Monthly Archives: November 2020

4 Myths About Business Planning

There are several myths out there in the general consciousness about the relevance and importance of Business Planning. They range from debates about business size, to questions about the amount of time it takes (and whether it is worth it).

The aim of this blog post is to debunk some of these, so here are 4 myths about Business Planning:

1. Business Planning Isn’t Necessary For Solo Entrepreneurs

One of these thoughts may have crossed your mind:

“I run a small business. Do I really need to bother with a Business Plan?”

Or,

“There’s only me! I’m a one-(wo)man band, so I don’t really need one.”

But you’d be wrong.

A Business Plan applies to businesses of all sizes and sectors.

While it’s true that smaller operations may not need to go into the same level of detail as their larger counterparts, the concept of planning, researching the market, ensuring your offering is what your target audience wants and needs, and working through the various strategies for pricing, marketing and sales are universally required, and are essential regardless of whether you’re running a multinational organisation, a medium-sized business, or a solo enterprise.

2. Business Planning Takes Too Much Time

In many businesses the thinking is that, because Business Planning requires a time commitment, it is an optional extra that can be dropped off the To-Do List in favour of powering ahead with other tasks which are deemed more important…

…but nothing could be further from the truth.

A Business Plan is a crucial part of your activities, and carries a higher priority than most. How else will you clarify your intentions, as well as your mission, objectives and success measures?

You do need to invest some time on it upfront, but a suggestion is to consider that investment as saving you time and money in future. Failing to plan can have serious consequences, and you save yourself all sorts of hassle by planning ahead.

Besides, remember that if you are really struggling to find the time to do it yourself, you can always outsource it.

For example, I provide a Business Plan writing service which is for people who know it’s crucial for their business success but for whatever reason, can’t get round to doing it themselves. Contact me here to find out more about my Business Planning service.

3. Things Always Change, so Business Planning Isn’t Worth It

It’s true that things change.

As the saying goes, the only constant in life is change.

At certain times more than others, it can seem like the economic realities and state of the market are evolving faster than ever, and your products and services need to adapt at a similar speed (case in point: 2020).

But the fact that things change doesn’t negate the benefits of planning ahead.

Where a lot sits outside your control – such as a global pandemic, public health emergency and unprecedented lockdown restrictions – there is so much you still have the ability to anticipate, plan for and implement.

And don’t forget: A Business Plan is not set in stone. It is a “living” document which is meant to be reviewed at regular intervals so yes, you need to keep updating it to reflect changing realities both internally and externally to your business.

Needing to review and update your Business Plan doesn’t make it irrelevant or unnecessary. If you’re still unsure, the reasons why you need a Business Plan are explained here.

4. Business Planning Only Works If You Are Good With Numbers

It doesn’t matter if you’re not a mathematical genius, or whether you hated maths at school!

None of that precludes you from having a successful business, and doing the necessary planning to get you there.

There’s no sugarcoating it: If you don’t keep an eye on the numbers in your business, what you’re doing is more of a hobby. Plus, you may not even have that in a few months’ time!

While terminology such as “Sales Forecast” and “Projected Cash Flow” may be discouraging, it is helpful to stop and think what the words mean.

For example, “Projected Cash Flow” is simply a summary of how much cash you need to run your business from day to day. In other words, it’s the amount of cash you need to have readily available each month to cover your expenses such as payments to yourself, staff and suppliers, as well as costs for software, rent, utilities, 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 much revenue do you need to generate to break even, how many units do you need to sell to cover your costs, overheads and expenses?

It is also useful to anticipate how much sales you will make. I like to use a two-scenario approach:

A best-case scenario, where you make the maximum amount of sales if everything goes according to plan.

A worst-case scenario where you consider various factors which may come into play to stop you achieving your targets, but are still positioned to generate sufficient revenue.

That way you will be prepared, even when life’s obstacles come your way.

How I Can Help

If you need help with your Business Planning, I have designed some tools that can help:

The first is a One Page Business Plan Template.

It’s short and concise, while containing all the essential elements you need in a Business Plan.

And in addition, it contains helpful prompts which will guide you along the process.

You can buy and download your copy of the One Page Business Plan Template here.

The second is a comprehensive Business Plan Template, which contains all the sections and details you would find in a typical Business Plan such as the Product & Service Range, Target Audience, Market Analysis, Milestones & Metrics, and Financials.

Similar to the first template above, it also has helpful prompts to guide you as you complete it and produce your Business Plan. You can buy and download your copy of the Business Plan Template here.

And finally, I provide a Business Planning Service. If you would like to produce your Business Plan but can’t commit the time to do it yourself, you don’t have to worry! Contact me about my Business Planning Service, and we can arrange to get started on yours as soon as possible.

Why You Need a Business Plan

It’s a common mistake to make.

Many people skip writing a Business Plan, because they consider it to be too much of a hassle.

But if you run your own business, are looking to start one, or are in charge of a significant section of a corporate organisation such as a department, group of departments or region, it is worth making that investment of time and effort upfront.

If you’re still procrastinating about getting yours done, here are 4 reasons why you need a Business Plan:

1. A Business Plan Clarifies Your Intentions

Many businesses waste time and money pursuing vanity projects that have no alignment with their actual goals and targets.

It’s easy to drift and get distracted by shiny objects when your business intentions aren’t clear.

The sections in a Business Plan about “Mission” and “Objectives” will help focus (or if necessary, re-focus) your mind on the purpose of your business, and what it has set out to achieve.

For example, if your business is a tech start-up you’ll clarify exactly what you aim to achieve in the coming weeks and months.

You will 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.

2. A Business Plan Prompts You To Carefully Consider What Your Customers Need

Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs tend to be adventurous and creative; always pushing boundaries and aiming to achieve more.

Left to your own devices, you could easily dream up a warehouse full of cutting-edge products and services. But…

…is anyone out there asking for them?

Does anyone need them?

Do your products and services recognise and directly address key pain points of the demographic you are looking to reach?

A well-written Business Plan prompts you to ask (and answer) important questions about existing and impending customer demand, and how your products and services will meet them.

3. A Business Plan Helps You Zero In On Your Target Market

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

And apart from the obvious bit about who your products or services are designed for, it will prompt you to analyse and detail crucial aspects such as the current state of the market, how it could change, upcoming trends and any gaps in the market that are just waiting to be filled.

So, is the market thriving?

Are your products and services the sort of things that people would spend money on?

Or, are things in a bit of a decline, and are budgets on products and services such as yours starting to get cut? (Note that 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 was the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which took effect in all European Union countries in May 2018, and required all businesses to implement new data protection and privacy processes complying with the new regulations by the deadline.

The work involved to do that was significant, and businesses had to incorporate this into their plans and budget  in the lead-up to that date.

Researching and knowing such aspects will help you position your proposition in the best possible way, and make the most of any gaps in the market that are not served by your competitors.

4. A Business Plan Forces You To Plan For The Money

This is the section of Business Plans people struggle with the 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 each month, and how much cash you must have in the bank to keep your business running as a result?

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

Do You Have a Business Plan?

And don’t forget that a Business Plan is a living document; it’s never “done”.

As time goes on you may gain more clarity on different elements and you can adjust them to be more specific, or to reflect changes in your business or the general landscape.

Also, it’s something you need to review regularly, since your Business Plan is meant to guide you and help you track your business activities and key metrics throughout the year (I recommend a quarterly review).

With respect to small and medium-sized businesses in particular, I did a straw poll and was interested to find the majority did not use a Business Plan for their planning and forecasting.

Is that the same for you?

What To Do Next About Your Business Plan

If you need help with your Business Planning, I have designed some tools that can help:

The first is a One Page Business Plan Template.

It’s short and concise, while containing all the essential elements you need in a Business Plan.

And in addition, it contains helpful prompts which will guide you along the process.

You can buy and download your copy of the One Page Business Plan Template here.

The second is a comprehensive Business Plan Template, which contains all the sections and details you would find in a typical Business Plan such as the Product & Service Range, Target Audience, Market Analysis, Milestones & Metrics, and Financials.

Similar to the first template above, it also has helpful prompts to guide you as you complete it and produce your Business Plan. You can buy and download your copy of the Business Plan Template here.

And finally, I provide a done-for-you Business Planning Service.

If you would like to produce your Business Plan but can’t commit the time to do it yourself, you don’t have to worry! Contact me about my Business Planning Service, and we can arrange to get started on yours as soon as possible.

7 Things You Need To Do Before You Write a Business Plan

Producing a Business Plan – or getting it done for you – is a big decision.

(And if you are in any doubt as to why you need one, read this blog post which explains Why You Need a Business Plan).

However, it can be frustrating if you understand how important it is and have made the call to get it done, but find yourself woefully unequipped for the task ahead.

Doing the planning in your business requires commitment, and is an investment of your time. To make sure you have everything you need to start and complete the task, here are the 7 things you need to do before you write a Business Plan.

1. 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 must be able to articulate aspects such as the central idea behind it, your mission and objectives, and who your main competitors are.

You must know have the fundamental and foundational information about your business at your fingertips.

2. Study The Market

What is the current state of the market you operate in?

Is it primed for growth?

Is it fairly stable, or is it in decline?

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?

As you prepare to write your Business Plan, you need to do some preliminary research about the state of the market you will operate in, so you can ensure you are best placed to do so.

3. Identify Your Target Audience

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

As an example, are you targeting men or women? Or, are your products and services suited to both genders?

If your target audience is women, are you focused on career women, or stay-at-home mothers?

Are your products and services geared towards 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 must frame your offering. And answering them is crucial, because sometimes it’s easy to forget that our products and services are not necessarily meant to meet OUR needs.

Your products and services have to meet the needs of your target audience. Always remember that your success is dependent on solving their problems.

4. Think About Your Pricing, Marketing and Sales Strategies

Take the 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 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 necessarily work for yours.

So, do a bit of research, and have some intentions for how you will conduct your sales and marketing campaigns. Brainstorm some ideas about how you will price, market and sell your products and services.

5. How Will You Measure Your Success?

“Measure your success” sounds boring, I know!

But as they say, anything that is measured and watched improves.

That’s why you need to work out how to do this in advance.

If you don’t, how will you know what you’re working towards?

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

It doesn’t have to be complicated to assess or calculate. But you do need to key metrics in place to understand how your business is performing.

6. Plan Your Finances

This part can be 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 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 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 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. It’s better to err on the side of caution and make too much provision, than to fall short and find yourself at a loose end.

7. Don’t Be Intimidated By Your Business Plan!

And finally, don’t be intimidated!

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.

If you belong to a professional body, check to see if they can help you do some. They may have done something similar already and have some statistics you can use.

What Are the Next Steps?

If you need help with your Business Planning, I have designed some tools that can help:

The first is a One Page Business Plan Template.

It’s short and concise, while containing all the essential elements you need in a Business Plan.

And in addition, it contains helpful prompts which will guide you along the process.

You can buy and download your copy of the One Page Business Plan Template here.

The second is a comprehensive Business Plan Template, which contains all the sections and details you would find in a typical Business Plan such as the Product & Service Range, Target Audience, Market Analysis, Milestones & Metrics, and Financials.

Similar to the first template above, it also has helpful prompts to guide you as you complete it and produce your Business Plan. You can buy and download your copy of the Business Plan Template here.

And finally, I provide a done-for-you Business Planning Service.

If you would like to produce your Business Plan but can’t commit the time to do it yourself, you don’t have to worry! Contact me about my Business Planning Service, and we can arrange to get started on yours as soon as possible.

5 Reasons To Sign Your Project Managers Up For Remote Mentoring

You haven’t heard otherwise, so you assume everything is going well with your Project Managers and their assigned projects.

They – and all their stakeholders – have worked from home continuously since the pandemic began in March.

You’ve assumed that they are happy working remotely, and that they have adapted seamlessly to this new model where they only get to see their stakeholders on Zoom…

…and that’s if their cameras are enabled!

Surely you’d know if things were operating at a level that was less than optimal.

Right?

Maybe you need to take a closer look. Because if you do, you might see some tell-tale signs which initially seem insignificant.

But if you put them all together? You have to admit that your projects and delivery timelines are suffering, and your allocated budget risks spiralling out of control as a result.

The truth is that Project Managers are struggling in this pandemic for a number of different reasons, through no fault of their own. What used to be simple tasks such as running meetings and workshops have had to take on completely different formats now that they are conducted virtually.

And along with different formats come different considerations.

While we are fortunate to have access to innovative technology and tools such as Microsoft Teams, Slack and Zoom as we try to make our way through this pandemic, the truth is that they cannot replace face-to-face interaction. A completely different skill set is required to navigate projects and the world of work in general, which is now predominantly virtual.

Specifically, your Project Managers need more than their existing technical knowledge and experience to bridge the gap created when they and their teams started working remotely.

Given that this is to be the case for the foreseeable future, it’s best to equip them with the support they need to deliver the results you’ve planned for in your business forecasts.

Tackling the unintended and unforeseen consequences of the rapid changes to how we work is why I created a Remote Mentoring Service for Project Managers.

There are more details of how it works here, but it’s also worth highlighting the 5 reasons to sign your Project Managers up for Remote Mentoring:

It Gives Them the Best Chance of Working Effectively Amid the Chaos of Lockdown:

It’s not clear when the pandemic and what has tirelessly been referred to as “the new normal” will be over.

However if your business is in the fortunate position of being able to operate and implement various projects in this season, it’ll be obvious that the dynamics have changed. They are easy to underestimate, but these changes will invariably have an impact on teams and stakeholders, as well as your Project Managers and the way they work.

Signing them up for Remote Mentoring will give them the best chance to adapt their working practices in such a way that they are effective, and remain productive.

An Objective Sounding Board:

With Remote Mentoring, your Project Managers will gain access to an objective sounding board.

While my goal is to ensure they hit their targets and deliverables, the nature of my role means I am detached and objective enough to have an unbiased perspective, and provide input accordingly.

It Boosts Morale:

One of the most common pieces of feedback I have heard from Project Managers this year is that they feel unsupported, and have been left in the lurch as far as coming to terms with the current situation resulting from the pandemic is concerned.

This has led to a deterioration in morale, which the last thing you want right now is to have the people in charge of critical deliverables to be demotivated!

Signing your Project Managers up for Remote Mentoring will ensure they get the support that’s been lacking, and ensure their morale remains high.

Opportunity To Work With Someone Who Can Relate:

When you sign your Project Managers up for Remote Mentoring, they will gain access to someone who is very familiar with the concept of working and delivering under pressure.

And not only that, I have previously done so in circumstances when every member of my team was based in a different location!

And in the course of doing so over a number of years, I learned how to make up for the absence of face-to-face communication. It is this experience I will use to guide your Project Managers through this season.

Protect Your Timelines & Bottom Line:

Ultimately, the 4 reasons above lead to this one: you need to protect your timelines and bottom line.

Because you cannot afford to let inefficiencies – unintentional they may be – lack of objectivity, poor morale, and lack of experience impact the quality of your project delivery.

Not at a time like this!

Though challenging, now more than ever you need your Project Managers to focus on every crucial detail. You cannot afford for them to be derailed by the circumstances and changing tide that is this pandemic.

How To Sign Up For Remote Mentoring:

Contact me to book your Project Managers in as soon as possible.