Do you plan for your business?
I know that planning is a bit like Marmite. Some people love to plan and will plan every part of their lives – and other people just don’t because their thoughts are in their head and they know what they want to achieve and how to do it.
However, in business it’s a little more complex – because actually, we need to be kept accountable to what we want to achieve. When we write things down, they’re there in black and white, we can re-visit our plans, break them down into manageable chunks, tick off our actions and evaluate what we’ve done.
So how do you get your head around business planning when it all feels a bit alien?
First of all, it’s important to understand the benefits of planning:
· Plans help you define why your business exists and what kind of business it should be.
· They enable you to analyse outside influences and the impact they have on your business.
· They help you define objectives to improve your business performance.
· They help you plot how you will achieve objectives and involve other people.
· They help you get the best out of resources.
· They enable you to achieve your long-term vision.
· They help all your people understand how they can contribute to making the business successful.
· They help you clarify where you want to get to and define the path you take.
So, from just understanding the benefits, you can break things down and clearly think about your business, where it is now and where you’d like it to be by when.
It’s important that you consider your business and how it fits into your life. Are you running the business you imagined, giving you the opportunity to live the life you dreamt of when you started – or is turning into something quite unmanageable that you need to reign in? Planning will help you to mould and shape your business into what’s right for you at the time of writing the plan – which is why plans shouldn’t ever be set in stone, you should allow your business to change because your needs always will change over time.
So, consider your own personal vision and the vision for your business along with your values and evaluate where you are now. This will give you an indication of whether you’re on track or whether you need to be taking some different actions.
Then you can define your success measures. What will be really important for you to achieve in the planning year? They may be:
· Repeat or new business
· Customer satisfaction
· New product/service launch
· Cost savings, etc
Why are these important to you and what do you want to achieve by when? Map it all out calendar style and consider how this fits into the other areas of your life – holidays; school year, tax returns, etc.
Then you can write out your business improvement targets in a SMART way. SMART means that everything you’re looking to achieve is Specific, Manageable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound. Applying SMART to all of your goals helps you prioritise and makes things more achievable – and will give you clear direction on what to do next, what’s important, etc.
You may wish to break this down in to quarters – so plan out three months at a time to keep things manageable and on track. Planning for shorter timescales can really lighten the mental load. There is less time for procrastination with shorter term goals, and again, these goals can be broken down further into monthly and weekly goals, meaning that you’re constantly taking action and therefore more likely to be successful.
Do you need to communicate your plans? If it’s just you and your cat in business together then you obviously just need to be very clear on what you want to achieve. But if you employ staff or work with outsourced professionals, then it’s really important to ensure they’re aware of what you’re looking to achieve.
People do care – people do strive to achieve – it’s a key motivator. This does sound obvious, I know, but it’s amazing how many plans are not clearly communicated and therefore time is wasted working on actions that are not relevant or appropriate – and people can become despondent because they don’t really know what they’re supposed to be doing.
And finally, don’t forget to review your plans. This is a critical step that many people ignore, maybe because they just want to move onto the next thing – but it’s important to remember:
· Review is critical in helping you improve business performance.
· It is just as important to understand why you are successful as it is to understand why you fail.
· Understanding why you fail results in improvement activities.
· Understanding why you are successful results in sustained improvements.
· Measure your results and evaluate your strategies.
So, If you’re not a planner by nature, I hope this blog helps you to understand the importance of planning and how it could help or improve your business.