Good plan vital for growth

THE roots of the tree are its system for keeping it healthy and growing well. Today we focus on the roots of the tree — planning, systems and processes.

If the roots are weak or ill formed then the tree will not flourish. The roots are the tree’s guidance system — it’s map for prosperous growth. That is the same for our business.

Many business owners see business planning as tedious, boring, bureaucratic, nothing to do with real work. Yet we all plan – going shopping, going on a journey, getting married, planning a family event and buying a new car.

Builders, plumbers and electricians work to plans — sometimes drawn up by themselves, sometimes by others. Plans keep us on track, they help us estimate costs, and they are the map of the process that we are engaged in. They help us measure progress.

A good business plan is just that — a map of your business which helps you get from where you are now to where you want to be. It is not something we write for others. It is an essential business tool. It should be clear, interesting, and relevant. We should review it regularly (at least monthly) and share it with others (staff, partners and even customers).

A map is no good if it has too much detail or if it lacks relevant information or if we cannot read or understand it. The same is true for your business plan — keep it simple and short! It should be a living document that is in regular use. It is a central reference point for all the information relating to your business. It must be versatile and flexible.

A business plan can be the key to working smarter, not harder. A good business plan will:-

* keep you looking to the future and motivate you to achieve the results you want;

* help you step outside of our business, viewing opportunities objectively;

* enable you to recognise the problems that may call for outside advice and assistance;

* help you recognise change in markets and consumer needs;

* plan your business growth and help you manage your financial capacity; and

* be a useful marketing tool for anyone who wants to join or support your business;

Here are a few tips to creating a map for your business:

a) write it yourself;

b) involve your staff/ partners;

c) start with your vision – why are you in business – what are your main goals – what drives you?;

d) clarify your mission – what the business does, where it does it and who does it do it for;

e) you will set yourselves goals that are all designed to help you move forward and make progress. You are likely to have short term goals (up to a year), medium term and longer term goals (5 years plus)

f) analyse the current state of your business – do this by getting feedback from staff, suppliers, customers; review your financial information; do a SWOT and PEST analysis frequently; keep an eye on your competitors;

g) SWOT – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats. This is a simple tool to assess your business from the inside and is a great way to involve your people – ask their views;

h) PEST – political, economic/ environmental, social, technology. This tool helps us assess the external business environment that we operate in;

i) development/ action plan – this is a series of prioritised steps that is designed to help you move from where you are to where you want to get to. This will include actions to do with marketing, sales, operations, services, and people;

j) a simple financial plan to support your development plan — a budget and cash flow; and

k) an executive summary — a one page plan that you can easily review every day and give to others if necessary.

Many business people don’t plan because they are not sure of what to do, they lack confidence or they can’t see the point. If you feel like that, then ask for help — contact your local chamber of commerce for their assistance.

Having a good plan that is well used can make the difference between a business being the best it can be or remaining unfulfilled and mediocre.

The difference between a strong, healthy, long-lived tree and a weak, sickly one that easily succumbs to pressure!

* Coming next — small businesses – high impact part ten — seeds – ideas and new life for the business.

* Chris Elphick is Director of Vanuatu-based Learn.fast Pacific, supporting the development of a range of businesses and organisations in Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon’s and other Pacific countries. He is an experienced business mentor and has years of experience of working with Small & Medium Enterprises. Learnfast Pacific works in close association with business support organisations including Chambers of Commerce and Industry throughout the Pacific.

If you have a business issue for Chris to comment on or you want copies of other articles please contact him at chris@learnfastpacific.com

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