When you’re running a business, half your job is planning for the future. Operating without a plan is a risky proposition. It can be hard to make sure all your individual decisions are working together unless you’re guided by long term goals for your business.
But creating and checking your progress against a plan like that is itself a substantial job – and the consequences for getting it wrong can be serious. Today we’re looking at how you can plan a future for your business, safely and sustainably.
Never forget that what you’re setting down in your six month, five year or ten year plan are your aims, for your business. There’s no single dictionary definition of success, only what success means for you. Growth is often held to be a holy grail in the business world, but it might not be what you want – don’t try to rush into anything that isn’t what you actually want to be doing.
When you’re setting goals for your business – about where you want to be in six months, in five or ten years, it’s important to do so with reference to hard data about your market, your customers, and how they’re likely to behave over that time scale. Performing or commissioning market research can give you the data you need to understand what your customers want from your industry – and to project those trends forward in time.
As well as your customers, it’s also important to think about the competition. Who are your most significant competitors? How will they behave over the course of the time period you’re trying to predict? Commissioning some competitor intelligence and analysis can help you understand where you stand in the ecosystem of businesses and forces that make up your industry, which is vital for making plans for surviving and thriving within it.
When you’re making plans, and setting goals, it’s important not to be inflexible. You’re creating a document to help keep your business united in the same vision, not writing commandments in stone. You don’t have to do it often, but you should regularly check your plans and goals against the reality of the marketplace and make sure where you want to be is still a realistic aim to shoot for.
For example, if you were running a restaurant business, and you’d planned to open two additional locations in your third year of trading – subject to your original undertaking being successful – but that third year of trading was 2020, with all the complications and dramatic upheavals that we’re still dealing with, it would be fatally inflexible to try and stick to your plan instead of revising it to adapt to your new circumstances.