When you are going to business plan there are some key essentials to think about to ensure that this is a meaningful and useful exercise and not just a paper one!
Here’s my advice for the top 5 things to think about when business planning.
- Have an Executive Summary
- Sounds fancy right? It’s not really. Start with a description of what your business is along with the history, your vision and any mission statement. This segment is an overview of your business and also the key points from the rest of the document, just in a summary format. It can be really useful if you are going to share the plan with others, or use it for funding, as the reader may want to see all of your top line information in a brief format rather than wading through all the details.
2. What are your Key Objectives?
- Think about some of the key areas in your business and what you want to achieve. Some of the following areas could be pointers to start with which will help with cashflow and planning, especially if your business has peaks & troughs in line with specific seasons or times. And, an added benefit will be to give you deadlines, targets and accountability:
- Business growth plans – how much? By when?
- Marketing activity including seasonal trends and areas of focus
- Projected sales and any significant expenditure to plan for
- Action plan to focus on with commitment to dates, a timeline if you like – e.g source printer by X, website up and running by Y, blogs written by Z
- Identify any areas where support is needed to achieve the plan e.g help with social media, outsourcing work such as invoice chasing – think about the areas that drain your time and aren’t income generating
3. Break it down
- Sometimes reviewing the whole of your business can be overwhelming so break it into smaller chunks and see what that looks like. Having a feeling of overwhelm can sometimes have the effect of paralysis as you just don’t know where to start. So by breaking it down you can tackle it more easily.
- You can either chunk it down into smaller areas such as product, sales, marketing etc or divide it into quarters. So instead of looking at 12 months ahead and feeling daunted, break this into 3 monthly segments and have smaller tasks and projects which you feel are realistic and achievable and you can see results more quickly.
4. Sales & Marketing
- Do you know what level of sales you are achieving and what you want and need to achieve to make your business successful?
- Do you know what your best selling product or service is – and why?
- Do you know who your ideal client is?
- Have you analysed their buying patterns – where they are, how they buy?
- What level of advertising do you do – is it paid for or is it free and do you know what is your best return on investment?
- There are so many levels of potential contact and ways to get in front of your ideal client – is it Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest, Instagram, Group Forums or Networking – the list is almost endless so it’s essential that you evaluate your maximum profit for the minimum investment (of time or money).
5. Review, review, review
- It pays to be constantly on top of your figures – your income, your expenditure and your projected sales. Do you set yourself a target for the week, month or the quarter? You should do and you should also think about how you will respond if you are not on track to hit that target. It may feel scary at first, especially if you’ve buried your head in the sand before now, but it is essential for you to know where you are and how you are doing.
- Review your marketing. What works and what doesn’t work. Test, Test, Test. Get into the habit of being consistent when it comes to being front of mind and visible to your ideal client. It’s very rare that someone will buy from you at the first contact – most of the time it will take between 6 and 8 contacts with a lead before they buy from you. Networking can be different as there is a personal connection and people buy from people – they need to know, like and trust.
- Ask for help! Not many people can be MD, Sales, Marketing, Customer Experience and Accounts all at once. We are all in business because we have a passion for that “something” and the rest of the business running, essential as it may be, can be daunting, time consuming or just plain boring! So, get an object and skilled person to help you with areas of your business that you don’t understand, don’t like or just don’t have time for.
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