Doing a business plan is more than putting together a document. I needed to point that out recently when a Westchester County NY business owner asked me about the need for a business plan document so that the business could raise cash. But a smart business needs more than a document. It needs a strategic plan.
A strategic plan will consider the business today, look into the future, and have the way set out to create the future. In order to remain successful a business must have that plan to be successful now and in the future. Here are some of the things I discuss when helping my clients with a strategic plan:
1. Make sure you know what business you are in. Whether you are in real estate, construction and contracting, graphic design, or consulting you must define what you provide to the customer. For example, Kodak should have realized that it was not in the film business but in the image and impression sharing business. In real estate are you selling houses or assisting buyers in improving their lives?
2. Get in front of change. The best way to this it to look into the future, understand the trends and how they affect your business and move yourself into them. One example may be the use of webinars vs. in person meetings. While arguments can be made about current quality of delivery, getting your arms around it and having a strategy to shift will keep you leading. There was a time when a digital camera was not an alternative to high quality film but by not leading that new technology, Kodak failed.
3. Assess your business. Take inventory of where you have strengths in the market as well as where you are weak and vulnerable. Then use that information to look into the future to assess not just opportunities in your industry but also dangers and threats on the horizon. If you have done good business in an area where you know you are weak and you see new external threats on the horizon you may want to move away from that offering. On the other hand, look at new opportunities where you can exploit your strengths.
4. How do you communicate and market. The method and costs of marketing and communication have already changed drastically. Today, who looks to find something in the Yellow Pages? You need to embrace the new media. However, I caution you to evaluate and create a strategy first. Don’t simply follow the latest shiny new media application.
5. Understand generational differences. Different generations have different needs, communicate differently, and engage with your business differently. If you are doing well serving one generation, learn why. Are the things that engage that generation of no value to the next generation? Failure to understand that dynamic will result in increasingly lost revenue.
These steps are great starting points. If you have not done a strategic plan or updated yours in the last 3 years you should get it done. It is vital to your future success.
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