You’ll often hear business experts say that in order for your venture to be a success you’ve got to ‘work on your business as much as you work in it’.
Easier said than done.
With many small business owners running a solo show, it is often a struggle to find the time to not only be the CEO but also be your marketing, sales, finance, compliance, customer service, admin, reception, HR and IT departments. And to not allow these crucial tasks fall to the sidelines.
Business planning is one task that you shouldn’t let drop off your radar. While the term ‘business plan’ might bring notions of a large, bound document that gathers dust in a store room, in reality, it’s a well thought through outline of your company’s goals and objectives for the foreseeable future and, more importantly, how you’re going to get there.
Today we released MYOB CEO Tim Reed’s five top tips to starting a new business – which really applies to all SMEs embarking on a new year of operations – and strategic planning ranks among the most crucial. He recommends making a thorough, honest assessment of your goals and the road to achievement.
“Having a passion for what you’re doing is very important,” says Mr Reed. “That will carry you through the late nights and the long weekends, though it’s not a substitute for a solid business plan.”
“You need to go in with your eyes open, preparing an honest assessment of your objectives and how you will get there. Importantly, this includes how to fund it throughout. Having a way to measure that progress is also crucial for any SME, not to mention the Australian Taxation Office.”
So where do you start?
Firstly, don’t reinvent the wheel! A business plan doesn’t need to be complex or lengthy, despite what preconceived notions you might have. You need to know where you’re trying to head with the above-mentioned ‘departments’, which audiences you must influence along the way, what timeframes you want to reach your goals within, and how you‘ll leverage the growth opportunities that should make your enterprise successful. If you’re just starting out, these handy templates from business.com.au and the Commonwealth Bank are an excellent way to start – and a great way to guide yourself through the process if it’s your very first plan.
Make sure you include metrics! It’s great to say that you want to ‘grow your business’, but by how much? 10%? 20%? Decide what a successful outcome looks like for you (and don’t forget to use the SMART goal framework), and then break it down into smaller, achievable mini goals. Once you’ve figured out what your yearly target is, work out what that means per month. Make sure you’re spending an hour or two at the end of the month working out if you hit your ‘mini goal’ and what you can do in the next to ensure you reach, or even exceed it.
Finally, don’t file away your business plan and forget about it. Many business owners put a lot of time and effort into creating a plan, and promptly save it on their hard drive and forget about it. Keep it handy and if you have staff then make sure they have a hand it helping you execute it!
You can up the recall ante in a number of ways… Take the effort to get it professionally printed and bound, so it’s attractive enough to sit out on your desk. Change your desktop background to remind you of your monthly goals. Write them on your white board. Save them in your mobile phone and set reminders in its calendar. You can even try broadcasting them to your social networks (such as ‘This month, I’m going to find two new clients. Wish me luck!’) or working with another business owner to encourage each other to achieve your individual milestones within certain time frames. Verbalising your goals can make you more accountable and create a network of people around you who are available for support and advice.
Do you have a business plan for 2012? What does success look like for your business?