Thinking ahead and coming up with a clear direction for your small business in the new year will help you focus on execution. You might not need a bank loan, or investors …yet. But you still need a business plan.
Here’s why you need a business plan!
Why do you want a business plan? You already know the obvious reasons, but there are so many other good reasons to create a business plan that many business owners don’t know about. So, just for a change, let’s take a look at the less obvious reasons first and finish with the ones you probably already know about. Think of this as a late-show top 10, with us building up to the most important reasons you need a business plan.
15. Set specific objectives for managers. Good management requires setting specific objectives and then tracking and following up. I’m surprised how many existing businesses manage without a plan. How do they establish what’s supposed to happen? In truth, you’re really just taking a short cut and planning in your head–and good for you if you can do it–but as your business grows you want to organize and plan better, and communicate the priorities better. Be strategic. Develop a plan; don’t just wing it.
14. Share your strategy, priorities and specific action points with your spouse, partner or significant other. Your business life goes by so quickly: a rush of answering phone calls, putting out fires, etc. Don’t the other people in your business life need to know what’s supposed to be happening? Don’t you want them to know?
13. Deal with displacement. Displacement is probably by far the most important practical business concept you’ve never heard of. It goes like this: “Whatever you do is something else you don’t do.” Displacement lives at the heart of all small-business strategy. At least most people have never heard of it.
12. Decide whether or not to rent new space. Rent is a new obligation, usually a fixed cost. Do your growth prospects and plans justify taking on this increased fixed cost? Shouldn’t that be in your business plan?
11. Hire new people. This is another new obligation (a fixed cost) that increases your risk. How will new people help your business grow and prosper? What exactly are they supposed to be doing? The rationale for hiring should be in your business plan.
10. Decide whether you need new assets, how many, and whether to buy or lease them. Use your business plan to help decide what’s going to happen in the long term, which should be an important input to the classic make vs. buy. How long will this important purchase last in your plan?
9. Share and explain business objectives with your management team, employees and new hires. Make selected portions of your business plan part of your new employee training.
8. Develop new business alliances. Use your plan to set targets for new alliances, and selected portions of your plan to communicate with those alliances.
7. Deal with professionals. Share selected highlights or your plans with your attorneys and accountants, and, if this is relevant to you, consultants.
6. Sell your business. Usually the business plan is a very important part of selling the business. Help buyers understand what you have, what it’s worth and why they want it.
5. Valuation of the business for formal transactions related to divorce, inheritance, estate planning and tax issues. Valuation is the term for establishing how much your business is worth. Usually that takes a business plan, as well as a professional with experience. The plan tells the valuation expert what your business is doing, when, why and how much that will cost and how much it will produce.
4. Create a new business. Use a plan to establish the right steps to starting a new business, including what you need to do, what resources will be required, and what you expect to happen.
3. Seek investment for a business, whether it’s a startup or not.Investors need to see a business plan before they decide whether or not to invest. They’ll expect the plan to cover all the main points.
2. Back up a business loan application. Like investors, lenders want to see the plan and will expect the plan to cover the main points.
1. Grow your existing business. Establish strategy and allocate resources according to strategic priority. You can find more information about growing your business with a business plan by reading ” Existing Companies Need Planning, Too .”
HOW TO PREPARE YOUR BUSINESS PLAN
1. Develop Your Business Goals
Once you’ve solidified where the opportunities are in your market, quantify what it will look like for your small business in terms of your sales goals. Broad, nonspecific goals rarely produce the kind of results you want. Focus instead on 30-day sales goals, which means you can identify your weekly sales goals. Putting numbers on your business goals gives you a well-defined metric to reach for, and a way to design your marketing tactics to achieve your sales goals. Given that you’re just working on Q1, decide what specific goals you want to achieve during those three months of the new year.
2. Do a SWOT Analysis
Conducting a regular SWOT analysis is one of the best ways to see the big picture and home in on specific areas of your business to improve. Things in your business change constantly. What might have worked a year ago could work against you in the future.
Use this analysis to get a clear idea of where you’ve grown and where you’ve fallen short. You can also discover new areas where you might find more opportunities to make more money and grow.
3. Start Delegating
Savvy small business owners know how impossible it is to tackle everything alone. Once you have a clear direction in mind of where you want to go in Q1, hand some stuff off to experts who can help. Whether you pass off your blogging and SEO efforts to the marketing team or recruit the help of a CPA to develop your 2015 budget, delegating tasks frees you up to focus on what you do best.
4. Look at the Big Picture
Before you can plan for the future, you need a solid idea of where your business is currently and compare it to past growth and strategy. Figure out what your strong revenue months are and look for opportunities for repeat business. Seeing where you’ve grown, improved, or possibly digressed gives you an honest glimpse into what is happening in your small business. This helps you make better plans for the future.
5. Create an Action Plan
To keep everyone in your organization on the same page about how you will reach your new business goals for the quarter, create an action plan. This plan should incorporate every person involved in making these goals a reality. By defining each person’s roles in working toward the goal, you create accountability. As the motivation from a new quarter and new business goal dies down, use this action plan to keep your team on target to dramatically increase your chances at success.
As a business owner, it’s on you to complete certain tasks that aren’t necessarily your favorites, but are essential to your small business success. Having a roadmap with targeted goals and actionable steps will keep you on track for a successful 2015.