We regularly hear from our customers that either the business was started with no real business plan, or the business plan has been collecting dust from day dot and only pulled out for nostalgia’s sake. 90% of the time this is because the day to day challenges of running and managing a business quickly consume all available time and less immediate priorities get put aside until they become critical.
“This scenario is a potential recipe for disaster which can be avoided by ensuring that the necessary time and resources are allocated before it becomes a critical issue.”
As part of our health checks with customers, we encourage business owners to dust off the business plan and weigh the business’s progress against the goals and expectations originally documented. This forms the framework for potentially redefining your strategy (or crafting one if you don’t already have a plan), and looking at how success will be determined going forward.
Where’s your business plan?
Any written description of your business's future is a business plan, which should tell what you plan to do and how you plan to do it.
Business plans are inherently strategic. Written based on the resources and abilities you had to start with and a pathway to a point in the future (usually three to five years out) at which time your business will have a different set of resources and abilities as well as, hopefully, greater profitability and increased assets. Your plan shows how you will get from here to there.
Business plans should also be organic and evolve with changes in your business, your market, opportunities and threats, and as such should be updated periodically to ensure it stays relevant. When we did our first business plan in 2004, Facebook was still a university social page and mobile commerce was non-existent, but fast forward 10 years and we have fully developed strategies around both social media and mobile commerce.
When was the last time you pulled out yours?
What should it contain to be relevant?
For our eCommerce customers selling online, and largely applicable for any business in this day and age, we recommend that your strategy and business plan covers:
While missing, or failing to properly account for, some of these items may not immediately be a problem. We often hear stories of businesses finding themselves at the brink without a clear understanding of why they’ve got there or what to do to step back from the edge.
“Having a current plan and regularly re-assessing your current performance can ensure warning signs are picked up early and managed before a critical issue arises.”
This may sound silly, but it pays to plan how you’ll use your plan.
Apart from being the core of your business’s strategy, your plan can play a few other roles for you in the growth and development of your business. The plan should provide the indicia for measuring performance and, as such, may be relied upon by anyone looking at investing in your business (which should include yourself).
At a minimum, you should at least have a plan for how often you will revisit your plan to assess how you are tracking and if you need to alter course. Larger or fast growing businesses should have a documented review and update process (likely annually) to keep the plan relevant as they grow.
An additional benefit of this approach is you will avoid wasting time on indecision, while you try and figure out what you are missing.
Need some help?
Crafting and maintaining your business plan is not supposed to be an onerous task, but should be an opportunity for you to introspect on where you have come from, where your business is now and where you are going next.
However, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to get advice on some or all of the elements of the plan, particularly if you find yourself stuck or aren’t confident you have the expertise or experience to correctly assess your requirements.
We, at eCornerAssist, would be happy to discuss any questions with you, and we, and our partners, are here to assist you finding the right path.