Successful business planning is a year round process, but as we get closer to the start of a new year, it becomes even more critical to take a step back and evaluate where your business has been, where it is and where it is going. Here are some proactive steps to take to get you started.
SWOT Analysis. A SWOT Analysis is a high-level overview of your whole business, and is still one of the most effective tools there is to generate critical self-evaluation. List your business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Be honest, misleading yourself here won’t help you prepare.
- Strengths: Just because something is a strength doesn’t mean you can neglect it. As a Business Owner, it is your job to make sure that these things remain strengths of your business a year from now. For example, if your employees are one of your strengths, what are you doing to make sure that they stick around?
- Weaknesses: Now that you have identified what they are, what action plans are you going to put into place to correct them? Not all of them can be corrected of course, but focus on those that can, and where possible, turn them into opportunities. And for those weaknesses that you are powerless to change, how will you counteract how your customers see them, or as they say in advertising, “change the conversation”?
- Opportunities: This is the fun part of a SWOT. What exciting new opportunities lie ahead for your business? Maybe it is a new product that you want to launch? Or a new market segment that you plan on breaking into? Whatever they are, make sure that you attach qualitative and quantitative goals to them. Define timeframes, growth targets, communication plans and customer satisfaction metrics.
- Threats: We all know that there are many threats out there that we are powerless to predict, but that does not mean that we cannot mitigate risk by planning for the potential threats that we can envision. No need for worry, but you should always have contingency plans when possible.
Survey Your Customers. How do they think you are doing? Can you count on their loyalty in the new year? Losing customers is one of the hardest blows for small businesses to absorb. Make sure yours are happy, and if they are not make sure your plan for next year will address their issues or concerns.
Engage Your Employees in the Process. Ideally, you will include your employees in your planning process. Let them contribute and feel like a part of the process to get them motivated. If not, you should at the very least communicate the plan to them and explain how they will contribute to it. Generate positive momentum to propel you into the new year.
Small Businesses need a plan to succeed. As the old saying goes, “Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail.” Whether you get help or not for your planning process, make sure that it is a priority for you and your staff. The above tools will get you started in your Business Planning process.