How to create a business plan that will set you up for success

stratandplan

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 should never 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.

In MYOB CEO Tim Reed’s five top tips to starting a new business – which applies to all SMEs embarking on a new year of operations – 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 Tim. “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?

Don’t reinvent the wheel

A business plan doesn’t need to be complex or lengthy. Know where you want to go, which audiences you need to influence along the way, what milestones you want to achieve, 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 are a great way to start.

Include metrics

How much you want your business to grow month by month, or year on year? By 10 percent? By 20 percent? Decide what a successful outcome looks like for you – use the SMART goal framework to make sure your objectives are realistic and achievable – and then break it down into smaller mini goals.

Once you’ve figured out what your yearly target is, work out what that means per month. Make sure you spend 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 it – or even exceed it.

Review regularly

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. If you have staff, make sure they help you execute it.

Here are some tips to keep your business goals front of mind:

  • Get your business plan 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, or save them in your mobile phone and set reminders in your calendar.
  • Write your goals and milestones on your whiteboard.
  • Try broadcasting them to your social networks, for example ‘This month, I’m going to find two new clients. Wish me luck!’
  • Work 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? What does success look like for your business?