Some of us are planners; details people who get a genuine kick out of organising every minute of a holiday or writing to do lists, shopping lists, goals lists, lists about lists. For others, rolling with the punches comes naturally. No planning needed, just relax and let it be. Whilst there’s a lot to be said for adopting a Yoda-like mindset in every day life, when you put your business hat on, waiting for the force to be with you just won’t cut it.
For your business to succeed, it’s vital to be constantly thinking about the future. Where are you headed and why? What are your goals for the next twelve months? How will you reach them? A business plan outlines your overarching strategy. It should guide your decision-making, keep your direction clear and detail your business goals and how you will achieve them.
Get the massive-time-consuming-painful-4000-pages-bound-formal-document picture out of your head. It doesn’t need to be any of those things. It does, however, need to be written down. Why? Well, listen up young Jedi. The numbers surrounding small business in Australia are pretty grim. Around 60% close shop in the first three years, even more in the following two. Your chances of success in the long term are marginal to say the least. These stats aren’t to discourage you, but they make for a great reality check. You need every trick in the book to increase your chances of ongoing growth and longevity. The good news is, those with an excellent business plan are more likely to succeed than those that don’t. And that’s all the information you need here, really. It’s a no brainer. Put pen to paper or fingers to keys and get it done.
So what goes in it? Touching back on the purpose of a business plan, it should be a tool that will guide you as your business grows, aiding decision making and leading you to success. This is about you and your business. What information do you need in your plan to fulfill its purpose properly? Tailor it to suit you. Having said that, there are certainly some areas you need to cover, nomatter your industry or business type.
What does your business do?
The first part is pretty obvious: what does your business do? That doesn’t just mean “we sell homewares”. What problem are you solving for your clients or customers? Basically, what is your market? Within that market, you need to identify your competitors. The direct ones who would pose an immediate threat and the indirect ones who could become an issue down the line. You can learn from your competitors, too. What do they do that works, and what could be improved? Use this information to create your competitive difference- if you don’t already have that nailed. If there is a customer choosing between you and your competitor, what reasons do they have to choose you? That pull needs to be strong. Bring them back from the dark side.
The information you’ve gathered so far will help you complete a SWOT analysis. This is commerce 101. What are your own strengths and weaknesses, and where do the opportunities and threats lie in your market? This is a simple but powerful tool for planning and ties nicely into your marketing program. What is that, by the way? Are you using social media (if the answer’s no, then you need to rethink), more traditional marketing methods, how much money will you budget for it, do you need a consultant to give you a hand? Marketing drives sales and if you don’t know what you’re doing in this area, get help from someone who does.
Will you adopt new technology?
Technology: an exciting word for some and a terrifying word for others. Whether you’re subscribed to Tech Crunch or have no idea what a cloud is, operating a business in the current market means technology will be a big part of it. How will you use it? What software do you need? The possibilities are literally endless and technology means we can run businesses more efficiently than ever. Maybe this process will tell you that up skilling is needed ASAP. That’s fine too; just make sure it’s a priority because competitors who have this area covered could be leaving you in their dust.
People – Your Team
By this stage of your planning process, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s going on. You’ve positioned yourself in the market, identified competitors, outlined marketing and technology goals. Now it’s time for arguably the most important part. The people. Your team is your most valuable asset. As every business owner will attest, hiring is a tough task. Not only because letting go is hard, but because knowing whom you want and finding the perfect candidate can seem impossible. Once you’ve found your team, how will you manage them? How will you ensure the culture you wish to foster is felt throughout the business? What will your training procedures look like? This is a big area of your plan. Start with the broad aspects before moving into the nitty gritty. Every time you expand your team, you should be able to look back at your plan and remind yourself who you’re looking for and how and why you’re looking for them.
Know your numbers
A lot of you will measure your businesses success based on financials. If cash flows, budgets and forecasting make you want to black out for a significant period of time, get an advisor or a fantastic accountant. You need to set up realistic financial goals and then figure out how you’re going to implement strategies to reach them. Importantly, you need to how to measure and monitor your financials along the way.
Long term vision
The last key component to your plan will be an area on future growth and planning. Think about your key drivers and how you will strengthen your position in the market. Businesses evolve and change so it goes without saying that your plan will need updating along the way.
Now go forth and prosper. Wait, wrong movie?