It may be hard to envision what your company will look like in five years, but smart businesses at least try to project where they want to be in the future. Having a five-year business plan can help you create a vision of where you want to take your business.

Start with the End in Mind

Have you ever considered what your exit strategy is for your business? Meaning: will you sell it down the road? Transfer ownership to a family member? Run it until you die?

Even if you can’t imagine ever stopping what you’re doing, consider the question. Maybe you’d like to move on to a different type of business in a few years. Knowing how long you’d like to run your business and how you’d like to exit can help you in creating your five-year business plan.

Draft the Business Plan Basics

Every business plan should have the same elements, including:

  • Executive summary
  • Company overview
  • Marketing plan
  • Trends
  • Competition

Tweak as needed to encompass your big five-year picture. So while your company overview will paint a picture of where your company is today, include as well what you’d like to see it become. For example:

Egg Marketing & Communications is an Internet marketing company specializing in content marketing and social media. Within five years, we plan to expand into new areas of marketing services, as well as expand our team to include locations worldwide.

You can include your aspirations for your company throughout the plan.

Nothing’s Set in Stone

Realize that by putting on paper what you hope to achieve in five years, you’re not stuck with those goals. Things change. Technology creates new opportunities you can’t even imagine right now. Use your business plan as a guideline, but feel free to update it as needed.

Where to Be Specific, and Where to Be General

In a business plan, you want to be pretty specific in your goals (increase revenues by 30% year over year) but leave the “how” part a bit more general. If you lay out exactly how you want to achieve goals over such a long period, you limit yourself on how you can actually achieve them. You don’t know what opportunities will open up in the next few years, so it’s best to leave it a bit vague on how you want to get to the end result.

Go Beyond Five Years

While your business plan should focus on five years, don’t be shy about including a single page at the end of your plan with a brief overview of your 10 year goals (or even beyond!).  Your job as the business owner is to paint a big picture that your employees can believe in, long term.

Share Your Plan

Your business plan is meant to be read and shared. Give a copy to each employee so that he feels vested in your overall plan for the company. Share it with new hires. Ask for input to make it even better.

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