Business Plans are a useful tool in managing and growing the business. The complexity of the plan varies with the size and nature of the business but here are a few ideas to improve your plan and areas of focus.
1. Don’t delay.
Too many business owners only create a plan when banks or investors insist on it. Find the time even if you are too busy getting things done. The busier you are the more you need a plan. Don’t spend all the time just putting out fires; the entire business may be lost if you focus on one burning issue.
2. Shorten the planning horizon. With the speed of change today the 5 year plan has become obsolete. Shorten the timeline to 3 years. You can have great vision and well developed strategy but unless you can connect the dots between where you are today and where you want to be you will fail.
3. Manage what you can measure. Knowledge is power. Monitor the right information and your plan will have a greater chance of succeeding.
4. Be Cash Flow sensitivity.
Most business owners seem to focus on profits instead of cash. The reality is that businesses spend cash to operate, not profits. Understanding cash flow is critical. If you only get one report to manage the business make sure it is a cash flow chart.
5. Support a strategic exit
Finally, at some point, the owners of the firm may decide it is time to exit. Considering the likely exit strategy in advance can help inform and direct present day decisions. The aim is to liquidate the investment, so the owner/current investors have the option of cashing out when they want.
Common exit strategies include;
• Initial Public Offering of stock (IPO’s)
• Acquisition by competitors
• Family succession
• Management buy-outs
Investment decisions can be taken in the present with one eye on the future via a well-thought-out business plan. Given that valuing firms is notoriously difficult and subjective, a well-written plan will clearly highlight the opportunity for the incoming investors, the value of it and increase the likelihood of a successful exit by the current owner.
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