Over the years, I have worked with all kinds of wild and wonderful clients. Some of them have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, while others have failed miserably. What’s the big difference between the successes and failures?

A business plan.

Small business advice: Tips for creating a business plan

Creating a business plan is well worth doing right now, even if you’ve been in business for years. It can help you increase your income while you reduce your headaches.

You don’t need a big, fancy, expensive plan to be successful. In fact, the only business I know of with a business plan that failed did so after spending nearly $10,000 on a professional plan. Instead, you may want to produce the plan yourself. After all, you can best answer the questions about the direction in which you want your business to go, the products or services you want to offer, and the amount of time and energy you want to expend on your business. You will likely want to update your plan at least once a year.

A good plan covers many aspects of your business, but be sure to include these three:

1. Identify your prospective target customer base for the year. Your business plan should specify what needs you plan to meet for your target market, and it should outline how best to reach that target market with the least amount of investment. It should also include how to provide support services to your customer base so they continue to enlist the services of your company.

2. Outline technology updates you plan to implement for the year. The plan should outline the new technology you are going to implement both in your office and for your customers. You don’t need to jump on the bandwagon of every new techno fad that comes along, but it is important to keep up with the key trends your particular customer base is apt to adopt.

3. Include a plan for your taxes. Meeting with your tax advisor will help you learn about tax breaks and opportunities that you might have missed in previous years. Examples include the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, a tax break for hiring veterans or under-privileged individuals; city, state, and federal breaks for situating your business in certain enterprise zones; special breaks for hiring family members who actually work for your business; and many more very lucrative tax credits or deductions.

You can find free business plan tools, templates, and summaries at these three sites:

With all of the information available to you, creating a business plan is simply a matter of taking the time to document what it takes to run your business. Knowing what you need to accomplish each week or month can help lower your stress level and increase your chances of running your business successfully.

In addition, a business plan can help you clarify your goals and strategies and make you think through your marketing plans, cost structure, and various other aspects of your business. The value is in creating the plan, not the plan itself. As Dwight Eisenhower noted, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.”

Eva Rosenberg, EA is the publisher of TaxMama.com, where your tax questions are answered. She is the author of several books and ebooks, including Small Business Taxes Made Easy. Eva teaches a tax pro course at IRSExams.com and tax courses you might enjoy at http://www.cpelink.com/teamtaxmama.