‘I’m too busy to plan’ is a common catch cry in business, and SMEs are no exception. The trouble is that as SME owners, it’s easy to ignore business planning altogether and focus on activity, especially as we all try to navigate through the impact of COVID-19. So, what is business planning and what is its value?
The art of business planning
In any given period, there can be numerous decisions to make as a business owner. It might be you’re launching a new offering to the market or a making a financial decision such as taking on an investor or applying for a commercial loan. Whatever the decision involves, a business plan can provide a roadmap for helping you meet your goals.
There are also no hard and fast rules about what your plan should cover or the level of detail. In general, plans could include a business profile, your vision, mission and goals, market research, operational strategy, a description of your products and/or services, a marketing plan and financial strategy.
If you’re writing a 60-page document, chances are you’re spending too much time on the plan and not enough time thinking about whether it’s achievable, advises Simone Angelos, from strategic, creative and production resource agency, Morph Communications. “If it’s a heavy document, it’s too hard to stick to. And you can spend all your time developing and crafting a lengthy document just for the sake of it.
“You can get bogged down in detail and forget to do the work that’s staring you in the face. Keeping it simple means, it is easy to work with, and easy to modify.”
The difference between success and failure
Simone says that a business plan is not the end game. “As long as we don’t measure ourselves too harshly in terms of planned versus actual, a business plan can help us be successful.”
She continues, “That said, a plan is not the difference between success and failure. To be successful, it must be well thought out and executed. Furthermore, you need to realise when things need to change. A plan is a way of keeping us on track. It’s not rigid. It’s more a work in progress guideline.”
Including your staff in the business planning process is usually a sensible move says Jeremy Plint, a director of sales and marketing consultancy firm Sintoro. “Start communicating with your staff early, even before your strategy is finalised.
“Your employees will be more likely to buy-in if they are included early in the process rather than after its been rubber-stamped.”
When communicating the final plan to staff, focus on presenting the highlights as not all employees will want all the detail, Jeremy recommends. He also suggests developing a standardised, visual storyboard presentation to share the strategy narrative across the business. “The presentation must be as visual as possible, have snappy headlines and use charts, graphs, and other images to enable your staff to conceive the key points.”
Also, messaging consistency is critical, says Plint. “You have to make sure any communications whether it’s a PowerPoint deck or an infographic have consistent messaging.”
Reviewing a plan
With many SMEs in hibernation because of COVID-19 now is a great time to develop or finetune a business plan. Nonetheless, Simone Angelos advises, “Every time that you read a business plan, and if it no longer makes sense means the time has arrived for a review.
“That could be once every two years or once every two months,” she continues. “The plan needs to be flexible. Otherwise, you can’t take advantage of changes in the market, staff changes, client changes and so on.”
Know Your Score
To provide data for your business planning, SME owners should consider their financial position and credit health with the help of our Know Your Score business credit check tool.
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