Six steps to an effective business plan...

If you think your business performance can improve and, amidst the meetings, phone calls, e-mails and office crises, you find it difficult to know how to begin, then you will benefit from reviewing your business planning.

Don't confuse business planning with crisis management. The former should prevent the latter. Making time for planning now can reduce the time you spend fighting fires later. Here are six key steps that can lead to an effective plan for your business:

Step 1: Establish your mission

In essence, your mission statement explains why your business exists. When you encounter a problem or a key decision, the answer will be informed by your mission. Think about why you started the business, and imagine where you want it to be in the future. These two elements will provide your mission statement.

Step 2: Analyse your SWOT

With your mission statement in mind, analyse your business's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. List each category in full and be honest. Done correctly, this 'SWOT' analysis will help you to take an objective, critical, unemotional look at your business in its entirety.

Step 3: Develop a plan

Try this exercise: from each SWOT category, choose three to five important items. Then set goals to maximise your strengths, correct your weaknesses, make the most of your opportunities and nullify your threats. For example, you could decide to focus more strongly on a particularly successful product or service (a strength), and abandon a side-project which is costing time and money for little return (a weakness). Remember that you can't do everything yourself. Think about how you will delegate tasks and involve all the staff. Avoid dwelling on the negatives - set yourself realistic strategies for improving the business.

Step 4: Create a budget

All missions and strategies need money to succeed. A smart budget will help you to regularly review your expenses and make financially beneficial decisions. You may need to take a wide variety of factors into account when setting your budget. This is where we can help you - why not give us a call?

Step 5: Put it in writing

Make sure you write down your finished plan. Include the mission statement, SWOT analysis, goals and plans, budget and forecasts, and make it clear who is responsible for doing what. Share it with your key staff and shareholders, and encourage their input. 

Step 6: Make it a living document

This is vital! Make your business plan a living document that you and your staff can frequently update and improve. Consider reviewing it monthly to track your progress and readjust your strategy as necessary. Hold yourself and your staff accountable for meeting the plan's goals, and think about introducing an incentive programme to keep everyone motivated.

Remember, a good business plan is as much about the process as the final document. Creating your plan will open your eyes to the realities of your business. Keeping it updated will help you stay on the right track. For help with developing your plan, call us.

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