If you own a small business, you need a business plan.
If you haven’t got one, it can only because you haven’t realised what benefits they can bring you, or you think you haven’t got time.
Look, I can’t fool you – it will take some time to follow a good business plan process to write your business plan.
But it is an investment in time in your business because the process will not only reveal some real truths about your business, it will clarify your way forward.
Want to build a business you can be proud of?
If so, you can’t just head off on your merry way and hope for the best, even if you think you have a clear idea of the type of business you want to build.
Just as you can’t head off on a vacation without knowing where you want to go and what you want to do there, you can’t build your business into one that you can be proud of if you don’t know what would make you proud of it and how to put it together to get there.
Lack of time is only an excuse.
You can find the time if you thought it had value.
So how about spending a couple of hours with me and let’s go through and put together a simple helicopter view of your business plan?
I will show you how you can think through a few key principles and prepare a basic business plan to clarify what you need to do over the next 12 months.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not a complete business plan. It will not be full of the tactical detail nor the step-by-step action plans that you need to implement.
However, it should provide you with an idea of the type of business you want to build, and identify the next few steps you need to take.
You can then spend a little more time on your own and fill in the blanks.
What we are about to do is describe a strategic view of your business and your plans for the next year.
You’ll have to work out the tactics later.
First, I want you to spend a few minutes just thinking about the business you want to end up with.
Then write it down into a description of your future business. Describe it to yourself in as much detail as you can:
- How big is it? How many people work there? How much are your annual sales?
- What do you sell and who buys from you? What do your customers find beneficial from your product or service? Why can’t they get the same from somewhere else?
- What does it give you as the business owner? How much time do you spend in it – what’s your version of work/life balance? What kind of income do you get from it? What do you feel owning a business like that and why?
- What type of people works for you? What are their common characteristics? Why do they work there and what do they get from it?
If you can fill a page describing what the business is like, that would be great.
Next, go through your description and pull out 6 to 10 characteristics that you described that makes it the “ultimate” business for you.
For example, you might see in your description the important factors being:-
- The annual sales value
- Successfully creating a total wrap-round customer service experience selling the best mousetrap
- Improving the quality of your product every year
- Allowing you to leave work at 5 PM every day and being able to take a 3-week vacation every year
- Earning a minimum amount of income
- Building a supportive team where everyone knows their job and does it without being told
Those become your measures of success – those key items that describe getting to your ultimate business – getting to your vision.
What are your key factors?
It shouldn’t have taken you more than a half-hour or so to get you this far. At this stage, you have a good description of what you want your business to look like in the long-term and you now know how to measure if you are successful in getting there.
Next, think about how your business is now.
To get you thinking, list all the strengths of your business that you can think of.
Do you have loyal customers?
Do you have long-term staff?
Are your skills and experience a strength?
Then list all the weaknesses in your business right now.
Maybe you don’t have enough capital to expand as quickly as you’d like? Perhaps your staff are getting older and it’s hard to find younger ones to replace them?
If you like, you can also list any external threats or opportunities that worry you.
Is there a change in the law that may restrict your trade? Are there new trends in technology that will benefit you?
Writing a list of all your strengths and weaknesses, as well as identifying potential external opportunities and threats should be a revealing exercise.
Now that you know where you stand right now, compare your strengths and weaknesses with the description of your vision, and those 6 to 10 success factors.
Will they affect your ability to achieve those success factors?
Can you use some of your strengths to achieve the success factors? For example, if one of your strengths is knowledgable staff, and some of your success factors involve being able to take time off – perhaps you can implement some strategies to use your knowledgeable staff to take over some of your responsibilities in the business?
Write down a list of ideas on how to use your strengths to attain your success factors, and which weaknesses you need to eliminate in order to achieve your success factors.
Look through your list of ideas and decide how far you can go implementing some changes during the next 12 months.
For example, let’s say that one of your ideas is to document procedures checklists that will allow some of your staff to take over some of your daily responsibilities. When you examine this idea, knowing what else is going on in your business, you decide that you can complete about half the procedures you need to document in the next 12 months.
Going through your list in this way will set up the year’s goals – one of them being “To document procedures checklists for the marketing, customer service, and accounting functions, and promoting Joe, Angela and Peter to be responsible for those functions by the end of the year.”
All this should have taken you no more than a couple of hours, and you will have:
- Created a clear vision for where you want to be in the long-term
- Decided on how to measure your long-term success
- Revealed a few truths about the capacity of your business, especially in comparison to your success factors
- Listed a few long-term strategies that will get you from where you are to where you want to go
- Listed your goals for the next 12 months – the achievement of those goals leading to arriving at a milestone on the road to your longer-term strategy.
There you have it – my challenge to you is to take a couple of hours and follow this process so that you have a written brief overview of your strategies that will grow your business into the business you will be proud of.
This exercise will clarify what you need to work on in your business, it will prioritise what you need to work on, and it will set up goals for the next 12 months.
The benefit in doing this in this way is that you know that in achieving the goals for the year ahead, you will be taking a step in the right direction in the long run.
In fact, you will be able to measure each step (or milestone) year by year.
If you do this exercise and find that it helps you focus your attention on meaningful priorities, that it clarifies what type of business you are trying to build, then I hope that you will continue and invest more of your time in preparing your business plan complete with action plans and measurements of success.
To find out more about the process to do this, you can enrol in my free 4-part video training course on how to write your business plan. You can access it here.
Don’t forget to come back here to see more tips and tools to grow your business. Better yet, you can subscribe to get these free but valuable processes sent directly to your inbox.