Remember the business plan that you formulated at start up? Now is a great time to pull it out, dust it off, and re-read it. Your original business plan can help you…
- Communicate your priorities and goals to employees, customers, venders, and investors.
- Manage your business, both day-to-day and over the long term
- Plan for the future needs of the business
Of course, if you haven’t yet created a business plan at all, it’s never too late to do so. To get started, visit Creating a Business Plan.
But if you do have an existing business plan, take the time now to review and modify your plan to ensure that your plan meets your current goals for growth.
Review Your Formal Business Plan
Review the essential aspects of a business plan and be sure you have each area detailed.
Executive summary. These pages should still catch your reader’s attention and briefly explain the mission, goals, facts, growth, and future plans for the business. How has your business changed since it launched? Update the summary to reflect this.
Market analysis. When you started the business, you noted a particular need for a product or service. How well have you met the need? How has the industry changed since you first analyzed the market? Has your target market changed? What about your competitors? Are the barriers the same — or have you overcome them, or encountered unexpected barriers? Update your market analysis based on your new understanding and experience.
Company description. Is your business structured as you initially envisioned it would be? Have you made changes? Have the factors for success changed? What about your employee base and the market needs? Revise your company description to reflect any changes that have occurred.
Organization & management. If your company has grown, the organization has probably grown as well. Is that reflected in your business plan? Do you have the same key people? Have you acquired new owners or major investors? The updated business plan should reflect the current state of your organization and how the business is managed from day to day and over the long run.
Sales & marketing. Now that you have experience in marketing your products or services, reflect back on your original goals and plans. How have you penetrated the market? Which strategies for growth have worked? Have you reached your customers at levels that allow your business to succeed? What do you need to do to penetrate the market even more? How does your sales effort support your marketing goals?
Services or products. Do you offer the same services or products as when you first started the business? Why or why not? What has changed? What do you anticipate will happen in the next several months and years? Have the features or benefits of your services or products changed? Are you devoting enough effort to research and development to understand future trends?
Funding request. Have your funding needs changed? Did your best- and worst-case scenarios come to pass? Have they changed, as well? What would you need new funds for? How would you prefer to receive them? Are you considering changes in strategy, such as changing your business structure or going public, that might affect funding? Update your plan with this new information.
Financial information. Now that the business has functioned for a time, you probably have accurate historical data about the business’s performance. Add this to your business plan, along with any new projects for future expenditures and growth. Revise your projected income, balance sheet, cash flow statements, and planned capital expenditures. Update your ratio and trend analysis.
Appendices. Update the supporting documents for the claims you make in previous sections of this revised business plan. Include credit histories, resumes, product photos, legal documents, contracts, and any other documentation a reader might ask for.
Just as your business plan changed as your venture launched, so will the plan continue to change as the variables within your business change. Continue to use this plan as the driving force behind your business decisions. Change it as needed to reflect new conditions, new experience, additional research, and more. Make sure everyone in the enterprise understands the basics of the plan — and their “piece” in making the plan successful.
Strategies for Enacting Your Business Plan
You can help ensure the continued success and growth of your business plan — and, hence, your business — by incorporating the following strategies:
Find a mentor. Someone else has probably “been there, done that” — running a business similar to yours. Use that person as an experienced advisor to bounce off new ideas, solve problems, and anticipate new issues likely to arise within your business. [LINKS to BOS resources for mentors]
Network for maximum results. Networking means more than chatting with colleagues at happy hour, though that certainly can be helpful. When you consistently establish connections with the people around you, unanticipated benefits may result. Network with employees, managers, colleagues, mentors, other business professionals, neighbors, suppliers, customers, and more. You’ll glean advice, ideas, free marketing, and an early “heads up” on potential problems. You have probably heard the saying that it takes a community to raise a child. It also takes your interaction with the community around you to make your business continue to grow.
Improve decision-making skills. As a business owner, you constantly make decisions. Some are quick, others require thought. Define what decision needs to be made — and whether you really need to make it or should it be delegated to someone else. Brainstorm alternatives, gather information, and think through the potential outcomes. Choose the option that makes the most sense — both for its potential outcome as well as for your own style of leadership.
Pull in resources. Don’t be timid about getting help when you need it. Whether it’s from employees, mentors, colleagues, or even consultants, use the resources available to you so that you can maximize your business’s chance for growth and continued success.