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The Financial Plan: Your Guide

Business StrategyAs the CEO or founder of a growing small business today, you are likely swamped meeting customer needs, dealing with inventory, shipping or customer service problems, pleasing investors, watching your budget, and looking for the next big opportunity. Wait: did you forget about your financial plan? While you might consider this a time-consuming business school exercise with little value for a hands-on small business owner like yourself, former Wall Streeter Tim Ferguson and others say that financial plans are in essence a roadmap to your future success.

As an example, a client of Ferguson’s, founder of Boston-based merchant bank Next Street, not long ago approached a bank for help financing a real estate deal. The bank declined to provide a loan, in part because it didn’t understand the company’s growth model–even though the client was a profitable business. “It makes a huge difference to have a financial plan,” says Ferguson, whose company provides advisory services and financing assistance for inner-city small businesses generating between $5 million and $100 million in revenues.

According to Ferguson, the business plan is not much different than a financial plan, but it has a much tighter focus on metrics. Ferguson says that his company spends on average three months with a client developing a financial, or “growth” plan, which includes a fact-based analysis of the business–typically covering customers, segments, profitability models and margins, number of employees, and costs. After the plan is developed, it gives the company a roadmap for a monthly budget, and also includes specific growth strategies, according to Ferguson: “You would want to develop list of possibilities such as, expanding from a local region to interstate, or beefing up your business line or making acquisitions, and then you would need to narrow all those ideas down to three or four options.”

This article originally appeared at OpenForum.com.

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