Kieran Thorpe, Hertfordshire Growth Hub
Often businesses trading within their first three years will reach a point where they feel like they have hit a barrier. Things will be going ok, but the growth of the business may have slowed or even stalled completely.
It is at this point that the business owner will be more likely return to their business plan, which ideally will have been created at the emergence of the enterprise, and updated periodically along the way, but all too often has been put to one side when time and effort naturally were poured into getting the business off the ground.
Planning for sustained growth is vital. If the survival of your business during the start up phase has proved its viability, the next goal is understand what the next step is and how you will get there.
But it is also a chance to reflect on how you got to where you are now, and some cases a chance to simply work out where you actually are!
A vision for your enterprise, a plan for getting there - with specific objectives along the way, is therefore pretty basic stuff but commonly neglected by small to medium business owners. It is not uncommon for an SME to have made it this far without any formal plan whatsoever. In this case it is even more important to create a plan, reflecting on your start up journey.
You can’t build a plan for the future without knowing where you are right now though. You will need to be able to assess that not just with a feeling of how things are going, but with data. Accounts. Sales figures. Costs.
It’s easy to confuse goals – where you want to get to – with the actual numbers – the things telling you how the business is doing. Assess how the reality of ‘now’ and your financial forecasting affect where your goals are leading you towards. Are your goals realistic? Or does your business need some considerable work done on it to make it fit to achieve those goals?
Regardless of how frequently a business owner is able to make time to return to the plan, it will serve you best as part of a rolling process, with regular assessment of targets against results achieved. This isn’t a one off task that gets filed away, this is all about the ongoing management of your business.
Whatever the reason you have to look up from the day to day activity of working in your business, it is always the case that some time spent working on your business plan will pay off and help you and/or your business advisor identify what actions need to take place to achieve your targets.