Strategic Planning for the Entrepreneurial Business
As a budding entrepreneur, having developed your idea which has now become reality, one key thing in putting it into practice is to develop some kind of strategic plan. This may sound too grandiose particularly for a smaller and embryonic business, but it isn’t.
All businesses of whatever size and type should have some kind of plan, as a structure to work within. It must be a living, working document and be reviewed regularly and revised as appropriate.
The plan should combine strategic thinking and sheer practicalities. Try to make visions reality through a positive yet pragmatic and above all realistic approach. Here are our top ten tips for an effective strategic plan.
1. Review your Strengths and Weaknesses
Firstly, think clinically about your businesses strengths and weaknesses, and define known opportunities, as well as the threats to further progress. Such a “SWOT” analysis will help you to plan effectively.
2. Review your Vision
Before getting into details, review the original vision. Are your goals still relevant and achievable? Have external or internal circumstances changed?
3. Develop the Plan
Once the goals are set, use the SWOT analysis as a basis for determining what is possible, and how to make it so. Make realistic assumptions based on experience, your evaluation of the business, the market and other factors. Set clear goals and prioritise the various elements into a clear plan of action. A good business plan is as much about the process as the final document.
4. What are the Strategic Considerations?
Don’t assume that something new or radical must be required. Quite often what is really needed is to find a better way of doing what is being done now. And if it’s not broke, don’t fix it!
5. Remember the Key Objectives
Always keep the key objectives in mind, don’t be deflected. Remember another old adage, “sales for show, profit for dough”. If expansion is planned, it should increase profits, otherwise what is the point? Think through the risks and the costs of failure as well as the rewards of success.
6. Make it a Practical Document
There is no prescriptive length, it will depend on each individual business, but if it’s more than 20 pages it will almost certainly be too long. Make sure it is realistic, most business plans are overly-optimistic.
7. Create a Budget
In the real world all visions need money to succeed. Using the key assumptions, think through likely results, financial returns, timescales, and costs to ensure the plan is at least workable and achievable. Regularly monitor the actual results against budget, and discuss and agree any necessary action.
8. Assess Resources
In setting goals and the budget, ensure you have all the necessary resources to support the plan. It isn’t just finance, but staffing, the necessary expertise, and practical resources such as capability, time and infrastructure.
9. Share the Plan
You can’t do everything yourself. Your job is to have the vision, create the plan and lead the team in achieving it. So firstly share the plan with the key people, and take and use their input before finalising it. Think how you will involve others, and make it clear who is responsible for doing what.
10. Make sure it’s a Living Thing
Finally, once completed, don’t file it away never to be seen again. Review and amend it regularly, and discuss it with key staff. Be prepared to amend the plan if necessary several times if it really isn’t working, or indeed if it is!
More on business reviews in forthcoming blogs.
23 January 2019