Running a business can be rewarding, but to reach your goals it takes dedication, perseverance and, most of all, it takes planning. At the end of each year, you should develop an Annual Plan which will include your budget, your marketing plan and your Operations Plan for the coming year. This is the time you look at exactly what and how you will put systems in place to make your business run for the next year and beyond. It should be based on solid information from the past year and projections for success in the new year.
In this article, the focus is the Operations Plan which is going to contain the systems that should be in place to ensure that your business will run smoothly on a daily basis. From the solo entrepreneur to the mega business, it is mandatory that there is an Operations Plan as part of the Annual Plan and that Plan should contain systems.
Your systems should be duplicatable so that nearly anyone coiuld come in and pick up your business and run it, at least until you are able to be back at the helm once again. The components of your Operations Plan will not only include the systems you use to make your business viable, it will also include an analysis of any strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, commonly referred to as SWOT.
Look at the strength of your business. Closely exam it for any weaknesses. What are the opportunities that are present? Just as important, what are the threats? Who is your closest competition? Include the competition as a possible threat. What are the possibilities of opportunities for forming partnerships?
Examine and fine tune your system for making contact with and acquiring new customers. You should have a method of networking and reaching out to new customers that goes beyond dropping ads or managing social media. You should create a method of forming relationships with your customers, regardless of how large or small you business happens to be, but it is particularly important for the small business. Those customers at Coke may not be able to reach out and touch each of the managers at Coke, but there is a relationship nonetheless, and the result is loyalty to the product. That is what every entrepreneur and owner should want for their business.
Clearly identify the who and what of your systems. In other words, the functions that make your business run and the people needed to make it happen.
Customer service is crucial. Give it particular attention. It is the grit of your business because it insures that you have possibility of repeat customers; that you will be able to develop lasting and loyal customers. A company is never so large that it can ignore its customers and consequently, customer service delivery should be 100%. Craft the system that will make that happen, whether you are a solo entrepreneur or a large business. Don’t forget to consider what makes you a loyal customer.
Capture data of new potential customers, with as much information about the customer as you think is relevant to creating that lasting relationship.
A solid accounting system is a must for every business. It may be distasteful to work with the numbers if that is not a natural area for you, but without it you have no basis for continuing your business . Your numbers tell you if you are profitable… or not.
Part of the overall plan for your business should contain a contingency plan for any number of anomalies that might occur in your business or to you. For the solo entrepreneur, this is particularly important. Consider forming partnerships with other entrepreneurs and businesses that compliment what you do. This can provide an alternative means of running some aspect of your business in the event you are not able to run it in its entirety. For example, if you are a professional writer with a variety of writing services, form alliances with other writers or businesses that may be able to provide at least some aspect of what you do. That partnership can provide your service if you can’t. Your customers are still happy, you have retained good business and you have maintained your source of revenue.
Enlist the help of others in your business or on your team as you develop your plan. If you have employees, enlisting their help is crucial to creating a successful plan and to creating the ownership and buy in that is needed from your employees.
Again, each component of the Annual Plan – marketing, budgeting and operations – is as important as the other. Ignore any one of the components and it is likely your business could fail.
When developing your Annual Plan, be thorough and be intentional. Take the time to give the plan your full attention. Set aside time with no or few distractions. Your Annual Plan is not an after thought or something you put together hastily.
Last, the plan should not be considered static. You may need to make adjustments along the way. In other words, consider your plan fluid enough to change as circumstances may change over the course of the year.
Most important is that you don’t develop your Annual Plan and then ignore it. Use it to guide your business to success and profitability.
Until next time…