Do you have a plan in place to grow your business into the future? Today’s business environment is much more difficult to survive in and proper planning will ensure your success. If your business is failing or just barely getting by, it is likely that you do not have a written business plan in place or if you do, you probably don’t review and update it on a regular basis. In the past, you could get away without one but that is no longer the case, business is just too competitive these days. Remember that failing to plan is the same as planning to fail. You need a clear roadmap to determine where you are going in the future and these plans must be communicated and embraced by all of your employees.

 

Once you have a written plan in place, you then need to create a cash flow forecast and determine if you will be profitable with this plan. This also gives you something to measure against to see if you are actually achieving your objectives. This should also be backed up with market research to ensure that you are heading in the right direction and there is plenty of research available on the internet and through industry groups.

 

If you are considering buying a machine and complete an ROI (return on investment) consider this as only the first step. If you have the ROI supplied by the company selling you the machine be very leery of the data supplied. Do your research and be sure ahead of time that this will succeed. Suppose you look at buying a new Heidelberg to replace your existing equipment. You might want to forecast what your sales will be in the future and actually talk with customers to find out what their opinion is first. Any large outlay in cash should be carefully considered because most marketing research data shows that offset print is in decline and wishes will not turn that around. Same thing goes if you are considering a move into digital printing but as well, you have to consider the additional skills required for not only the operation, but for the sales force as well. Adding digital is a fad these days and does not guarantee success so remember that even though many companies have added the capability, they have not necessarily learned how to leverage it in today’s market.

 

Marketing research data is not always right. There are many cases where the data cannot exist because nobody knows about the technology. Who would have guessed that a mobile app would be able to generate $100,000 in revenue per day within 6 weeks of launching? Draw Something has achieved that with over 12 million daily users. Although it may look like app development is the way to go, HTML5 may just render app development as useless. Who knows, marketing research could not possibly predict this either way. Research data also does not take into consideration emerging technology that would wipe out existing technology, especially if they do not know what is coming. If Steve Jobs had relied on research data, Apple would never have become what it is today. That takes a different skill than what most people possess and it is not something that can be learned. Either you have it or you don’t.

 

Another critical factor is the support of the organization. Without it, even the best plans and ideas will fail. The plan needs to be properly communicated to everyone involved and that message has to carry out to the market. Everyone in the company needs to be on board so the plan has to include them and you need to demonstrate how the plan will benefit them. Not always an easy accomplishment in a traditional environment with older workers who would rather not learn anything new. I remember the days I was trying to convince film strippers that they needed to learn how to use a computer. Some people just need to lose their job and search the job market before they realize that you were right.

 

If you don’t know how to create a business plan, there are plenty of resources available to help with this. Most communities have a business resource centre and there are always plenty of consultants available. Just remember that many of the consultants are not forward thinkers and you want to check their background to make sure they are the right person for you. A turnaround consultant will smash your business to pieces so you want to avoid them…unless you are looking to close down.

 

While you are putting your plan together, you will be pre-planning every conceivable issue that could arise and be prepared for anything. This is when you would set up your pricing structure, predict your potential sales, assess the human resources required to carry out the plan, construction, marketing, training and anything else involved. Once you see the numbers, you will know whether or not you should proceed. If you can’t sell yourself at this point it might not be such a good idea. If you forecast a loss of $100,000 would you rather know before you committed or a year after when it becomes a reality? Maybe a loss in the first year is to be expected and that is the road to $500,000 profit in 3-5 years. That is what long term planning will show you.

 

Once you have your plan together, it would be a good idea to run it by a few people who can verify your numbers and assumptions. Your mom might not be the best person for this (unless she is an executive with experience) and your buddy might not be either. You need the advice of a seasoned professional who can offer an opinion and you will be looking for someone who might be highly critical and challenge you on your data. This is a good thing because you want to be sure before you move forward. Make sure you pick someone you can trust.

 

Remember the 6 P’s – Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance

 

No plan? Failure is in your future!

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