1. A living, breathing business plan helps you grow - According to a survey conducted by the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership companies with a written business plan have 50% greater sales growth and 12% higher gross profit margins than those without one.
2. An exit strategy - If you have the ambition to sell your business for the best possible price or wish to retire you need a plan - preferably a 5-year plan with goals and milestones.
3. Strategic focus - Review the marketplace, your products and solutions and your unique selling points (USP’s) and identity and purpose.
4. Set priorities - Allocate your time and resources and do the most important things and keep track of the right things. You can’t do everything.
5. Making good ideas even better - Putting your plan into writing clarifies which ideas work and those that perhaps won’t. You can then develop those that do and focus on these.
6. Priorities will be clearer - Aside from the strategy, the priorities for your business should be management, growth and financial health. Use the plan to set these and revise as the business evolves.
7. Funding - Investors want to see you are a business that will last and grow. This is especially important for start-ups with no trading history. To gain funding you definitely need a business plan.
8. Manage and control change - A business plan keeps you on track. You actually never know what is going to happen in the future. You can regularly track changes, spot issues and opportunities and you can adjust accordingly.
9. Develop accountability - By having a planning process and tracking results you can review regularly – spot the good and bad (plan vs. actual) and adjust either yourself or by delegating.
10. Delivers your marketing plan - Your target audience, USP’s that allow you to stand out from the competition, the best way to reach your potential customers – a marketing strategy and plan is an important component of any successful business plan.
11. Manage cash flow - Often why businesses fail. Mitigate problems and adjust; profitability, products, purchasing assets, repaying debts, bad debtors, overstocking... to name a few.
12. Strategic alignment - Make sure your day-to-day work fits in with your business tactics which in turn matches the strategy. Alignment equals greater success.
13. Goals - A good business sets clear goals you can work towards such as key milestones, hiring, opening a new location, launching a new product.
14. Metrics – It's all about key performance indicators (KPI's) and numbers (targets) whether that be; sales, expenses, leads, conversion rates, margins, stock. Define and track the key metrics on a monthly basis and review against the plan.
15. Keep on track and monitor – Put regular reviews in place. There is no point in having a robust and comprehensive plan if it's not monitored on a regular basis and followed up with actions to adjust to stay on track or adjust if necessary. This shouldn’t take long and could be the difference between running a successful or failing business.
16. You gain an understanding of your marketplace - As part of a comprehensive business plan you need to conduct an analysis of the market looking at your industry, competitors, trends and target market. Fail to do this and you could harm your business, or worse. You can also see what others are doing and learn from their mistakes.
17. Better delegation - If you have employees a business plan is ideal for clarifying who is responsible for what. Every important section of your plan should have an owner. This will help your plan keep on track.
18. Avoiding unnecessary mistakes - If your business doesn’t work on paper what are the odds of it working in the competitive world of business? A plan clarifies your businesses potential. Show it to others and ask for their thoughts and ideas.
19. Get a better picture of the whole business – Connect the dots. Take a step back and look at the larger picture.
20. Accelerate your success - A business plan will undoubtably clarify your strategy and goals but the key to success is using your plan within your business on a constant basis building it in to your day to day activities and updating it as time progresses, ideally using an online based system for a live and up to date view.
21. Fear not - Although time and hard work will initially be required, and this can be achieved in just two days through a PlanningCLUB* see below, once completed a plan will be an invaluable asset to you in managing your business as effectively as possible. You will be surprised how much you learn and pick up in both thinking and documenting your thoughts into a robust business plan that will bring you control, focus and success.
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"FAILING TO PLAN IS PLANNING TO FAIL"
Once you have your plan, use it! There is little point in creating an awesome business plan if it gets left in the bottom drawer of your desk. It needs to be reviewed regularly and if you have a software or cloud based business plan where parameters and figures can be regularly adjusted and updated then you have a flexible constantly adapting plan that will truly benefit your business.
Monitor and review on a bi-weekly or monthly and quarterly basis, especially the shorter term 90-day plan or even the 12-month plan with an eye on the longer term 2-5 years.
The shorter term is specifically important when it comes to your launch (for a new business), cash-flow, financials, and the KPI’s and for driving short term tactics and results.
The 12-month plan will soon expand into the second year and beyond focusing on the wider business strategies to ensure ongoing growth and success. This should be measured and reviewed quarterly or six-monthly.
Remember using your plan will reduce the risk of your business faltering and will maximise it's growth and success. It is often useful to have external support and coaching to support the plan and its ongoing implementation. This can work extremely well as it guarantees focus, milestone setting and reaching and ensures your plan adapts to the changing needs of the business and marketplace as time progresses in the fast moving world we all live. It's also good to have an expert on hand as a sounding board.
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