People often mistake a business plan for an operational guide or a description of how a business runs. But, a business plan is a strategy guide to help you reach your goals. Want to earn more? How are you going to do that? Want to expand? What does that look like? Want to change how things are done? What is the impact of that change on your marketing, operations, and finances?
A business plan is only helpful if you use it and, if your business plan is gathering dust, the chances are that your business isn't moving forward. Where do you want to be in 2 years? Sit down with your business plan and start mapping it out.
If you're revising and revisiting your plan, carve out 2-3 hours each week for four weeks to work on updating a piece. There are four cornerstones of every business plan:
The vision of your business is defined as your mission statement, core philosophy, guiding principles, or manifesto. It is the soul of your business and is the reason you conduct your business. These are the attributes that you are proud of and the qualities that make you stand out. It should include what you promise your customers, your employees, and your community and serves as the foundation for all your decisions.
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When revisiting your business plan, you want to examine whether you are fulfilling your core ideology. Do your employees embody these ideals? Are you communicating these values to the public? How can you better incorporate this vision into your operations?
Your marketing strategy will help you better define what you are selling at what price and to whom. It will help you identify the promotional activities (how you market) that will best catch the eyeballs of your ideal target market. Will you invest in advertising? Will you spend more time on social media? Will you make press submissions? How and with whom will you be networking?
When revisiting your business plan, you want to identify sales goals for the upcoming year(s) and think about how you will reach them. Ask yourself:
- What am I selling, and how is it different?
- What can I do to stand out?
- How can I better reach my ideal client? How are they making decisions?
- How should I price my services so that they are not only a match for my client, but also provide me with the income I desire?
- Where should I be promoting my services to reach that ideal client?
Your operational structure defines HOW you do business. How does your company run? How do you execute services at events? Who supports your business (both vendors and staffing)? While this section doesn't typically define full operational procedures, you do want to be thinking about the overarching structure.
In revisiting your plan, you want to consider scalability and how it impacts your operations. If you plan to double your sales in the upcoming two years, what does that do to your infrastructure? How does that change your staffing needs? How does that change your facility's needs? Your catering flow (front of house and back of the house)?
Your financial plan is the numerical skeleton that supports your vision, marketing, and operational decisions. This is my favorite part of the business plan. Every decision that you make in your business should begin with a number. That number will act as a springboard for your marketing strategy and your operational structure. The financial plan allows you to test variables in your business to see how they impact your business financially.
In revisiting your plan, you want to think about how to increase earnings. Will you make a goal to increase events? Or increase pricing? Or both? Will you cut back on the cost of materials, cost of labor to get more profit margin? (Is that even possible for your business?) If you plan to grow the volume of clients you service, what does the scalability look like for that? Will that impact your cost margins? Profit margins? Will it require that you invest in more staff? Rent a larger space?
How often should a business plan be updated?
It's important to reference your plan monthly and see how things are going. Are you hitting your sales goals? Are you hitting your marketing benchmarks? I love doing a monthly 'strategy day' to make sure I'm tracking and tweaking my plan. I've found that monthly accountability keeps me focused on these goals. A business plan should get a more significant refresh every year. Fall and winter are a great time to do this. After all, your business plan is your strategy guide to keep moving your business forward!