Business planning – urgh! It’s a tedious exercise that most of us would rather tackle once a year or put off until we’re sat in front of a lender asking for financing only to find out they need solid justification in writing.
But business planning shouldn’t be avoided and is certainly shouldn’t be a burden.
If you’re starting a new business or planning your next quarter, you need a plan for realizing your goals. The good news is that planning doesn’t have to involve an encyclopedic output of paper – not if you plan as you go and break the process into chunks.
Focus on Planning and Less on the “Plan”
Perhaps you’re a freelancer or a growing employee-based business. Either way, you need a sense of where your business is going:
What’s your market?
How will you capitalize on the market opportunity?
What will it take to get there?
How much money will you need?
How will you maintain cash flow as you execute against the plan?
What are your benchmarks for success?
Now, none of this is a one-off process. To make planning work for your business, you need to revisit as you grow. In that way, it’s less about the plan and more about planning.
Perhaps it’s an informal community of players coming together once or twice a month. Are you still on course? Generating a return? Do you need to steer the ship in another direction?
By focusing on the exercise and less on the output, your plan becomes useful and infinitely more dynamic than that one time document that you burnt the midnight oil creating for your bank manager.
Break the Planning Process into Chunks
The next step in simplifying the planning process is to break it down.
Small business owners wear many hats, one minute we’re planning our IT strategy and the next we’re weighing up how we’re going to invest our marketing dollars. Realistically, you can’t possibly do it all at once, and the same goes for planning.
So review your overall business goals and then think about how each function of your business can help achieve those goals. For this, you’ll need mini-plans – one for marketing, one for IT, one for operations, one for sales, one for staffing, and so on. If you have plans for growth overseas or into a new market, you’ll need a separate plan for that too. Set a budget, goals and measurables for each mini-plan and revisit them once a week.
Follow these approaches and you’ll soon see that business planning is not as insurmountable as you might think.