The Christmas and New Year festivities are now well behind us, which means many business owners will be back on the tools wondering what the next year will bring. While a certain air of mystery is inevitable in business (because very little is guaranteed or predictable), it’s important to have a firm sense of direction.
Business planning is a crucial part of what makes businesses successful because, first and foremost, it enables you to continually benchmark progress against predetermined goals and priorities. A lack of business planning is often argued to be one of the top reasons why businesses fail.
With the start of the year being an ideal time to plan for the future, here are some tips to help you devise a business plan that’s both workable and worthwhile. Alternatively, if you already have a plan in place, now could be the best time to reflect on your progress and think about some adjustments.
Review the past year
The concept of continuous improvement is integral to what makes a business successful. Essentially, this means always looking for ways to do things better than the last time. So, take some time to review your business’ performance over the past 12 months to acknowledge what is working well and what doesn’t seem to be working.
Organising discussions or brainstorming sessions with staff could reveal a few business pain-points you were not already aware of while also generating some ideas for improvement to incorporate in your plan. On the other hand, transparent discussions with your entire team about their experiences can also help you identify things your business could be doing more of to drive revenue.
Identify your competitors and what makes your business unique
The business environment is becoming increasingly competitive, thanks to the rising number of startups and small businesses in Australia. For this reason, make sure you’re across your competitors so you can work out how to set yourself apart or even leverage your differences in your marketing efforts.
Conducting a full competitor analysis to identify their strengths and weaknesses should be your starting point before working out how you might respond to gain the edge. For example, as a conveyancer, you might discover an opportunity to serve an untapped local market while building stronger relationships with key real estate players in the area. Analysing online reviews for other businesses could also help you understand how to give clients more of what they’re looking for.
Define and prioritise your top goals for the year
With a clear idea about your business’ performance as well as better understanding of your competitors’ position in the market, it’s time to set out exactly what you’d like to achieve in 2020. Whether it’s focusing more on marketing, networking, expansion or bringing in new tech tools to streamline processes, list some clearly defined goals that you know will be realistic and measurable for the year ahead.
To make your goals achievable, you should also identify team members who will be responsible for helping to meet those goals while also ensuring priorities and timeframes are clearly communicated.
Identify the resources required to achieve objectives
The objectives you might set in your business plan could include anything from changing your management style or team structure to bringing in new technology and driving business growth. Consequently, while not all your goals will require financial investment, it’s essential to ensure the figures stack up and budgets are in place to avoid disappointment or wasted effort around those that do.
For example, if expansion is in your sights for 2020, think carefully about the increase in headcount and overheads and whether there’s plenty of room in the budget to make it pay off.
Set short-term goals
Once you’ve identified some overarching goals in your business plan – especially when you’ve got timeframes against them – you should set out all the incremental steps and milestones you’ll need to look out for and strike off along the way. These short-term goals will be instrumental in helping you track and continually evaluate progress so you can adjust your business plan and shift priorities where appropriate.
Business planning is never a game of set and forget. While the start of the year is the best time for reflection and shaping your business’ forward direction, you should also endeavour to build an adaptable business plan that allows you to continually adjust and refine.