are concentrating on getting the business off the ground. Business plans are typically created in order to seek and attract investors or loaning institutions, but they are also a great idea for a business owner to set goals and avoid common mistakes in the coming years. If you are an entrepreneur or new business owner, you have a lot on your plate. However, once things with the business get a little more settled, it is a good idea to make a business plan. Many businesses have yearly plans, a two year plan, a five year plan, and even a ten year plan. While you might only be able to set goals for the next few years, thinking ahead can only benefit your business. Here is a step by step look on how to properly create a 10 year plan for a business within any industry.

Categorizing Goals and Time Frames

For a company that is only in its initial stages and in need of loans or investors, the average business plan is going to be from three to five years. This is the most common time frame due unforeseen circumstances that will make precise longer plans difficult, but a business owner that is looking to make a longer business plan will need to develop categorized goals with a specific time frame for each. More manageable benchmarks may include a 3 growth period or moving into the green within 6 years.

Systematically Gathering Data

Any business plan, no matter the size or length, must include decisions based off of comprehensive industry data. While many first-timers are going to write down goals or a business philosophy, finding accurate data on the market and competition is vital. The type of information that will be needed for a 10 year business plan include local statutes that will affect the business, pertinent tax information, zoning laws, trademarking data, the location of competition, the stance of competition, and targeted demographics.

Focus on The First Years

The most important part of the business plan is typically going to be the first few years. After the data has been collected, this is the time frame in which decisions and predictions will most accurately be made. While there should be loose goals and ideas for the following few years, at the conclusion of 3 to 5 years the business plan should have a clear and firm concept of where the business owner would like to be. Obviously you have hopes and dreams for where you want the business to be in ten years, and you should keep aiming high. However, in the beginning, don’t get so caught up in your long term goals that you neglect the detailed planning you need to put into the more short-term goals.

Plan for Adaptation and Constant Change

It depends on what industry you operate in, however, most businesses are constantly changing and adapting to shifts in the industry. You need to be prepared for changes in the industry, changes in technology, and adaptations in your financial plans to always be sure your methods are cost effective. If you are a business that sells a primary product, you want to make sure you have flexible and innovative engineering services so that as the years go by, you can adapt and change the product to fit with the shift in the industry or trends. You might want to have a trusted financial adviser who can help you examine your cash flow every few months to ensure that money isn’t being wasted, and that you’re getting the most bang for your buck in every area of business. Whatever you plan for, plan to be surprised—you need to be ready to think on your feet and possibly throw your plans out the window when things change.

Assigning Projects and Responsibility

In the end, a business plan is created in order to improve the company’s chances of success, and this means that the end result is going to be business-wide changes. Whether it is finding unique ways to meet the goals or simply assigning new or long-term projects, it must be completely clear which staff members or positions will be responsible to carry out each.

A business plan can be as comprehensive or concise as the business owner would like, but in the end it will take quite a bit foresight and research to make the time spent worthwhile. Yes, there will be twists and turns in the road, and perhaps you re-write your original business plan a dozen times. The important thing is to have some sort of plan. Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. No matter how good you are at thinking on your feet, having a solid, well-thought-out business plan is only going to help you.