Business Planning Process for an Existing Business

Charting your course plays a major role in the luck you bring to your business. This week, I conducted my company’s annual business planning process and review sessions. It took about 3-4 hours each day over 2 days. The business planning process for an existing business, one that has products and services and customers, is usually different than one for a new enterprise. Existing businesses have to take into account the needs of current customers as well as figure out how to get new planning process for existing business

Here is the business planning process we use to hammer out our plan:

  1. Discuss last year’s accomplishments and shortcomings, including “small wins”
  2. Review our mission and values that shape what we tackle going forward
  3. Review current status of and new ideas for each component of the business
    • Infrastructure
    • Products and services
    • Customer Service
    • Marketing
    • Operations
  4. Rank the large list of activities we come up with based on estimated time involved to complete and impact to our customers and business
  5. Prioritize the activities we feel will result in the biggest bang for the buck

This exercise results in a one-page action list that we review a few times a year to 1) see if we are on track and 2) see what needs to change. It has been a very useful way to crystallize our collective thoughts and get everyone rowing in the same direction – and that leads to good luck. It is not a 15-20 page document, just a list – see the screenshot below. I’ve blurred out our actual tasks, but you get the idea (D=just about done, 1-5=priority order, WL=wait listed).

business plan action list example

You can take this action list and create a goal list for each team member involved. Short action lists like this are easy to pin on your wall so you are reminded of your key points of focus throughout the year. Mine hang right next to me and are filled with short notes I scratch in as the year goes by. The best feeling is checking one of those items off the list!

5 New Years Resolutions That Will Grow Your Business

You can bring a tremendous amount of luck to your life and business in 2012. The new year is an excellent opportunity to align your tactical and strategic priorities. Here are 5 new years resolutions that every small business owner should make:

1. Increase revenue by 20%. new years resolutions

If you are not planning for growth, outside forces will drive your company to shrink. You should strive for at least 15% growth each year. This can come in the form of new clients or additional business from current clients. This level of revenue increase can usually accommodate fluctuations in the market place, pricing pressures, and new expenses such as higher salaries due to giving raises, changes in payroll or unemployment taxes and increases in healthcare premiums.

2. Reduce fixed expenses by 5%.

To grow, you often need to re-invest your profits.  This can result in increased variable expenses.  That said, you can usually trim a bit off of your fixed expenses.  Start by evaluating your technology since most companies can become more efficient just by computerizing some processes. Renegotiate your lease to take advantage of lower rates. Look at cheaper options for your phone or Internet services.  You can find efficiencies in many places. Find out how other firms in your industry manage their operations. Evaluate the cost/benefit of outsourcing some of your activities. What might seem like a large investment up front may end up saving you a significant amount of cash over time.

3. Communicate with all of your customers at least once a month.

To get more business, stay in touch regularly. The adage “out of sight, out of mind” holds true. Your competition is trying to steal your clients away from you. Don’t get blindsided. Send your customers educational information that can help them with their business. Things like case studies, trends, mistakes to avoid and information about what you have done for other clients will position you as a trusted source and make you top of mind. The goal of this strategy is to become the first company your clients think of when they need to solve a problem that you can help with. For most businesses, a monthly touch will work wonders towards building stronger client relations.

4. Identify at least one opportunity for innovation.

Brainstorm with your team, your spouse, your friends to come up with a new product or service idea, a new way to streamline a process including collecting receivables or scheduling payables, a better way to manage inventory, a clever way to attract customers or be unique in your clients’ eyes. Dedicate time on your calendar to look for ways that your company can do something that hasn’t been done before or do something common in an uncommon way. Companies that do not innovate often get left behind by those who do.

5. Delegate at least one of your tasks.

As a business owner, your time is the most precious in your company. if you spend it doing tasks that other, less expensive workers can do, then you are actually losing money. It prevents you from working on more profitable activities that will have a much stronger impact on your bottom line. Choose your personal work wisely. Let others do the work that you don’t have to do or like to do.

Making these resolutions will help you see how to expand your business and achieve the growth you envisioned the day you decided to start your company. Here’s to an amazingly successful 2012!