There is a misconception that a written business plan is only necessary if you are seeking financing or investors. Not having a business plan is a bit like driving from Arizona to Florida without a map or GPS. Sure, you may eventually get there-after many wrong turns and dead ends-not to mention frustration and wasted time. Your business plan is exactly that-your plan, your roadmap. Without a map, you don’t always know where you are or how to get where you’re going, and you can’t tell when you’ve arrived.
Another common misconception is that writing your business plan is a one-time task. One you get the financing you need or you complete your marketing plan-you’re done, right? Nope. Think of it this way, how accurate would you GPS be in getting you places if it was never updated?
In the spirit of a fresh New Year-here are 5 reasons why you should revisit (or create) your business plan…right now.
- Did you achieve your business goals in 2014? Why or why not? The New Year is a time for looking forward and making positive changes to move you forward. Before making too many lofty goals for 2015, take some time to reflect on how things went in 2014. Did you achieve all that you wanted to in 2014? If so, give yourself a pat on the back! Isolate what worked well. Was it a different strategy? A new product? A different advertising campaign? What can you do to leverage and continue that momentum this year? If not, why? What were the challenges? What could have been done differently or better? Were you focused on your goals throughout the year or did you fall victim of overwhelm? Or perhaps the goals set initially were unworkable. Starting your fresh new year with a recap of last year will help you get in the right frame of mind to set the most meaningful goals for this year.
- What are your business goals in 2015? What strategies will you use to get there? So, what do you want to accomplish this year? It is a dollar figure or a specific number of contracts? Maybe it’s retention of the clients you already have or a new product line. Those goals are the framework of your business plan. Be specific (SMART goal format) and include the strategies you’ll use to accomplish these goals.
- What’s changed in the market? Doing periodic market research is vital to the success of your business. Marketing plans must be updated to reflect the needs of your target market and meet them where they are. Stay informed on what your competitors are doing to ensure that you maintain your competitive advantage. You’ll also discover if any new competitors have entered the market or left the market. Take a look at your target market-has anything changed? How can you continue to provide products and services that fill their needs? All of these factors should be taken into consideration when developing your marketing and pricing strategies and figuring the best use of your marketing dollars.
- Should operational changes be made? Perhaps you’re business has grown since last year or perhaps you’re looking to improve efficiency and minimize expenses. Whatever your situation, your business plan should outline information about the way your business operates on a day to day basis. Not having specifics in place will cost your time, money and frustration later. Be sure to review and revise this as necessary.
- SWOT Analysis: What strengths do you have intrinsically? How do you apply those in your business? How can you further leverage them? These questions can begin to be answered by conducting a meaningful SWOT analysis. This is also a way to identify areas that can be improved, opportunities and potential threats. Here’s some additional information on doing a SWOT analysis.