Do you have a business plan or a gameplan?
As far as the majority of business start ups and owner-managers of small businesses are concerned there’s one piece of advice that gets offered to them more than just about anything else, which is:
You should not start up and run a new business without having a business plan.
In general, this is pretty good advice and worth taking notice of. However, a certain amount of qualification of this statement is also required.
And that is because there is no point in starting in business or commencing on a new business project with a business plan in place unless you have something much more fundamental and important that goes with it – and you should not prepare a business plan without it. So what is it that you also need?
A strategy – for your business and your marketing, or ideally for both.
Your strategy should define with complete clarity the ultimate ‘bigger picture’ objective that you want your business to achieve, on a profitable basis and over the longer term. Your business plan on the other hand will describe all of the tactics and activities you will put in place and use to achieve your overriding strategic objective.
For example, let’s imagine someone who is starting up a recruitment agency, in which case their strategy might be to establish their business as the leading UK service that specialises in the recruitment of marketing professionals for employment in the third sector.
Or in the case of someone setting up a restaurant their strategy might be to establish the business as the leading family-friendly gourmet restaurant in town.
In these examples they aren’t starting up any old restaurant or recruitment service, they are both starting up a business with very clear strategic objectives, and with very specific services which are aimed at defined customer groups.
The particular point being made is that without a specific strategy in place most business plans are at risk of being aimless.
For further clarification let’s take a look at some basic facts.
The majority of people who think about starting up in business end up not starting up at all, not first time around at least. The majority of those who do start up will have gone out of business inside three years. The majority of small businesses who survive their first few years will not have achieved the earnings that they had initially hoped and planned for, and the vast majority of businesses never achieve any growth.
A factor that is common to most, if not all, of these business failures and underachievers is that they almost certainly didn’t start out with both a strategy and a gameplan to make that strategy happen.
To repeat the earlier point, a business plan without an accompanying strategy is most likely going to be aimless and pointless.
However, if your business has a highly focused strategy then your business plan can effectively be turned into a gameplan – in other words an action plan that is 100% focused on achieving your strategy.
In many ways your approach to building a business or marketing strategy can be viewed like a military strategy, in that every war or competitive situation is made up of a number of campaigns, the campaigns are made up of several battles, and each battle comprises a number of engagements. And all of these are driven by an overriding strategy and gameplan.
In many ways this translates nicely to businesses of any size and in any situation. Without your strategy and accompanying gameplan your business will always be vulnerable and in danger of either stagnating, drifting aimlessly or trading uncompetitively and eventually going out of business.
But an equally important point to recognise is that you need to be prepared to change your gameplan right from your first competitive campaigns and engagements. As soon as you start engaging in your market the chances are that the responses you get from your prospects, customers, marketing partners and introducers aren’t always going to be exactly what you were expecting.
You’ll need to continually adjust, refine and adapt your gameplan to keep everything lined up to make your strategy happen. This is where you’ll need to learn how to wheel and deal, and continually test and rethink your ideas and assumptions about your market, your prices, your customers and competitors.
If your business plan is rigid and inflexible, and isn’t based on an overriding strategy, you’ll probably drift aimlessly for a while then slowly start to sink.
However, if you’re strategic in your approach, with a flexible and adaptable gameplan, you’ll not only find yourself to be a unique player in your market or industry, but you will also stand out like a beacon and be giving yourself a genuine opportunity to make your small business something quite special that your customers will notice above everyone else.
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