Wendy Gibbs, Hertfordshire Growth Hub
6 Things To Consider When Planning in Uncertain Times
It is almost a year since the first lockdown started and at the time of writing we have only just found out of the new steps in place to hopefully bring us out of lockdown and restrictions will ease.
Many who have responsibility for decision making in businesses have spent the last year adapting how they trade and operate, with some businesses required to close during lockdowns. Time would have been spent looking at the financial position of the business, government support, supporting staff whether furloughed or otherwise, ways to keep the business viable or in some cases meeting increased demand, the list goes on and dealing with many of these points is still ongoing.
Business plans prepared pre pandemic have for some fallen by the wayside regardless of whether the business has been negatively impacted or has been challenged to meet increased demand.
You may intend to return to your original plans at a later date and/or feel that with the level of uncertainty that it is not possible to plan at the moment. Planning in these uncertain times has become tricky but you now have almost a year’s worth of experience since the first lockdown to draw on, so this could be the time to look back assess and start planning.
Below are some suggestions to consider in your business planning process.
1) Reflect – changes made over the last year may have been a reaction to the situation rather than planned. Think back and list all the changes that you made under the headings for each area of your business whether regulatory, operations, product or service, marketing, staff, finance and so on.
2) Identify – looking at all the changes made identify which of these worked well, worked but could improve and which do not work.
3) Evaluate – why did the changes work well, were they effective, profitable, did you gain a new customer base or market sector. What improvements could be made to the things that could have gone better or didn’t work, do processes need to be amended, communication methods changed or your marketing strategy improved.
4) Continue – decide and incorporate into your plan what changes you wish to keep and whether they will remain long term or short term. If short term state at what point the changes made will end e.g. when social distancing ends. For all changes you wish to continue look at how you will go about this, what resources will be required etc. You may have found a new customer base or route to market that you wish to maximise and need further research to support this opportunity. Maybe you need to look at how you win back customers and remember some may not return to their previous buying behaviours.
5) Stop – unless the change is a regulatory requirement and must therefore continue look at stopping anything that is not working which cannot be improved. This does not mean stop immediately you may have implemented short term measures such as selling B2C instead of just B2B or diversified away from the core business and that at some point you wish to stop.
6) Revisit – look at your previous plan and forecasts, update this incorporating the changes you wish to keep and at which point you will stop the short-term measures. Update your SWOT and PESTLE analysis these are also likely to have changed and will also help you to consider both internal and external factors that could have an impact on the business.
Business planning including cashflow forecasting has always required making some assumptions and looking at more than one scenario. Whilst in the current climate this is more challenging hopefully the above points will not only help to assess what you have achieved but also support you with your future planning.
View our Business planning and cashflow forecast templates.