Posted July 14, 2007 - Green Bay Press Gazette

SCORE column: Business plans are crucial for success

It's easy to identify a person's favorite book. That's the one with the dog-eared pages and cover that will no longer close completely. A good book is like a friend that we go back to time and time again. That's how a business owner should think of its business plan.

Too often, a business develops a plan to satisfy their lender and then puts it away in the file cabinet. Mike Hall, CPA, a SCORE volunteer and manager of the Green Bay office of QuickStart Inc., a company that helps people develop business plans and obtain financing, says that this is a mistake.

"Now that you got your loan and you're open for business, don't just throw that plan on a shelf and let it collect dust. Your business plan should be a living, working document that you refer to frequently, sometimes on a daily basis," Hall advised.

Joel Ehrfurth, a client of Hall's and one of the owners of Mach IV Engineering and Surveying, agrees. Mach IV is a new business that is located in the incubator at the Business Assistance Center at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. Ehrfurth says that his business plan has been a valuable asset through the start-up phase.

"The target market, key customers, and marketing plan were defined in the business plan. We now use that information to create marketing materials, launch advertising campaigns, and continue to concentrate on the key parameters essential to our success," Ehrfurth explained.

As the marketing efforts build sales, the financial projections section of the business plan becomes a crucial monitoring point. For Ehrfurth and the other owners of Mach IV, the projected income statement is now their monthly operating budget. This allows them to track expenses and determine which are affordable or warranted. By reviewing the business plan and verifying the current financials, they can keep an eye on the larger picture and can make corrections and modifications as required.

Candy Straebel, owner of Savore Culinary Artisans, a specialty fine herb, tea and oil shop located in the London Alley strip mall in Bellevue and another QuickStart client, has varied business experience. Prior to opening her shop, she spent her professional career interacting with big and small businesses including start-ups and those already established.

Straebel noted, "The successful business owners, overwhelmingly, had plans that were detailed, defined and well-worn tools for the operation. The plans usually included evidence that constant revisions were made, adjustments noted and changes considered."

Having spent many hours with Hall working on her business plan, she makes certain that she uses it. Straebel believes that the most important measure of whether or not a business will be a success or failure leads back to the business plan.

Straebel, whose business opened last October, is proud to report that the blue binder containing the original plan contains red pen notations of adjustments, weekly and monthly actuals and adjusted forecasts.

If you'd like further information, contact the Green Bay Chapter of SCORE "Counselors to America's Small Business" at (920) 496-8930 or visit

Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and chapter chairman for the Green Bay SCORE group.