It’s time to start planning for 2020. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s time to start reviewing this year’s progress and start preparing for the next one.
Regardless of whether your business year runs from January-December, April-March or June-May, now is the time to get your business ready for the new year.
Taking action now gives you time to prepare, take a look at where you are against your goals, and if you’ve strayed a little, you have some time to course-correct.
When is the best time to create a business plan?
As a rule of thumb, business plans should be compiled three months before they’re needed. So, for those businesses that run on a calendar year of January to December, the best time is September. For businesses running from April to March, the best time is January.
If you’re in retail or an e-commerce business, you’re planning schedule may look slightly different. Typically, you should be preparing for Christmas in June and conducting your business planning in January.
If you’re not in retail or e-commerce, regardless of your business year (unless it’s August-July – in which case you should already have a sufficient plan in place), you should always think about a New Year plan.
Taking this proactive approach gives you adequate time to prepare for the new year and estimate where you will finish against your goals. You also have time to put yourself back on track if you’ve strayed a little, and it will provide you with a clear direction when you come back from Christmas (probably still a little foggy from an over-indulgent week).
What should a business plan include?
You don’t need to overcomplicate this process. If you’re creating a business plan for a bank or shareholders, it’s advisable to start working with experienced support as soon as possible.
If the plan is for yourself, you can be more flexible to suit your individual needs. Although, it’s still wise to gather some support, and sole traders can enlist some trusted friends or associates to help. If you have a mentor, now is the time to get them involved!
When writing a business plan, it’s always helpful to use the SOSTAC model referred to below. Here are some guidelines to help you create the plan successfully:
The purpose of your business
It is always important to keep the ‘why’ you’re doing business at the start of your business plan. It is possibly the most important section of your plan as it will help ensure the content within your plan supports your business purpose. It also provides context to someone outside the company should they read your plan.
Where are we now? Document where you are now so that you can measure progress. For example, how many products you have, how many customers, how much you spent against budget, sales numbers etc.
Where do you want to be: both for the business and personally? Set Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Timebound (SMART) objectives for each of the steps required to achieve your goals.
How are we going to get there? Broadly, how do you plan to achieve the objectives you’ve defined? For example, if one aim is to increase sales, the strategy might be to start selling in new markets.
What are we going to do? With the strategies outlined, you’ll need to decide what tactical elements are required to achieve these. Looking back at the example above, let’s say one strategy is to penetrate new markets, one tactic to achieve this may be having an online store.
What do we need to do, by when, and by whom? This is the list you’re probably used to making. It’s the task list for each of the tactics you outlined above. Sticking with the same theme of selling into new markets, and using a website to do that, your actions may include things like:
- Build an e-commerce website
- Research shipping fees
- Review pricing
- Review packaging options
With a list in place, add to it who will do what and by when. Day to day service delivery can often get in the way of delivering on an action plan, so be realistic when deciding on deadlines.
How are we going to measure and monitor success? All that work you’ve just written down is going to be a complete waste of everyone’s time if you don’t action it! This is where putting precise, defined metrics or milestones in place will help you record and recognise success.
It sounds logical, but you’d be surprised how many plans are written but not followed. There are so many distractions as a business owner; it’s easy to lose sight.
An easy mechanism to establish success against your goals is to attach accountability to the objectives, strategies, tactics and actions. Regular management team meetings, or if you’re a smaller business, scheduled meetings with your business coach will encourage you to stick to your plan.
Oh, and there’s nothing like a significant global event like New Year to give you a deadline. So, schedule some time in your diary to check everything is on track.
Following the SOSTAC model above, you should have everything you need to understand how much money you made and how much you want to make. A copy of the previous budget will help identify precisely where money was well spent, and where it could be adjusted to benefit your future plans.
For more advice on how to budget, take a look at our 7 easy steps to successful budgeting.
Nothing. Just follow the plan. A good business plan is a roadmap for the foreseeable future, so you should have everything you need to get going.
When you follow these steps and implement your business plan, you might just end up where you want to be!
As ever, if you need any help building and implementing your business plan, or preparing for the new year, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.