Business owners and managers can expect a difficult trading year in 2009, following the turmoil of 2008. There are many things they should do to help them through the unchartered waters they are likely to encounter including updating their business plan – or, if they don’t have one already, getting one done.
Having a plan as a reference point helps managers avoid bad decisions when they are under pressure and can provide a roadmap that helps keep the business on track. This is especially important when dealing with changed and difficult trading conditions. Knee-jerk reactions can be counter-productive and go against the strategic positioning of the organisation. For example, if staff levels are to be reduced, it is important to consider which are the most important facets of the business strategy that must be continued.
A good plan is not measured by how good the written document looks, but the actions that come from it. Six top tips for developing a plan include:
1. Keep it simple
Business plans can be short- or long-term and include personal, marketing and other more focused plans. But a plan doesn’t need to be long-winded, or need a great deal of background, to be effective.
Some form of longer-term business plan (say five years), no matter how brief, that deals with where the business is going and the broad strategies of how it is going to get there, acts as a guide for the focus of the short-term plans, which then detail the objectives for that year that are in line with the long-term objectives, and the actions to achieve them.
2. Follow a format
Every plan should follow the same basic format, covering:
Now – looking at the current status of the business and the issues that are facing it.
Where – outlining where the business wants to go, and its vision, objectives and competitive advantage.
When – the timeframes being worked to.
How – the strategies and actions to get there.
This can be reduced to as little as one page or two pages on each section.