By Liam Mooney
Liam Mooney of Blue Pencil and Club Fit For Business provides step-by-step instructions on how not to stray from your initial business plan.
Writing a business plan is actually quite a daunting prospect. Most start-ups do not know where they will be in one month’s time, let alone five years. Many business plans are unrealistic, as people dream of setting up the next “unicorn”.
The concept of having a solid business that simply makes money and is sustainable seems to be lost. However, even the most realistic well-thought-out business plan is just a stack of paper if it isn’t implemented. So how do you implement a business plan?
First and foremost you have to go back to the beginning. Is your business plan realistic and does it have clear goals, objectives and aims that suit your aspirations? Do not get sucked into following the mass opinion of what your plan should be like.
Although the list below is not exhaustive, your business plan should contain a clear outline of the following:
• Business proposition – What is your product/service? Who are your clients? Who is your competition? How are you going to sell your product or service?
• Management team – Who is your management team – directors, key personnel and any strategic partners and alliances you may have?
• Marketing – How are you going to promote (marketing, including market research, and pricing) your product or service?
• Staff – Who do you need to employ and what is your organisational structure?
• Operations – More information about your office premises, and infrastructure needed, such as IT, website, telecoms, and similar.
• Infrastructure – What is your trading entity, insurance needed, lawyers and accountants you will be using?
• Finances – More information about your profit and loss forecasts, cash flow, finance needed, and investment opportunities.
Once you have your business plan you should set out your objectives, for example, in the recruitment industry, some of your objectives could include the following:
• Secure office space, set up the company/infrastructure and start trading within three months.
• Secure your first deal within two months of trading.
• Make one business deal every month from there on for the first year.
Once you have set out your objectives, consider what tasks need to be completed so you can achieve these.
Assign a person who is responsible for each step so that roles are clearly defined and there is accountability in completing the tasks. Avoid micromanaging people with detailed explanations of how to complete each task.
Some generic examples of this could be:
• Setting up an established company – You
• Finding an office – Office manager
• Setting up internet, phones and computers – Office manager
• Marketing collateral - Marketing manager
• Recruitment – HR manager Securing new clients and business - Business development manager
• Opening company bank account – You
• Social media management – Marketing manager
Each task should be paired with an appropriate time frame for completion.
You should be aggressive, but reasonable with your time allocation in order to ensure, not just completion but competent work as well.
For assistance in framing this timescale, create your own Gantt chart – a helpful tool that shows how long it will take to complete different tasks and in what order the tasks should be finished.
You or a member of your management team needs to be in charge of monitoring each task’s progress and the completion percentage of each objective.
When delays occur, try to get to the root of the problem. Did the person responsible drop the ball? Did he or she have too many responsibilities to handle? Did a third party, such as a supplier or the bank, fail to hold up its end of a deal?
While the above steps may seem like overkill, the early days of a start-up are critically important – it’s a time when good management patterns are set and also probably a lean era when revenue has yet to start rolling in.
The more efficiently you start implementing your business plan, the more likely it is that you will survive this early period.
Keep reviewing your finances.
Are you hitting your targets? If not, why not? Implement changes to tackle this.
Have a regular review with your accountant to manage income, costs and any tax liabilities. It is so important to keep disciplined, focused and motivated by cash flow, even more so in the early stages of your business.
Business plans are always dynamic. Make sure you join a networking group so you can keep up to date with on the ground market knowledge, connections, and legal and financial updates.
You may need to react and change accordingly. Don’t get totally blinkered into your business plan, you always have to see what is going on around you.
Review your business plan on a regular basis.
Compare budgeted numbers to actual figures of doing business.
Determine whether you can keep operating as you are or whether you need to make changes, such as reducing costs, raising prices or increasing marketing.