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posted: 12/30/2013 5:30 AM

Haven't started your 2014 planning? That's OK: Start now

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The B-school types will say you should have your 2014 plan wrapped up by now. And while the textbooks, professors and many consultants will agree, the fact is that most entrepreneurs plan pretty much on the fly.

Still, I'm betting that sometime this week the notion will surface that you'll need to make an effort if 2014 is to be a better year. The good news is that the effort you put in won't necessarily take a lot of time, although the time you put in will need focus. Costs should be relatively low, too.

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Here are some ideas to keep in mind as you work through the planning process:

• The goal almost always should be to increase profits. Making money ultimately is why we're in business. There may be some necessary short detours, but the idea is to make at least a little more each succeeding year.

• You know what your business does. If you asked them, what would your customers say your business does? What would prospects say?

The real question is how much your customers know about your business beyond the service, or product, you sell them. With some creative thinking, you may be able to sell additional services to customers -- if they know your company's actual capabilities.

• The old SWOT analysis -- a review of company strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats -- may fit your needs. At the least, review your business' strengths and, especially, its weaknesses.

You'll want to identify, and fix, the weaknesses as soon as possible.

• We're not all trendsetters. In fact, it's often less expensive to be second, or even third, to the marketplace with a new product or service. Still, it's important to keep up with whatever is happening in your sector.

Do you go to industry meetings? Participate in business-wide strategy sessions? Volunteer for industry leadership positions? Share ideas?

It can be difficult to take time from your business, but the connections you make might be extremely useful.

• What do you do in the social media world? ("Nothing" may be a very good answer, depending on your business.) Do you need a Facebook business page? If you have one, how do you use it?

The same questions fit Twitter, LinkedIn and other ever-evolving new media. This may be an area where you seek outside assistance, but research the consultant market carefully. Almost anyone can hang a social media shingle.

• Remember that although profits may matter most, you might need to find some financing to take the moves that will allow you to increase profits. There are options.

The Small Business Administration doesn't make loans, but its participation can make banks less wary. The SBA has loan programs for veterans, entrepreneurs 50 or older, and women and other minorities. Investigate the options, including Section 7(a) and 504 loans as well, at www.sba.gov.

• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at his new email address, Jim@kendallcom.com.

2013 Kendall Communications Inc.

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