The Christmas and New Year break is one of those times when business owners take stock , look ahead and make plans. However, come January 2nd it is ‘oh so easy’ to slip back into the old routine and just carry on. So which camp do you fit in? Is your business ready for 2014? Here are 5 key points to consider:
I know I keep going on about it but planning is vital. If you don’t have a plan and just make things up as you go along, you are not in control of your business. I’m not saying you won’t succeed but if you do, it will be luck. Planning does not need to be complicated. Any search on Google will throw up numerous business planning tools but here is my suggestion of 3 key planning questions to ask yourself:
Where are we now?
Take a piece of paper and write 4 headings:
Under each write down a couple of relevant sentences describing how that word fits to your business. This will give you a basis to move on to…..
Where do we want to get to?
What are your objectives, what do you want to achieve? Not everyone wants to be the next Richard Branson. It is your business and your life so what do you want out of it. Just remember that, to be useful, your objectives should be SMART:
How are we going to get there?
I’m thinking strategy here; should you be doing more of the same or are there changes that need to be made? What is the best way of using what you have to move your business and to make the changes?
2. Action Plan
Making plans and setting objectives is all very well but a bit of a waste of time if you don’t actually do something about it! To this end, I suggest you take you planning ideas and then ask your self what specific actions you can take towards achieving your objectives. This is about what are you going to do TODAY, TOMORROW, THIS WEEK, not what you might do over the next week or 3. You already know that running a business requires discipline and drive. Having an action plan puts focus on actually doing stuff towards achieving your goals. It’s a cliche but you do need to find time to work ON your business rather than IN your business. I’m now going to look at three elements of your business which I believe are vital to effective planning and growth:
3. Web Presence
A web presence is essential for any business. For most people this will mean your own website but for some, the functionality of social media, particularly Facebook and LinkedIn can make a practical and tempting alternative to a private site. Whatever your business, the web is your shop window. It is where people go to find out about your business and what you offer, so…. Are you proud of your web presence? Do you want people to visit you online? Do you confidently invite them to visit to check you out? Is your site up do date? Does your site show what is happening in your business now rather than when the site was launched? Do you have up to date case studies and testimonials from your clients? Do you have dated ‘News’ stories that show your site is up to date? Do you control your website? In 2014 you should be able to handle day to day website updates in-house. Web technology has reached a level that you should not be having to pay a web designer to change a few pictures or add a new testimonial to your site. If you do, I suggest you look at changing things. Not having control of your site is often a reason why your site is not up to date and consequently why you may not be proud of it. Self-management is common in social media but it need not cost a fortune to add in-house content management to your website and the investment can pay handsomely in creating a marketing communication tool you can actively use every day through 2014 and beyond.
Are there products or services that you could add to your business in 2014? Do customers ask you for things you don’t offer at the moment? Good businesses constantly review and refresh their offering in line with market demands. As well as coming up with your own ideas, or using suggestions from customers, check out what your competitors are up to. Market research can be a powerful ally.
5. Customers and Markets
Who are your best customers and who do you find hard work for not much reward? Try to analyse what the differences are so you can focus your attention on building more business with the right type of customer. Have you come across any new ‘types’ of customer or people who use your products and services in a different way? These can hint to opportunities to explore new market areas and widen the appeal of your business to a bigger audience.
It’s easy to dismiss formal business planning as a waste of time in a small business where the objective seems to focus on keeping your head above water, but therein lies the issue; if you don’t plan you will spend your time trying to stay afloat (unless you hit lucky of course, we can all dream). A considered business plan is the effective route to a long term, sustainable business. Whatever you do, I hope you have a productive and prosperous 2014.