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Business Planning for the Unexpected

  • January 8, 2021
  • Written by Community Futures Meridian

2020 has been a year of challenges and change. We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but the pandemic is far from over. Change will be the new constant. Consumer habits and some business models may never return to ‘normal’. However, experience has taught us that sustainable and successful businesses don’t get that way by accident. Businesses increase their chances of success by investing in the on-going development of their business plans. 

We know it can be difficult to make plans when the future is uncertain. It’s even more difficult to make important decisions at the last minute. The work that you put into planning could have a huge positive impact on your business. A solid and flexible plan will help you understand how to benefit from your strengths and overcome your weaknesses. It’ll provide guidance to you when overcoming threats to your business, while ensuring you have the capacity to take advantage of new opportunities. Most of all, your business plan will help you navigate continued change. 

 As we move into 2021 consider these tips to help you build a successful plan:

Prepare to Plan

2021 is going to be a marathon, and you’d never start running a marathon without stretching. You need to prepare yourself for the hard work of planning. It’s time for you to reframe, reorganize and declutter. It’s time to purge 2020. Get it all out! Then find a day or two of dedicated time for planning. The key is to minimize your distractions and find a space to focus on the task at hand.

Download our free business plan guide: https://cfsask.ca/images/pdfs/general/CF_Business_Plan.pdf

Review and Reflect

Now that you have a dedicated time and space for your planning, it’s time for you to review and reflect. A good tool to use is a SWOT analysis where you look at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  What worked for your business last year.? Write down the decisions that are paying off. Keep a record of those successes. These are key strengths you can build upon. Spend some time analyzing your failures. Be sure not to dwell! What would you like to improve for 2021? Write it down and then turn your attention to opportunities and threats. What changes could threaten your business in 2021? What opportunities might arise? Meet with your employees to get their perspective and gather ideas for how your team can overcome challenges in the new year. Check in with your partners and spend some time evaluating new partnerships. 

Set Your Goals

After reviewing and reflecting on the last year, you should have a realistic picture of where you are today. Where do you want to be a year from now? What is your vision for your business? 

Start by creating a broad goal for your entire year. For example, maybe you want to increase your revenue by 25%. Then establish smaller goals that complement and help you reach your main goal. For example maybe you want to add a new service or product line? From there, create an outline of how you’ll reach those goals, when you want to accomplish them, and ways that you can ensure you stay on track. This becomes the start of your action plan. Put it up on a whiteboard in your office; keep it in sight and in your mind. 

Nail Your Numbers 

No business can be successful without a thoughtful and realistic financial plan. Spend some time with your accountant to review last year’s finances. What areas of your business are making money? Where are you falling behind? Plan for known uncertainty and have a plan to cover needed operating cash and any money needed to achieve your 2021 goals. 

Download our Cashflow Template: https://cfsask.ca/images/pdfs/general/CF_Cash_Flow.xlsx

Find out more about the Regional Relief and Recovery Loan (RRRF) - up to $40,000 is available to help small and medium sized rural business cover operating expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic.  https://meridianregion.ca/item/95-rrrf-regional-relief-and-recovery-fund

Update Your Plan

Having a well thought out, attainable, and forward-thinking business plan is one of the most important business assets. With your goals and broad action plan in hand it’s time to update your plans with specific details. You don’t need to write a 100 page document. In just a few pages you can update your business and marketing plans. We recommend the use of the Business Planning Canvas. You can download the template at https://meridianregion.ca/images/Tips__Tools/Business_Planning_Canvas_Template_2018.pdf

Build Leadership 

A strong team is critical to business success. Once you have your overall business plan updated, build a plan to invest in your team. Take the time to conduct your annual staff reviews. Develop professional development goals and build a plan for building your team’s skills. Work with your staff to review and improve your systems and processes. 

Celebrate accomplishments

Let’s face it: 2020 was a rough year full of unpredicted challenges. If you’ve weathered the storm lets take time to celebrate the start of something new.  Do something special for your team and celebrate their strengths. Appreciate the present moment and give thanks. 

Conclusion

If 2020 taught us one thing, it’s that you can’t predict the future. Prepare your team to be resilient to an uncertain future and constant change. This will take creativity and ‘outside of the box’ thinking. By developing a flexible and thoughtful business plan you will increase your chances of success heading into the New Year.

We’re here to help. Community Futures provides loans, advice and support. We are just a phone call away. 1(888) 919-3800 

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