Business owners with planning skills are cautiously optimistic about their prospects for the year ahead, says James Hurley, Business Club Editor at the Daily Telegraph in the UK. James says the prevailing mood in six companies Business Club asked about their plans was of cautious optimism for 2011; you can follow what the businesses think themselves by going here.

Tony Heywood, chief executive of start-up mentoring website says business owners should ask themselves three “simple sounding but harder to answer” questions:

• Can I remember what we do? “Does your day-to-day work match up with that dusty old mission statement? If not, it’s time to rethink.

• Where are we trying to get to? “Maybe it’s a new product or bigger clients. Maybe it’s just the chance to sell up in five years. Re-establish some of those key objectives, and the steps by which you plan to get there. These can be benchmarks for any part of the company which you see as important – sales targets, turnover, size of the organisation, diversification or innovation. Make these targets manageable and sustainable- genuinely unattainable goals will simply lead to disillusionment.

• What can I predict? “Some business planners ‘see’ the next ten years ahead – we think that’s cobblers: you’re lucky if you can envision one year ahead. But you can plan for some impending eventualities: the VAT rise, legislative changes, and a generous margin for contingencies, for example.

“After that: expect the worst, hope for the best, share your vision with everyone you work with, and steer a judicious course.”