When was the last time you did any planning? Probably your last holiday. But what about your business, your goals, ambitions and targets? Sadly, too many small businesses ignore planning and the old adage, ‘Fail to plan and you plan to fail’ comes true! Now you’re panicking about huge plans documents that you don’t have time, or I don’t know how to!
Don’t. I’m not talking about a 40-page business plan; you only need 3 pieces of paper; easy? And I guarantee you’ll use it!
Before you start I want you to think long and hard about your personal goals as they’ll drive your determination to hit the business goals. Start by jotting down the answers to these questions; mull them over and then finalise them.
- How much do you have to earn versus want to earn?
- How much time do you want to spend at work and when do you want to retire, reduce your hours or go part time?
- What is your dream for your business, what do you want it to give you?
- How much time do you want for pastimes, holidays and downtime etc.?
Now write out your business goals. Make them SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and targeted, then they’ll mean something and you measure progress too.
|WHY DO I NEED A BUSINESS PLAN? The importance of a business plan and how to write one|
First the one-page plan and I mean one page. Use bullet points and short statements; not long waffling paragraphs, and include:
- Your reasons for being in business – your dream or vision and ambitions;
- Your objectives; SMART, of course – try to stick to a maximum of 5;
- Your key performance indicators (KPIs) – the numbers you’ll track;
- A description of your target customers, markets and the products you offer.
Secondly you’ll need a cash flow forecast, and I’m sure you can do this bit. But I want you to expand your sales section to include:
- Number of existing clients;
- Annual retainer clients;
- New clients required. List your outstanding quotes and code them red, green or orange depending on the probability of securing the business. Now you have a sales pipeline;
- Hours committed; so you’ll know what capacity you have to fill.
Finally, a calendar. It must be a big wall calendar; the one on your computer won’t do the job! This is your action plan: who, what, when, where, why and how. Post up all of the planning, marketing and sales activity for your company. Include regular social media, marketing activity, events, conferences, exhibitions that you attend or speak at, newsletters, emails and blogs, in fact everything. It needs to be on the wall so you’ll see more than one week ahead and plan.
Now you have a plan; what you want to achieve, how you are going to do it and a method of checking whether or not you are on track. You’ll always know where you are and when you need to make adjustments or corrections to your business activity. Now it’s written, don’t ignore it – set time in your diary every month to review and update it. It’s amazing what you can achieve in a month or how far away you can drift away from your target. Your business plan is now your best friend.