When is a plan not a plan?
The answer is when it is a business plan.
Sometimes it's hard running a business. Where are all the good people to be found? When you do find them? Why are they so expensive? Who to trust? Why aren't you making any money again this month? How on earth have you just lost that key customer?
It might be understandable to feel bogged down from time to time as the obligations and issues pile up, but a successful business needs a real plan.
A business plan you wrote in order to raise some bank money, complete with sales projections and growth plans that you've not necessarily looked at since.
A financial plan you created to pitch to serious would-be investors somewhere along the way. It's likely this plan is something you've looked at and acted on in small ways since, for all the detailed financial modeling that was included and the careful business case that was made at the time to present a really investable company.
Neither these plans, nor any others that you've created, are live, working documents. They are written looking forwards and were mostly created to fulfill a particular need at a certain moment in time, and their usefulness doesn't usually extend very far beyond that.
We will show you how to think differently about your plans by creating and committing to a different sort of plan; a strategic, lived and acted-upon plan that will form the heart of your thinking, helping you to:
- Define your most valuable customers
- Map sales by your products and services
- Align forecasts to both existing and new customers
- Establish real sales targets
- What's in it for you?
- What makes your company tick?
- What business are you in?
- Are you ready to break big
What's in it for you?
Business owners are busy people; we all know that. But some are actually too busy for their own good. That's because they are too busy to stop for a moment and step back from all the stuff that's filling up the day to ask themselves...
Why are you doing this?
We are sure that you think you know the answer to this, but does what you would say off the cuff really answer the question?
The WHY that is being asked here has nothing to do with keeping up with all your work obligations - the logic and demands of the business that's developed and everything you do with your uniquely personal needs and motivations. That's probably a different kind of WHY altogether from the one you were looking to answer.
When it comes to thinking about the WHY of being in business, there's often more than just you to think about. Nearly every business of any size has more than one shareholder and probably has a board of directors, some or all of whom will have a stake. So, what does the WHY look like for all the various stakeholders in the business and are they all in a position to be totally open with one another?
For some owners, the aspiration to prepare a business for a possible sale may simply be something that's too loaded an idea to put to the other stakeholders out of the blue. Instead, it might be necessary to initiate a more controlled discussion that goes only as far as the owner is comfortable and no further, in order to begin to lay the groundwork for broaching a bigger idea later on.
What makes your company tick?
Many business owners are moved to take the plunge and launch their own venture because of a strong desire to work in a company context and environment with just the right vibe and values - somewhere they and those around them are happy to go every day and set to work.
You will need to understand what's most important - get back to basics and get selfish (for once)
The values of a business start with the business owner, with the founder's vision setting the tone and pointing the way ahead. As companies evolve, the original vision becomes diluted.
We can help you to get some of your original vision back, by being selfish and getting back to basics.
A valuable exercise:
Being selfish is another way of saying that you need to focus temporarily on your needs and desires in order to understand the better. It's not something that many do, because few of us like to be selfish - we all know we are part of a bigger picture.
- The best place is to start the exercise is by asking yourself some important questions and capturing your answers.
- What is most important to you in your personal and work life?
- What values are most important to you?
- What is it that you want from the business?
- What kind of business do you want to be running?
- What is the current DNA of the business?
- What is its character and how or to what extent is it defined by you and your beliefs?
- Do you live the values you have identified as important and are those same values shaping and defining the business?
Once those values are defined, in any event, there is much that's positive that can start to happen. Sharing those values and ideals with the rest of the company in a constructive way should unlock a refreshed sense of purpose and belonging. It will draw the staff in and get them engaged with something that should add an extra dimension of purpose to their working lives, and could transform external relationships too. All in all it's a really exciting idea.
What business are you in?
It's time to start thinking hard about your customers.
Every business needs to deliver for its customers, but it is easy to lose sight of who those customers are and what they want. That they are spending with you is no indicator in itself that you have things right.
There are big questions to ask yourself and to answer carefully:
- What are those that you sell to buying from you?
- What do you do for them that others can't?
- Are their needs and motivations changing?
- Are you still addressing what they want as well as ever?
There are many examples out there of successful companies that have lost their way simply because they didn't keep up with their markets and with the changing needs of their customers.
If you believe that customers will stay loyal to your brand simply out of habit or comfort or personal loyalties, it's time to think again. Brand loyalty has never been more than weak in most contexts - and even that is disappearing fast in today's transforming world. There are more ways of finding and buying products or services than ever before, and it has changed the competitive landscape for good.
What are you selling?
Harley-Davidson is not selling a vehicle for transportation but something much less tangible - it's selling the promise of freedom out on the open road.
Revlon might make lipstick in its factories, but its boss once said that in the shops what the company sells is hope.
Apply that same sort of thinking to what your company sells: get beyond the functional purpose and ask yourself what satisfaction you deliver for your customers, because that's the true value proposition of your business.
What business are you in?
One thing you'll be excited to discover is that customers are only too happy to talk, not just about their needs but also to cast a useful critical eye on your business proposition and how it delivers for them.
Start asking questions like:
- What do you buy from us?
- What do you like or dislike about what we do?
- What do you really value?
- What other products or services might you like to buy from us if you could
Are you ready to break big
Does your business need a vision or is it a bit pie in the sky to start talking about what a company will look like in five or ten years' time, especially given the economic uncertainties in the air these days? And with day-to-day issues to handle, it's surely extremely hard to come up with anything truly visionary that will stand the test of time.
Every business needs its leaders to set some visionary goals to aspire to and live by. It doesn't matter if forecasting or modelling for the business can only be done with confidence or accuracy over shorter time frames.
The need for a real long-term vision is still crucial. And here's something that might surprise you: it's immediately relevant too, since putting in place a vision will affect certain decisions and choices from day one onwards.
- Step out of the 'now'
- Ask yourself, how big is the opportunity
- Be clear about your vision and focus
- Create a visionary goal
- Maximise your opportunities
It's time to get started
Think about the current business structure and compare it with the kind of structure that will be needed to sustain a bigger company. New systems, processes, locations and people can seem overwhelming at first but once you start to break things down everything will start to look different.
Here's our seven steps towards your company vision:
- Define your vision
- Pick a timeframe
- Put together a list of 'prouds'
- Write that draft
- Do some more redrafts
- Get some input
- Share the vision