For many entrepreneurs, business plans are a painful necessity, required only to satisfy bankers or investors. Not so for Caroline Sanchez Crozier, who won the Small Business Administration's Small Business Person of the Year award for Illinois. Crozier, owner of Computer Services & Consulting, a six-year-old $2-million Chicago company, believes that what matters about a business plan is "the process of analyzing the effectiveness of your financial and marketing strategies. The plan itself is outmoded by the time it's written."
Crozier learned the mechanics of the process from the Women's Business Development Center (WBDC) in Chicago, a support group whose approach to business plans is, to put it mildly, exhaustive. "Entrepreneurs should be able to answer highly technical financial questions and the broader marketing questions," explains Hedy Ratner, the WBDC's codirector. "They've got to know how much operating capital they need, be able to defend their pricing structures, understand their break-even points, and evaluate tax considerations, among other issues."
Most important, the WBDC urges entrepreneurs to respond to a "devil's advocate" business plan, which might ask how you can lower your break-even point or how long your competitors can cut prices. When you can answer tough questions like those, says Crozier, you're ready to succeed.* * *
No gender bias here: the WBDC's approach will work for guys, too. To order a copy of "The Business Plan: Planning for Business Success" (32 pages; $35), call the WBDC at 312-853-3477.* * *