If you don’t know where you’re heading, any road will get you there! Start with a plan.
Why do we need to plan? A good business plan will guide your business, help you make informed choices and remain focused. From time to time, most of us face business decisions that can dramatically alter our direction: do we expand? Move premises? Change our corporate image? When the ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ presents itself, it is usually exciting and needs a quick decision. It is all too easy to get caught up in the excitement and lose focus on the big picture. Your business plan will incorporate your short and long-term goals and allow you to objectively assess whether proposals are consistent with your planned direction. (For the record, the opportunity of a lifetime invariably pops up every six months or so if you’re looking!)
The most valuable plans are those that you actively produce, thus ensuring your plan reflects your ideals and visions. If you have no idea how to begin, then employ a consultant to work side-by-side with you and one or two of your key personnel. There are self-help books and computer packages that assist with developing a plan yourself; these are ideal if you have a reasonable understanding of what you want to achieve with your plan.
Putting the Plan Together
Your aim is to achieve a valuable and living document. You will be more likely to use it if you are an integral part of its production. Be wary of consultants who take your information and produce a plan for you off-site. You may end up with an impressive looking document that does not make a lot of sense to you and sits on the shelf untouched and unutilised. A plan should include the following:
- a brief history of your business;
- a summary of your goals and objectives, including your mission or vision statement;
- a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis;
- a longitudinal plan on how to deal with issues raised in your SWOT, particularly how you plan to deal with threats and take advantage of opportunities;
- financial forecasts, projected income and expense budgets; and
- an action list – what are you going to do, how are you to do it and when!
Your business plan needs to be an active document and you should diarise a schedule to review it periodically. Three months is a good time for most plans but you may wish to review it sooner if you have put short-term goals or action plans in place. Your plan is a powerful document that can assist you in structuring your business the way you want it. It is well worth the time and effort to develop a good plan and ensure you use it.
Jayne Arlett has had 15 years’ experience in her own business as well as dealing with the corporate world. She has studied extensively throughout Australia, England and America. Her expertise has seen her business, Townsville Podiatry Centre, win numerous awards including:
- Townsville Businesswoman of the Year 1997
- North Queensland Business Owner of the Year 1997 (AIM)
- Telstra and Queensland Government Small Business of the Year Queensland 1998
- National Finalist – Telstra and Australian Governments Small Business Owner of the Year 1998