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Monday, 18 January 2016

Member Blog: Polish your business plan 2016

By David Wright - BSA Marketing
Along with Easter and the Summer, January is one of the three times each year when most people take some time off then come back to work inspired to take their business forward.

However, despite best intentions, it is very easy to find things quickly slipping back into the same old routines as day-to-day demands start to impinge.

Here are my Top Tips for progress and success in 2016:

1. Plan 2016

Regular readers will know that planning is one of my recurring themes, but planning is vital. If you don’t have a plan and just make things up as you go along, you are not in control of your business. I’m not saying you won’t succeed but if you do, it will be luck.

Plan 2016 doesn’t need to be complicated. There are lots of business planning tools online but here is my suggestion of key questions to ask yourself:

Where are we now?
Where do we want to get to?
How are we going to get there?

I’m thinking strategy here; should you be doing more of the same or are there changes that need to be made? What is the best way of using what you have to move your business and to make the changes?

2. Action 2016

Making plans and setting objectives is all very well but a bit of a waste of time if you don’t actually do something about it!

I suggest you take your planning ideas and then ask yourself what specific actions you can take towards achieving your objectives. This is about what are you going to do TODAY, TOMORROW, THIS WEEK, not what you might do over the next month or 2!

You already know that running a business requires discipline and drive. Having an action plan puts focus on actually doing stuff towards achieving your goals. It’s a cliché but you do need to find time to work ON your business rather than IN your business.

3. Focus on specifics

One problem with planning is that it can be easy to stay with a ‘big picture’ where objectives look great on paper but it can prove difficult to take realistic steps to achieve them. This is where having a meaningful action plan is so important so let’s have a look at some specific areas of your business where you can make a big impact:

Keeping in touch: Review everyone you have done business with / had enquiries from over the last year – are you still in contact?

Keeping in touch with contacts is my top tip. Email and social media make it easy and inexpensive (or free!) to keep in touch and building relationships with contacts who know you and can give you more work is the best way to grow business.

Focus on Good Customers: Sort your customers in order of billed revenue – now sort in order of the effort you put in – Do they match? Should you be looking to lose some of your ‘hard work’ clients?

Recognising that not every customer is a good customer was a big lesson for me.

If you are confident in your processes to bring on new business, it can be easier to let some customers go if they don’t really fit your requirements.

Even if you aren’t so confident, losing one or two smaller clients who take up a disproportionate amount of your time can free up a surprising number of hours to focus on building more ‘good’ clients.

Build on your success: List your 3 big successes from 2015 – what can you learn and apply in 2016?

Sometimes, good things happen and you don’t even notice! Have a think about your high points from the past year. How did they happen? Was there something you can take into 2016 and repeat the success?

Learn from mistakes: Recognise your key disappointment from 2015 – what can you learn and apply in 2016

Hopefully this will be harder because you’ve had more success than disappointment, but sometimes you can learn more from a negative than a positive. By staying confident and recognising the lesson learnt you can avoid repeating the experience.

New ideas: Are there products or services that you could add to your business in 2016? Do customers ask you for things you don’t offer at the moment?

Good businesses constantly review and refresh their offering in line with market demands.

As well as coming up with your own ideas, or using suggestions from customers, check out what your competitors are up to. Market research can be a powerful ally.

4. And finally…

Running your own business can be challenging, but also very rewarding. Many SME business owners spend up to 70% of their waking hours focused on their business, so don’t forget to try to enjoy yourself!

Whatever you do, I hope you have a productive and prosperous year.

All the best, David

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