Let me start by saying that all small businesses must prepare business plans every year.
A business that does not plan surely plans to fail – the statistics spell it out.
A business plan gives every business a clear direction that can be used as a measure to make major decisions. A business plan establishes a series of goals – from short-term to long-term – that build on each other toward building the business you want to end up proud of owning.
A business plan removes everyday stress of not knowing what’s the right thing to do next and creates a series of action plans that prioritise what you have to do.
Running a business without a business plan is like going out for a drive without knowing where you are going. Depending on the circumstances it might be enjoyable just to get out for some fresh air, but ultimately pointless.
If you don’t want to run a pointless business, you need a plan.
However, here we are in June, the traditional time to write next year’s plan, and the COVID-19 situation is creating issues for planners.
How do you get your planning done in the middle of this?
COVID-19 is raising two issues for people preparing to write their business plan for next year.
The first issue is how to do it when some of the people you would like to help may still be self-isolating.
The second issue is how you plan for a year where the timelines of recovery are still uncertain.
Planning While Participants Are Working Remotely
In preparing your business plan, even if you are a small business, there may be other people you would ask to participate.
In a larger small business with employees, you will want to involve key employees, especially if they have experience and knowledge about the details of your business to contribute.
A small enough team might want to involve everyone and use the opportunity to build team spirit as well as a way to communicate what you want to do when you look ahead.
Even a sole trader might want to include a spouse (for a different view), or advisors such as their accountant.
Depending on the existing restrictions where you are and the number of people involved, you may not all be able to meet in the one room.
So, since a good business planning process is to think about and analyse information, how are you going to do this?
The business planning process will involve defining your long-term vision, or what your business will look like when you have “got there”. Discussing and analysing the tangible measurements of this picture of “success” helps you to set goals.
For example, if your vision of a successful business includes repeat customers who buy from you 10 or 12 times a year, then one of the goals will be systems to encourage repeat shopping, like targeted marketing and a lot of personal contact and special offers.
The business planning process will also need similar analysis of your current situation, as represented by your strengths and weaknesses. Having people to discuss this with means that you are less likely to overlook something because you are too close to it.
Even if people are working remotely, you can still access and encourage these “brainstorming” discussions in two ways.
First, you can use web-conference software to organise an online meeting.
Look at apps such as:
Make sure you distribute some ground rules so that people don’t talk over each other – appoint a chairperson or facilitator, ask people to hold up hands before they are called to speak, and so on.
During the COVID-19 shutdown, many businesses have been using apps like Zoom to hold business meetings with anything upwards of two people, and finding it even better than a face-to-face meeting because everything is so much more focused.
The second thing you can do to make remote brainstorming work is to follow a set process in discussing your business plan.
Next week, I am launching my revamped and improved online program called Your One Day Business Plan, which follows a timed process across 11 modules. You are led through discussing and defining your vision, setting goals and breaking them down into short, medium and long-term goals; discussing your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and using them to discover the gap between where you are and where you want to go; and then designing achievable strategies to bridge those gaps.
You can use a process like Your One Day Business Plan that lays out each step in the process so that everyone, even working remotely, can follow and contribute the right things at the right time.
How Do You Make Plans When Everything Is Uncertain?
Different places are opening up restrictions at different rates. You can’t even predict when these are being lifted other than perhaps by way of a week-to-week government announcement.
At the moment, you can’t even be sure what customer sentiment is like – will they come back as soon as restrictions are lifted, or will their return be delayed by their concern?
This is where the process of business planning is extremely useful.
First of all, a business plan looks far ahead to set the target and then works details backwards to arrive at short-term strategies as the first steps of getting to the target.
In this way, predicting the week-to-week information is not necessary. We know that at some stage, the restrictions will be lifted, that customers will come back.
The only factors that might change that eventuality are that you don’t have enough capital to last until then, and you are forgotten by your customers.
In itself, this means that the first short-term strategies you need to think about are:
- What reserves of financial capital do you need to have available, from business reserves, personal savings, investors or banks?
- What marketing tactics should you initiate to ensure that you keep in touch with your customers and that they remain focused on you for what they need?
Then, you should realise that the lifting of restrictions will, in the overall context be both relatively short, and unpredictable.
This means that when you follow the business planning process and understand where you are now, you need to analyse a “threat” that you are unprepared for changes in restrictions and markets. This will allow you to use your strengths and other capabilities to provide “what-if” strategies, or strategies that rely not on a set time but on an event happening.
For example, while you may delay plans to expand inter-state (which under normal circumstances may have been on the cards), you might still look at strategies to expand your product range. Only, instead of stating a date when you will do this, you might plan that you expand the product range only when 70% of your customers return.
In other words, contingency strategies will have a more important role in your planning than normal.
At the end of the day, I’m sure you intend to last this out and still be here when life is back to normal. If that’s the case, then your business dreams are delayed, not cancelled.
So, this year, your plans will involve holding strategies and recovery strategies, and some contingency strategies.
However, the long term strategic direction to your vision still exists and you need to map out this year’s path to it, even if it is all about recovery rather than growth.
In summary, if you are in business and you want to grow your business into a business you can be proud of, you must have a business plan.
The end of the financial year, over June and July, is the ideal time to write your business plan for next year.
With the right attention to the tools, you can remove obstacles to the planning process and still organise planning meetings even if everyone is working remotely.
With some change to focus on the immediate future, you can over-ride the seemingly unpredictable events and still plan for the year ahead.
If you want to know more about the business planning process, you can click here and download my free checklist called “A Roadmap From Stress To Success – Your Business Planning Checklist”.
This checklist briefly explains what a business plan can do for you and provides a checklist for the whole process.
And, watch out for the opening of my online program next week, called Your One Day Business Plan!
This is a unique program that not only provides training on how to write your own business plan but also takes you, via timed audio workshop sessions and downloadable worksheets, through each step of the step-by-step process to write your business plan.
I will be announcing it in next week’s blog post so keep your eyes open – or if you are interested click here and make sure the announcement is sent directly to your inbox.
I hope to see you in the program!