Business planning and networking helps
I have been bad. Business networking is most effective when you attend regularly and take the small steps that build relationships and understanding of potential clients, either those in the room or those they can refer.
I keep missing CAP as I’m too busy working in my business. This is much like the approach most owner-managers take to business planning.
Lots of owners get stuck in talking about sometime doing some business planning. But the time never arrives. Yet talk is the first building block of any business plan. Talk about your business objectively and candidly with someone. What is good? What is bad? What would better look like?
The choice of the person is key. Close family is unlikely to be completely objective. But if they are all that is available, proceed carefully. The tale of the successful builder of two £1M+ businesses struggling with his own business, being asked by his wife when was he going to get a proper job, is true.
Assets and Liabilities
Review everything and everyone involved with your business. Ask what and who are assets taking your business forward. Conversely what are the liabilities holding you back.
Often entrepreneurs find that something can be an asset as well as a liability. The contract with Fred provides regular monthly income (steady cashflow) but takes up so much time as he likes to talk (query profitability).
Then ask which liabilities should I ditch and how can I use my assets more. Or alternatively what changes or training needs to be done to get more asset and less liability.
In business planning terms these are the many different ways the business could go. Shell has a department which plans every conceivable scenario for its operations around the world, so that it can react quickly and appropriately. Smaller companies have at least 5 opportunities:
· Stay as you are- getting the same business the same way, changing nothing
· Grow slowly- getting more of the business you want, but not risking much.
· Grow rapidly- focusing solely on what will get you the business you want now.
· Decline slowly- almost stay as you are; keep working in the business not on it
· Collapse- end the business as it is going nowhere (positive) or become over-reliant on a small customer base which lets you down (negative).
Consider what are the real opportunities for you? Is it a new market/ product/approach/people/client?
Assets, Liabilities and Opportunities all need objective analysis. Vision is all about what you are trying to achieve as a business. If this business is successful what will it be doing and for whom? Who are your ideal customers and why and how does your business fit their needs? Why are you different?
It is a good business habit to be able to articulate your vision in a short sentence or two. This allows you to decide whether the asset/liability/opportunity fits that vision and have a prepared networking 30 seconds.
A business plan is not the carefully crafted hefty document gathering dust on the shelf. Business planning is the creation of larger strategies which are broken down into small steps. A step needs to be done today so that the next can be taken tomorrow. Along the way there are intermediate goals. Win 5 new clients for the new product range by Jan 1st comes back to firstly designing the range by 1st October and secondly devising and executing the marketing and sales plan so there are at least 5 qualified leads on 31st November.
Business Schools give acronyms to processes to aid the memory. I call this the TA LOVE model to remind me that I need objective feedback from other people to plan my business effectively. Much like I might find at a business network like CAP!
Andrew Callard and Aimed Business helps owners and senior managers achieve their goals through providing advice and insight to enable their business to grow and to devising and executing cost effective marketing strategies. He can be found (sometimes) at CAP or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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