Are Your Goals Tied to Your Mission?
Look at the goals that you set for your business. These goals are the results that you absolutely, positively intend to achieve, and to a large extent, these goals determine how you set priorities and run your business. Your goals have to be consistent with one another so that you’re not running in different directions at the same time. In addition, you have to tie your goals to your company’s mission so that you’re heading in the order in which you want to go.
Can You Point to Major Opportunities?
If you want your business to grow and prosper in the long haul, you have to take advantage of opportunities as they come along. So don’t get too fixated on short-term economic problems, however severe; try to look over the horizon using your business plan to highlight the significant opportunities that you see heading your way (in technology, markets, and distribution, for example) and outline the actions that your company intends to take now to be in a position to take advantage of those opportunities down the road.
Have You Prepared for Threats?
You can easily paint a rosy picture of what the future holds for your company, but having a rosy picture doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to come true. Your company is in much better shape if you paint an objective picture – including the bad news along with the good. That way, you’re prepared for the dangers that are bound to be there.
Your business plan should point out the most significant threats that loom on the horizon (a market slowdown, new regulations, or increasing competition, for example) and offer ways to prepare for them. If you recognize threats before anybody else does, you can often turn a threat into a real business opportunity. Use Chapter 15 to help spot economic turning points.
Have You Defined Your Customers?
The more you know about your customers – who they are, how they act, what they want – the more you know about your company. Customers tell you how to succeed in the marketplace.
Describing your customers is much easier if you divide them into separate groups. Each group, or market segment, has its unique profile and places its own set of demands on has its distinctive shape, and establishes its own set of needs on your company. Your customers are so important to your company that you can’t afford to leave them out of your business plan.
Can You Track Your Competitors?
Your competitors are around to make life enjoyable. They’re the companies that always try to woo your customers away, promising products or services that have better value (more benefits, lower prices), and you can’t ignore them. So you have to identify who your competitors are, what they’re doing, and where they plan to go in the future.
The competition represents a big piece of your business environment. Therefore, your business plan should cover what you know about your competitors and – more important – how you intend to keep track of them on an ongoing basis. Your goal should also address how you intend to use what you find out to choose competitive battles that you can win.
Are You Ready for Change?
If one thing remains constant in the business world, it’s changed. Although some industries change faster than others, everything around you – from technology to competition to your market – is going to be a little different tomorrow than it is today, no matter what business you’re in. So if you want to keep up, you have to think two or three steps ahead. You must look carefully and continually at what may happen in the world and how it may affect your company.
Although your business plan paints an honest picture of how you see your company and what you see happening down the road, the program should also acknowledge that you don’t have a crystal ball.