Forecasting and planning for small businesses
Your business needs a Plan – no matter how small
Any company or business, no matter how small, needs to look towards its future, ie it needs to ‘forecast’ its future – it needs a strategic plan.
Lack of planning often leads to failure. That’s why strategic planning is a key success tool for growing your business. While a business plan focuses on startup nuts and bolts, a strategic plan plots your company’s success in small, logical, ongoing steps.
The strategic planning process can:
- Establish realistic growth goals and objectives
- Focus resources on key priorities
- Increase staff productivity
- Build strong teams
- Measure progress
I’m going to take the normal process to pieces and give you some Action Steps.
Importantly, first of all – Understand what goes into a strategic plan
Basics that should be included in a strategic plan include an executive summary, organizational description, mission and vision statements, goals and strategies. Additional sections may include action plans (specific responsibilities for meeting goals), a budget for reaching goals and instructions for reviewing and communicating the plan.
NB: Before you develop your strategic plan make sure you have a look at a few sample plans, so you have some idea of how its done. Preferably, you seek professional help with the process. Its just far too important an issue to ‘scrimp’ on.
Think carefully first, then spell out your purpose in the strategic plan
One crucial part of the strategic planning process is a grid that asks two questions: Do we have it? And Do we really want it? Or, you can use another tool called SWOT, which stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This has been around for years yes, but the important thing is that it works.
No business is either too small, nor too big, not to take time out now and then to either go through this process for the first time, or at least every two years, revisit the process.
Create an action plan
Detail the actions to be taken in order to gain your business goals. Always, always make sure you specify who is responsible for doing what, and when they are to have it done by. Crucial – during the first 90 days, continually conduct reviews – so that members of your team know exactly what is expected of them.
You, and they, should always be prepared though to allow for a little shifting of the goal posts. Also designate someone who is responsible for measuring the plan at least every 3 months, to check its success.
Carry out your strategic plan
Its amazing how many people go to the trouble and/or cost of doing a strategic plan and/or forecast – and then proceed to ignore the process!
Break down the plan into small pieces. You will usually find that you will need to use a mixture of strategies and tools to reach your goals – such as various types of marketing, forecasting, accounting etc. These will certainly change as you go along, but should always be expressed in quantifiable targets.