Monthly Archives: October 2017

How To Prepare For Your Business Plan

I did a straw poll of some small businesses recently, and it was interesting to find that the majority did not use a Business Plan for planning and forecasting.

It might be the same for you. Maybe you don’t have anything formal; perhaps you jot down your goals and thoughts from month to month (or, week to week)?

If you run your own business, or department within a business, you may wonder if writing a Business Plan is worth the hassle. You understand that it’s important to plan, but you’re not sure you want to spend the time doing it.

If you’ve ever wondered what the point of a Business Plan is, here are 4 reasons you need one today:

It sets out your business intentions

More businesses than you’d think waste time and money pursuing white elephants that have no bearing on their goals and objectives.

With a Business Plan, you’ll get to clarify and specify what you aim to achieve in the coming weeks and months. You can always refer to it when the next shiny object comes along; it will serve as a good way tp keeo you on track!

It prompts you to think carefully about your what your customers need

Entrepreneurs are by nature creative, and left to their own devices, could easily dream up a warehouse full of cutting-edge products and services. But…

…is anyone out there asking for them?

A well-written Business Plan poses the questions of customer demand, and how your products and services meet that demand.

It helps you zero in on your target market

A good Business Plan poses will contain a section on your target market.

So apart from the obvious bit on just who your product or service is designed for, it will prompt you to analyse and detail things like the current state of the market, how it’s changing, trends and any gaps.

Researching and knowing these things will help you position your proposition, and make the most of any gaps that your competitors are not serving.

It forces you to plan for the money

This is the section of Business Plans that people struggle with most!

It’s also THE most important part.

How else will you know how much you should aim to make as a minimum to cover your costs, and how much cash you must have in the bank each month to keep the business running?

Ignore the finances, and you could end up in dire straits very soon.

 

And, don’t forget, a Business Plan is a living document! You will get clearer on some of the elements, and you can adjust these to be more specific or realistic as time goes on.

Most business owners and bosses I speak to agree on one thing: having a Business Plan is crucial for goal-setting and the success that comes with it.

When it comes to writing that plan however, I find that actions don’t match the rhetoric!

Writing a Business Plan can appear intimidating, but it isn’t as difficult as you might think. The fear of it can make the task into a monster it’s not!

So, have you ever made these excuses to NOT write a Business Plan?

“I don’t have time”

A common reason used to get out of doing just about anything!

But as the saying goes, if something is important you’ll make time for it.

Right?

Besides, this nut doesn’t have to be cracked all in one day. You can purpose to work on one section every 2 – 3 days and at the end of the month, you’ll have your Business Plan!

“I’m not good with numbers”

And my response to that is, who is?

Not many of us can be described as mathematical geniuses, but that doesn’t preclude us from running – and planning for – our successful businesses.

While section headings in the document like “Sales Forecast” and “Projected Cash Flow” may discourage the numerically challenged, taking the time to stop and think about what those words actually mean will remove the dread you feel deep in the pit of your stomach!

For example, “Projected Cash Flow” is simply a summary of how much cash you need to run your business day-to-day, and for your Sales Forecast, put in estimates for what you anticipate your best and worst case scenarios will be in terms of sales (be realistic!). Also, work out the minimum number of units you need to sell to cover your costs.

See? It’s not so scary when you break it down.

“It’s don’t want to pay someone to do it for me”

Yes, paying for a Business Planning service like ours requires a financial commitment.

You can certainly do it yourself, and my Business Plan template here breaks it down into manageable chunks designed to help and guide you.

But if you can’t dedicate the time or effort needed to do it yourself, is the cost really worth the risk of going from one day to the next without a plan?

“It will change as time goes on, so why bother?”

A Business Plan is a living document, so yes, you will need to keep updating it.

When you plan for months, a year or more in advance, there are conditions and elements that you will become more aware of, things that will happen and need to be finetuned in the plan.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile exercise. I’ve written about why it’s something you need here.

Do have a read, and let me know if you have any queries.

Producing a Business Plan – or getting it done for you – is a big decision, with benefits which I’ve detailed before. (If you’re still wondering what the point of having a Business Plan is, have a quick look at this).

However, it can be frustrating if, having made the call to get it done, you find yourself woefully unequipped for the task ahead.

Doing the planning in your business requires a commitment, as well as an investment of your time (and maybe even money). To help make sure you’ve got all you need, here are 6 things I recommend you do to prepare to produce your Business Plan.

 Know Your Business

I know this sounds patronising. After all, who knows your business better than you?

I assure you it isn’t meant to be. The point I’m making is that, as well as being able to give an overview of your business, you have to be able to articulate things like the main idea behind it, your mission and objectives, and who your main competitors are.

(If you’re still wondering what the point of having a Business Plan is, have a quick look at this).

To make sure you've got all you need, here are 6 things I recommend you do to prepare for your Business Plan

Click to Tweet

Think about what the market is like, and where it is going

What’s the current condition of the market?

Is it growing, fairly stable, or declining?

Are there any notable underlying trends?

What is the demand in the market, and how do your products or services meet that demand?

What’s your Unique Selling Proposition, and are there any gaps in the market which you intend to fill?

Know the audience you are selling to

Which segment of the market have you designed your products and services for?

Women, men, or both?

Working women, or stay-at-home mothers?

People within a certain age range?

Are they based in cities, suburban or rural areas?

Are they early adopters or technophobes?

What are their problems, and which of these will you solve with your products and services?

These are some of the questions which will frame your offering. And they are crucial, because sometimes it’s easy to forget that our products and services are NOT for us.

They must meet the needs of your target market. Always remember that your success is dependent on giving the people what they want.

Brainstorm some ideas about how you will price, market and sell your products and services

Take some time to think about your pricing strategy.

Most of the time, people think this involves plucking a price out of the air, but there’s more to it than that!

How much does each unit cost to produce, and what margin will the market tolerate on top of that?

How does that then match your expectations for income and profit?

Then, you need to think about how you want to market and sell products and services. Social media makes advertising and marketing more accessible, but bear in mind that what works for a similar business may not work for yours.

So, do a bit of research, and have some intentions for how you will conduct your sales and marketing campaigns.

Brainstorm how you will price, market and sell your products and services

Click to Tweet

How will you measure your success?

“Measure your success” sounds boring, I know!

But if you don’t work out in advance how you’ll do this, how will you know what you’re working towards?

And more importantly, how will you know when it happens?

Take some time to think through the finances

This part is easy to skip, but is probably the most important of all.

(I’ve put together a post explaining what the jargon in a Business Plan means; here it is. Start by reading that; it will help you with this part).

You need a certain amount of cash to run your business every month. Sum up your expenses (and don’t forget to include your salary).

What does the total come to? That’s the amount you need to have available. Not invoiced and waiting for payment; I mean actual cash in the bank. Anything less, and you immediately have a cash flow problem.

Many a business was successful on paper and in terms of invoiced amounts, but ended up filing for bankruptcy because it simply couldn’t meet its obligations when they were due.

Another key point to address is the length of time you think it will take to make a profit.

It’s not unusual for some businesses not to make a profit for some months, or even years. As long as you know that upfront and are prepared for it, it’s not a problem.

But if that’s the case, do you have an idea of what those losses will come to each month? How will this be funded, and how long can you sustain that?

My experience is that people either don’t plan for these scenarios, or are far too optimistic with their figures. Better to err on the side of caution and make too much provision, than to fall short and find yourself at a loose end.

I hope that these six pointers help you along in your planning process.

On the other hand, if you understand how important a Business Plan is for your future success, but are struggling to write one, don't worry! Get in touch today to find out how to sign up for my Business Planning service.

P.S. Where I’ve recommended doing research, please don’t think it has to be onerous.

Ask your family and friends. Use the internet. Create a poll using SurveyMonkey or Google Polls.

Some professional bodies – such as the Institute of Directors – offer research sessions which you can access as part of their membership. Check with your professional body and see if they can help you do some. They may have done something similar already, and have some statistics you can use.

(I’ve put together a post explaining what the jargon in a Business Plan means; here it is. Start by reading that; it will help you with this part).

I know this sounds patronising. After all, who knows your business better than you?

I can assure you it isn’t meant to be. The point I’m making is that, as well as giving an overview of your business, you have to be able to articulate things like the main idea behind it, your mission and objectives, and who your main competitors are.

Think about what the market is like, and where it is going

So, what’s the current condition of the market?

Is it growing, fairly stable, or declining?

Are there any notable underlying trends?

What is the demand in the market, and how do your products or services meet that demand?

What’s your Unique Selling Proposition, and are there any gaps in the market which you intend to fill?

Know the audience you are selling to

Which segment of the market have you designed your products and services for?

Women, or men, or both?

Working women, or stay-at-home mothers?

People within a certain age range?

Are they based in cities, suburban or rural areas?

Are they early adopters or technophobes?

What are their problems, and which of these will you solve with your products and services?

These are some of the questions which will frame your offering. And they are crucial, because sometimes it’s easy to forget that our products and services are NOT for us.

They must meet the needs of your target market. Give the people what they want, as they say!

Brainstorm some ideas about how you will price, market and sell your products and services

Take some time to think about your pricing strategy.

Most of the time, people think this involves plucking a price out of the air, but there’s more to it than that!

How much does each unit cost to produce, and what margin will the market tolerate on top of that?

How does that then match your expectations for income and profit?

Then, you need to think about how you want to market and sell products and services. Social media makes advertising and marketing more accessible, but bear in mind that what works for a similar business may not work for yours.

So, do a bit of research, and have some intentions for how you will conduct your sales and marketing campaigns.

How will you measure your success?

“Measure your success” sounds boring, I know!

But if you don’t work out in advance how you’ll do this, how will you know what you’re working towards?

And more importantly, how will you know when it happens?

Take some time to think through the finances

This part is easy to skip, but is probably the most important of all.

You need a certain amount of cash to run your business every month. Sum up your expenses (and don’t forget to include your salary).

What does the total come to?

That’s what the amount you need to have available. Not invoiced and waiting to be paid; actual cash in the bank. Anything less, and you immediately have a cash flow problem.

Many a business has been successful on paper and in terms of invoiced amounts, but ended up filing for bankruptcy because it simply couldn’t meet its obligations when they were due.

Another key point to address is the length of time you think it will take to make a profit.

It’s not unusual for some businesses not to make a profit for some months, or even years. As long as you know that upfront and are prepared for it, that’s fine!

But if that’s the case, do you have an idea of what the losses will come to each month? How will this be funded, and how long can you sustain that?

In my experience, people either don’t plan for these scenarios, or are far too optimistic with their figures.

P.S. Where I’ve recommended doing research, please don’t think it has to be onerous.

Ask your family and friends. Use the internet. Create a poll using Surveymonkey or Google Polls. Some professional bodies – such as the Institute of Directors – offer research sessions which you can access as part of their membership. Check with your professional body and see if they can help you do some, maybe they’ve even done something similar already and have some statistics they can share with you!

Are You Making These Excuses Not to Write a Business Plan?

I did a straw poll of some small businesses recently, and it was interesting to find that the majority did not use a Business Plan for planning and forecasting.

It might be the same for you. Maybe you don’t have anything formal; perhaps you jot down your goals and thoughts from month to month (or, week to week)?

If you run your own business, or department within a business, you may wonder if writing a Business Plan is worth the hassle. You understand that it’s important to plan, but you’re not sure you want to spend the time doing it.

If you’ve ever wondered what the point of a Business Plan is, here are 4 reasons you need one today:

It sets out your business intentions

More businesses than you’d think waste time and money pursuing white elephants that have no bearing on their goals and objectives.

With a Business Plan, you’ll get to clarify and specify what you aim to achieve in the coming weeks and months. You can always refer to it when the next shiny object comes along; it will serve as a good way tp keeo you on track!

It prompts you to think carefully about your what your customers need

Entrepreneurs are by nature creative, and left to their own devices, could easily dream up a warehouse full of cutting-edge products and services. But…

…is anyone out there asking for them?

A well-written Business Plan poses the questions of customer demand, and how your products and services meet that demand.

It helps you zero in on your target market

A good Business Plan poses will contain a section on your target market.

So apart from the obvious bit on just who your product or service is designed for, it will prompt you to analyse and detail things like the current state of the market, how it’s changing, trends and any gaps.

Researching and knowing these things will help you position your proposition, and make the most of any gaps that your competitors are not serving.

It forces you to plan for the money

This is the section of Business Plans that people struggle with most!

It’s also THE most important part.

How else will you know how much you should aim to make as a minimum to cover your costs, and how much cash you must have in the bank each month to keep the business running?

Ignore the finances, and you could end up in dire straits very soon.

 

And, don’t forget, a Business Plan is a living document! You will get clearer on some of the elements, and you can adjust these to be more specific or realistic as time goes on.

Writing a Business Plan can appear intimidating, but it isn’t as difficult as you might think. The fear of it can make the task into a monster it’s not!

So, have you ever made these excuses NOT to write a Business Plan?

Writing a Business Plan can appear intimidating, but it's not as difficult as you might think.

Click to Tweet

“I don’t have time”

A common reason used to get out of doing just about anything!

You’ll have heard the saying that failing to plan is planning to fail, and that applies here too. If you don’t have the time to write a Business Plan, there is a real risk of your business failing.

If something is important, you’ll make time for it.

Right?

Besides, this nut doesn’t have to be cracked all in one day. You can purpose to work on one section every 2 – 3 days and by the end of the month, you’ll have your Business Plan.

“I’m not good with numbers”

And my response to that is, who is?

Not many of us can be described as mathematical geniuses, but that doesn’t preclude us from running – and planning for – successful businesses.

There’s no point sugarcoating it. If you’re not keeping an eye on the numbers in your business, you might not have a business to run in a few months’ time!

While terms and phrases in a Business Plan like “Sales Forecast” and “Projected Cash Flow” may discourage the numerically challenged, taking the time to stop and think about what those words actually mean will remove the dread you feel deep in the pit of your stomach!

For example, “Projected Cash Flow” is simply a summary of how much cash you need to run your business day-to-day. The cash you have readily available has to cover your expenses (think payments to staff and suppliers, software, rent, transport and so on).

For your Sales Forecast, start by working out the minimum amount of sales you need to make to cover your costs. So, how many units do you need to sell to pay your expenses, costs and overheads?

Then, you need to anticipate how much your sales you will make, in the event that everything goes according to plan, and also just in case it doesn’t.

See? It’s not so scary when you break it down. Don’t worry; I go into more detail explaining what the jargon in a Business Plan means here.

You’ll have heard the saying that failing to plan is planning to fail, and that applies here too. If you don’t have the time to write a Business Plan, there is a real risk of your business failing.

If something is important, you’ll make time for it.

Right?

Besides, this nut doesn’t have to be cracked all in one day. You can purpose to work on one section every 2 – 3 days and at the end of the month, you’ll have your Business Plan.

And my response to that is, who is?

Not many of us can be described as mathematical geniuses, but that doesn’t preclude us from running – and planning for – successful businesses.

There’s no point sugarcoating it. If you’re not keeping an eye on the numbers in your business, you might not have a business to run in a few months’ time!

While terms and phrases in a Business Plan like “Sales Forecast” and “Projected Cash Flow” may discourage the numerically challenged, taking the time to stop and think about what those words actually mean will remove the dread you feel deep in the pit of your stomach!

For example, “Projected Cash Flow” is simply a summary of how much cash you need to run your business day-to-day. The cash you have readily available has to cover your expenses (think payments to staff and suppliers, software, rent, transport and so on).

For your Sales Forecast, start by working out the minimum amount of sales you need to make to cover your costs. So, how many units do you need to sell to pay your expenses, costs and overheads?

Then, you need to anticipate how much your sales you will make, in the event that everything goes according to plan, and also just in case it doesn’t.

See? It’s not so scary when you break it down. Don’t worry; I go into more detail explaining what the jargon in a Business Plan means here.

So, have you ever made these excuses NOT to write a Business Plan?

Click to Tweet

“I don’t want to pay someone to do it for me”

Yes, paying for a Business Planning service like ours requires a financial commitment.

You can certainly do it yourself, and my Business Plan template here breaks it down into manageable chunks designed to help and guide you.

But if you can’t dedicate the time or effort needed to do it yourself, is the cost of paying to get it done really worth the risk of ending up with a business that fails?

“It will change as time goes on, so why bother?”

A Business Plan is a living document, so yes, you will need to keep updating it.

When you plan for months, a year or more in advance, there are conditions and elements that you will become more aware of, things that will happen and need to be finetuned in the plan.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile exercise. If you’re still wondering what the point of a Business Plan is, I’ve written something about that here.

Do have a read, and let me know if you have any queries.

If you’re still wondering what the point of a Business Plan is, I’ve written something about that

Most business owners and bosses I speak to agree on one thing: having a Business Plan is crucial for goal-setting and the success that comes with it.

When it comes to writing that plan however, I find that actions don’t match the rhetoric!

Writing a Business Plan can appear intimidating, but it isn’t as difficult as you might think. The fear of it can make the task into a monster it’s not!

So, have you ever made these excuses to NOT write a Business Plan?

“I don’t have time”

A common reason used to get out of doing just about anything!

But as the saying goes, if something is important you’ll make time for it.

Right?

Besides, this nut doesn’t have to be cracked all in one day. You can purpose to work on one section every 2 – 3 days and at the end of the month, you’ll have your Business Plan!

“I’m not good with numbers”

And my response to that is, who is?

Not many of us can be described as mathematical geniuses, but that doesn’t preclude us from running – and planning for – our successful businesses.

While section headings in the document like “Sales Forecast” and “Projected Cash Flow” may discourage the numerically challenged, taking the time to stop and think about what those words actually mean will remove the dread you feel deep in the pit of your stomach!

For example, “Projected Cash Flow” is simply a summary of how much cash you need to run your business day-to-day, and for your Sales Forecast, put in estimates for what you anticipate your best and worst case scenarios will be in terms of sales (be realistic!). Also, work out the minimum number of units you need to sell to cover your costs.

See? It’s not so scary when you break it down.

“It’s don’t want to pay someone to do it for me”

Yes, paying for a Business Planning service like ours requires a financial commitment.

You can certainly do it yourself, and my Business Plan template here breaks it down into manageable chunks designed to help and guide you.

But if you can’t dedicate the time or effort needed to do it yourself, is the cost really worth the risk of going from one day to the next without a plan?

“It will change as time goes on, so why bother?”

A Business Plan is a living document, so yes, you will need to keep updating it.

When you plan for months, a year or more in advance, there are conditions and elements that you will become more aware of, things that will happen and need to be finetuned in the plan.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile exercise. I’ve written about why it’s something you need here.

Do have a read, and let me know if you have any queries.

What’s The Point of A Business Plan?

If you run your own business, or department within a business, you may wonder if writing a Business Plan is worth the hassle. You understand that it’s important to plan, but you’re not sure you want to spend the time doing it.

If you’ve ever wondered what the point of a Business Plan is, here are 4 reasons you need one today:

It sets out your business intentions

More businesses than you’d think waste time and money pursuing projects that have no bearing on their goals and ​

The sections in a Business Plan about mission and objectives will focus your mind on the purpose of your business, and what it sets out to achieve.

For example, if your business is all about coaching, developing and mentoring leaders, with a Business Plan, you’ll get to clarify and specify exactly what you aim to achieve in the coming weeks and months.

You would refer to it regularly to make sure that everything you do – your marketing, sales and growth strategy, PR and social media – matches up with what you’ve set your business up to do, and the people you want to reach. It will serve as an effective way of keeping you on track!

It prompts you to think carefully about your what your customers need

Entrepreneurs are by nature creative, and left to their own devices, could easily dream up a warehouse full of cutting-edge products and services. But…

…is anyone out there asking for them?

Going back to the leadership coaching example, you may have an idea to create a program expounding on the characteristics of a good leader.

On the face of it, a promising idea.

However, you then discover that a recurring theme within your audience is that people are struggling to balancing work commitments with the rest of their lives, which is intensified by the unconscious pressure to always be available and “online”. In turn, this affects their creativity and productivity, and that of their teams too.

You then decide there is clearly more of a need to address this topic than your original idea. 

A well-written Business Plan prompts these questions of customer demand, and how your products and services will meet them.

It helps you zero in on your target market

A good Business Plan will contain a section on your target market.

And apart from the obvious bit on just who your product or service is designed for, it will prompt you to analyse and detail things like the current state of the market, how it’s changing, trends and any gaps.

So, is the market thriving? Are your products and services the kind of things that people are spending money on?

Or, are things in a bit of a decline, and are budgets on products such as yours starting to get cut? (This isn’t necessarily a bad thing! It just means that you can prepare, and adjust your business model accordingly).

Are there any changes afoot? Any upcoming regulations that will have an impact on how you operate or interact with your customer base? A good example is the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), due to take effect in all European Union countries from May 2018. 

Researching and knowing these things will help you position your proposition, and make the most of any gaps that your competitors are not serving.

It forces you to plan for the money

This is the section of Business Plans that people struggle with most!

It’s also THE most important part. 

How else will you know how much you should aim to make as a minimum to cover your costs, and how much cash you must have in the bank each month to keep the business running?

Ignore the finances, and you could end up in dire straits very soon.

 And don't forget, a Business Plan is a living document! As time goes on you will get clearer on some of these elements, and you can adjust them to be more specific or realistic as time goes on.

So, is the market thriving? Are your products and services the kind of thing that people are spending on?

Or, are things in a bit of a decline, and are budgets on products such as yours starting to get cut? (This isn’t necessarily a bad thing! It just means that you can prepare, and adjust your business model accordingly).

Are there any changes afoot? Any upcoming regulations that will have an impact on how you operate or interact with your customer base? A good example of one is the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), due to take effect in all European Union countries from May 2018.

Researching and knowing these things will help you position your proposition, and make the most of any gaps that your competitors are not serving.

I did a straw poll of some small businesses recently, and it was interesting to find that the majority did not use a Business Plan for planning and forecasting.

It might be the same for you. Maybe you don’t have anything formal; perhaps you jot down your goals and thoughts from month to month (or, week to week)?

If you run your own business, or department within a business, you may wonder if writing a Business Plan is worth the hassle. You understand that it’s important to plan, but you’re not sure you want to spend the time doing it.

If you’ve ever wondered what the point of a Business Plan is, here are 4 reasons you need one today:

It sets out your business intentions

More businesses than you’d think waste time and money pursuing white elephants that have no bearing on their goals and objectives.

With a Business Plan, you’ll get to clarify and specify what you aim to achieve in the coming weeks and months. You can always refer to it when the next shiny object comes along; it will serve as a good way tp keeo you on track!

It prompts you to think carefully about your what your customers need

Entrepreneurs are by nature creative, and left to their own devices, could easily dream up a warehouse full of cutting-edge products and services. But…

…is anyone out there asking for them?

A well-written Business Plan poses the questions of customer demand, and how your products and services meet that demand.

It helps you zero in on your target market

A good Business Plan poses will contain a section on your target market.

So apart from the obvious bit on just who your product or service is designed for, it will prompt you to analyse and detail things like the current state of the market, how it’s changing, trends and any gaps.

Researching and knowing these things will help you position your proposition, and make the most of any gaps that your competitors are not serving.

It forces you to plan for the money

This is the section of Business Plans that people struggle with most!

It’s also THE most important part.

How else will you know how much you should aim to make as a minimum to cover your costs, and how much cash you must have in the bank each month to keep the business running?

Ignore the finances, and you could end up in dire straits very soon.

 

And, don’t forget, a Business Plan is a living document! You will get clearer on some of the elements, and you can adjust these to be more specific or realistic as time goes on.