The year is underway and it is time to assess last year’s successes and plan for the new year!
You need a business plan. Why? Because it sets the course for the year. It defines strengths (and what worked) and weaknesses (and what didn’t work). It identifies priorities and serves as a guide for your business.
A business plan can be hundreds of pages or just a few. Whatever the volume, however, it needs to contain at least the following elements:
An As-Is analysis defines the current situation, and needs to be an objective assessment. It’s not a marketing pitch for your clients; rather, it’s an honest description of where you are today.
You should also analyse the main environmental factors that affect your business. At a minimum, look at the economic climate in the industry in which you plan to do business this year.
Understand the needs of your market
Think out of the box, and look more broadly at your competition and your current and potential customers/clients. Competition is often more than what you see on a first pass.
Position Your Product/Service
What is unique about your product/service? If you can’t express what makes your product or service different, review why your customers bought from you in the past and then think about why they might buy from you in the future.
All the analysis you do will be lost unless you use it to set objectives for the coming year. Don’t forget that objectives are measurable. When you set an objective, include dates for completion and provide time to monitor your progress.
This is the most important section of your plan. Based on the As-Is analysis, your competitors, your positioning statements, and your objectives, it’s time to define how you are going to reach your goals. What strategies will you use to meet your financial and product and services goals next year?
Be honest with yourself; set realistic goals that don’t radically diverge from your prior year’s performance. Target areas where you think you can get business and concentrate on those.
Remember, a business plan needs to be written; there’s no avoiding it. A written plan forces you to think it through, follow a defined outline, and be specific.