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Plans vs. Planning

Plans vs. Planning

This article was written by Ed Hatton and first published as a Sanlam Cobalt Business Tips article during December 2010. Sanlam has valuable resources for entrepreneurs and you should consider subscribing to receive the Sanlam Cobalt articles if you have not already done so

….the simple plan

That they should take who have the power

And they should keep who can – Wordsworth

 

Will you be the growing business taking more market share? A defender of your customer base? Or one of those that lose ground to better planned and organised competitors? Do you have a plan to guide your business? Does it work for you?

Eisenhower famously said, “Plans are nothing, planning is everything”. The process of developing a good business plan will force you to think about your customers, competitors and the resources you need, and that thinking should drive your business in the future.

Assume you want to develop a plan for 2011 to defend your market share, or take new business. You may be tempted to download one of the excellent business planning templates and then concentrate on filling in the blocks. Some entrepreneurs, especially those starting out, will engage a cut-and-paste business plan developer. But there is a much better way:  Simply follow Eisenhower’s advice and focus on the process of planning.

Take time to think about your business and record your thoughts, analysis, fears and goals. In particular focus on:

  • Your customers, what they need and why they buy from you. What do your customers think about your company? If in doubt, ask them. Which customers are also buying from competitors, and why this is so? Which are the most and least productive customers?
  • What competitors are offering that you don’t and vice versa? Try to see these answers through the eyes of a prospective customer.
  • How good or bad are your products and services? What relative value for money do they offer compared to competitors offerings? How can you make better products at a lower cost? What other products do your customers need?
  • What does the market know about your business? Which communication and marketing promotions will increase sales and market share?
  • What do you need (money, people, technology, facilities etc.) to reach your goals? Where are the gaps between what you have and what you need? How can those gaps be filled?

The output of this process should be action lists, Key Performance Indicators, measurement tools,  sales forecasts, efficiency measurements and plans to monitor competitive activity and customer satisfaction. Set a review schedule so all of these are examined relentlessly. At this point you may choose to put all this down in one of the business plan templates, so that you have a coherent record.

When you do review your plan, do not be afraid to change tack when you need to, but don’t make excuses –  acknowledge that either the planning or the execution was bad. Plan better next time.

 This article was written by consultant Ed Hatton. See www.themarketingdirector.co.za for more information. Ed’s business advice blog is at http://marketingstrategy.co.za

©copyright  Ed Hatton. All rights reserved. You may republish this article or extracts from it provided you acknowledge me as the author and acknowledge my copyright.

This article was written by Ed Hatton and first published as a Sanlam Cobalt Business Tips article during December 2010. Sanlam has valuable resources for entrepreneurs and you should consider subscribing to receive the Sanlam Cobalt articles if you have not already done so

 …. the simple plan

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