?One of the greatest benefits of a business plan is the opportunity it presents for you to make key mistakes on paper rather than in dollars and cents. The type of thorough research and strategy that a business plan requires for funders requires should also make it the type of internal planning document which will be a great tool for you to manage with going forward. Here are a few of the potentially costly mistakes that a business plan can help avoid. Haphazard Marketing If you have not carefully chosen your customer target markets, you run the risk of marketing too broadly. If you are spending dollars on local TV ads to reach cable-watchers when you should really be targeting select groups or associations, you may be wasting money on ads that have little return for the business. Seeking wider awareness of your business may be useful if you need to achieve a much larger customer base to be successful, or if you have little competition within the vicinity. If you think through your customer niche more clearly on paper, you can be much more cost-effective in your pay. Hiring at the Right Time By planning through the schedule of the launch and early operations of your business, you should be able to time the hires you need to make. To do this, work back from when you need a fully trained employee to allow time for training, interviews, and job advertisement. Depending on the skill involved in the job and the availability of that type of employee in the labor market, you may need anything from a couple weeks to a few months of lead time for this process. Without this type of plan, you may hire employees too early, wasting money on excess capacity before you need it, or too late and deal with operational bottlenecks or lost opportunities in the meantime. Eric Powers is associated with Growthink, a business plan consulting firm. Since 1999, Growthink's business plan consultants have developed more than 2,000 business plans. Call 800-506-5728 today for a free consultation. Or, if you're writing your own plan, Growthink's business plan template can help you finish it quickly and easily.