Tricks of the trade – let’s de-mystify Business Planning

ducks in row

Having successfully worked in a number of management and leadership roles in the U.K, NZ and USA, and ‘stepped out’ to coach a variety of SME companies over the last 6 years; I cannot over-stress the need for an effective planning and review process.

While there are many templates out there, I offer the following as key considerations:

1. Review the vision for the business: is it both clear and inspiring? Try googling a few vision statements like Walt Disney or Bill Gates.

2. What are the core values, with an emphasis on “core”? Are these “B…S… and can the team ‘walk the talk’?

3. What are the goals? Try setting out to say 5 years and then pair back to where you would like to be at end March 2017 in line with your next financial year end. split between financial and “other” goals. Is there a need for work/life balance or is it ongoing work/no-life balance!?

4. What is the business model to achieve these goals? Is it working or does it need an overhaul? Try googling “business canvass” to get a graphic representation of the key elements of the jigsaw that need to be considered.

5. For each part of the jigsaw:

- bullet point the key elements of how this works today e.g your various channels to market; your key cost elements, key suppliers, etc

- then, for each bullet point, assess whether this is an area of strength, weakness, opportunity or threat (SWOT) to the business and reaching your goals. Mark up each bullet point with an S/W/O/T as appropriate.

- again for each bullet point, mark up whether the impact on the business is high/medium/low (H/M/L)

6. Armed with your business model assessment, you and the wider team can move on to look at the various strategies and activities that are required for the period ahead.

7. It is important to prioritize and focus: e.g. on elements of the model that show as weak and high impact?

8. When developing your strategies and activities, consider and document under three separate but related headings which cover the essence of the business:

Technology … Sales & Marketing … Resource & Operations

(a) The Technology Plan: covering the product/service that you will offer today and in the future?

Strategies and activity may include:

- Product Development/fine-tuning to meet your short term goals, based on customer feedback

- R&D, again based on market feedback, to home in on new offerings that can help you leapfrog the competition, gain market-share and achieve longer term goals

- clear systems and processes (e.g google “NPD”) that help you take a structured and balanced approach to R&D allowing for internal creativity, passion and expertise and market reality

- leveraging any available Government grants

- how you approach/manage Intellectual Property

(b) The Sales & Marketing Plan

Having the right product/service in your bag of goodies is one thing … but successfully getting it to market is another!

Again, armed with your business model assessment, identify strategies and activity, e.g:

- re-assess whether there is a defined & validated market, with sufficient competitive advantage and risk that is manageable

- is it timely to look at additional markets, whether at home or export?

- review the channels to market/distribution model. Are you hitting the targets; are agents/distributors/sales reps sufficiently motivated and managed; or is it time to introduce other options and practices?

- Are sales activities sufficiently focused at key target sectors/clients/relationships, or is there too much re-activity? Are you consistently using a simple and effective CRM?

- Are your marketing strategies & tools adequate for the challenge, or is it same-old and comfort zone?

- are there clear channels of communication and action to feedback market reaction and needs for your product/service through to your R&D team to keep you in and ahead of the game, today and tomorrow?

(c) The Resource/Operations Plan

OK you have a great product/service and the sales & marketing machine is ticking over nicely. But can you deliver?!

Again, looking at the messages from your business model assessment, identify strategies and activity, e.g:

- the need for Capacity Planning to better handle your requirements for plant, equipment, people, premises and funding for projected growth (or lulls)

- strategic HR: e.g do you have the ‘right people in the right chairs’? Is there a risk with ‘key man’ dependency, or is succession planning a reality? Is the culture and supporting HR practices conducive to a high performing team? Have management and staff had sufficient opportunity and encouragement to ‘buy-in’ to the planning process and associated strategies and activity? Is there sufficient alignment between company and individual goals/development plans? Are there clear roles and responsibilities, and sufficient emphasis on leadership over and above day to day management?

- the use of appropriate, focused and simple processes and systems to help keep the finger on the pulse with financial management/budgetting/cash flow, KPI’s, quality control, supply chain management, etc

9. So the team are now buzzing with enthusiasm for strategy and and focused activity for the period ahead. Now set associated timelines, team leaders and accountability; with milestone review dates to take stock. Monthly management review meetings with clear follow up activity are suggested as an absolute minimum.

10. Finally, do not overlook the benefits from independent advice and help!

Hope this helps!

Neil Sayer

Neil leads our team with over 30 years experience guiding companies both large and small to commercial success on the international stage. He is passionate, curious and known for his down-to- earth style and love of life. He has worked in a variety of commercial, business development, and leadership roles in the private and public sectors in New Zealand, Australia, North America and the U.K, and has been helping SME companies since 2009 under the wing of his own coaching business. If you need a hand, give him a call on 0800 000 758

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