In today’s ever-changing business environment it’s never been more important to plan ahead, but in our fast-paced world looking three to five years into the future seems an impossible task. To enable your business to flourish, whether start-up or more established, you need to think strategically by creating and communicating a long-term business framework.
Setting out a framework will help you define exactly what it is you want to achieve and how you are going to get there. It will also allow you to make adjustments as you hit bumps along the way. So whether your aim is to increase your market share or break into new markets it shouldn’t be left to chance.
Making a plan doesn’t have to be complex but should enable you to outline a clear strategy, communicate it to key staff, allocate the right resources and people, track progress and analyse costs and projected profits.
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An element of flexibility is vital for a business to succeed. Ideas can go off course quickly so the framework needs to recognise this and adapt. Whether it is delays in getting to market, a need for more funding or losing a key member of staff these must be considered and reacted to.
So where to start? An effective business framework should contain the following elements:
The executive summary, although usually written last, forms the first part of the plan. It should provide a snapshot of your business proposal and the purpose of the document highlighting the most important points. According to Clive Lewis, head of enterprise at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales,
“A great executive summary is the purest little drop that encapsulates the essence of the business. What you are all about in a few short words.”
The business is the next section to include. This is your chance to explain the background to your business, what your product or service is, the benefits it provides and its unique selling points (USPs).
Once you’ve outlined your business, it’s important to focus next on markets and competitors. Make clear what segments you plan to target, why customers will buy your product and that you understand what the competing products are and who supplies them.
Identifying your sales and marketing plans is crucial as it often gives a good indication of how likely your ideas are to succeed. So, how you will meet your customers’ needs? How will your product or service be positioned? How will you sell to customers and what mechanisms will you use to promote it? You’ll also need to think about expected sales, gross profit margins and costs.
Your audience should have confidence in the people delivering the plan so focussing on management is vital. This is where you need to show you have an effective team in place offering the right balance of skills and experience.
Finally, include financial forecasts to show how much revenue and profit you expect to generate and how much cash funding, if any, may be required. Be realistic in your forecasting (our experience indicates revenue is often too high and costs too low!) and incorporate sound data and evidence to prove your goals are achievable.
Creating a realistic plan to target the right audience is vital which is why many businesses seek a credible sounding board to act as business support and a source of expert advice.
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