Develop Agility, Collaboration and Awareness within your Business Plan
The degree of success a company achieves is partially dependent on its ability to craft a thoughtful, clear, and actionable strategy that is embraced by those who could bring it to fruition, inside and outside the company. It must be seeded within the culture so that choices, decisions, and behaviors are influenced by it.
At one time, traditional business plans consisted of dozens of pages that included an executive summary, a SWOT analysis, financial projections, a development plan, a strategy overview, and a description of the competitive landscape. The intent was to firm up the strategy, put it in “stone” so it could be followed to the letter.
In today’s fluid and dynamic market, business plans used as five-year road maps are obsolete due to ever-changing shifts in the market between years 1 and 5. Often these shifts are tremors before the quake that call into question foundational assumptions used as the premise used in the planning decisions. When the shifts are seismic, not only are new plans required but so is a new mindset that ideates innovative ways of going on the offensive and capitalizing on new opportunities or defending your company against recent entrants targeting your base of business.
There are three points of attention that must be considered at this critical stage to ensure your strategy is best suited to drive your company in the right direction.
DELIVER VIABILITY – NOT JUST APPEASEMENT
The development of a business plan is often split into parts assigned to various individuals working independently on their section before submitting it for re-assembly as one document. All the segments are cobbled together, smoothed over and edited so that it appears to be presented from one voice.
Within the framework of a traditional business plan, it is efficient to work separately – which is why this approach is also problematic. The only thing gained by completing a business plan this way is appeasement. Breakthrough ideas are developed through the cross-pollination of diversity and the resulting discussions – but this would only generate chaos when trying to complete a strictly defined 40-page document.
In lieu of developing a business plan independently, departments should work collaboratively so that thought processes and conclusions are vetted by multiple fractions of the company. The goals are to strengthen and validate a concept’s viability by examining and exposing its weaknesses from points of view that could only be culminated from an exchange of diverse mindsets.
BREAKAWAY TO BREAKTHROUGH
Many companies fall into the “this is how we’ve always done it” camp of thinking. Daily operations are often engrained in organizational cultures which make them cumbersome to alter. However, there is no better time than at the outset of the development of a new business plan to assess and adjust long-standing processes that may be less than effective. By considering, contemplating, and collaborating with different parts of the company, inventive and contrary beliefs can be infused into the decision-making process to create a comprehensive, tactically strong business plan.
WHAT DOES YOUR MARKET REALLY WANT?
This is a step that simply cannot be missed. Even without a new business plan in the works, market research is a critical element to developing effective business strategies. There is often a misconstrued concept that (fill in the blank) “understands” what their target market wants, needs-based on hollow rationale. This rationale is often based on isolated incidents that are projected as a shared truth or a gut hunch that could not be articulated. In today’s dynamic landscape, companies truly wanting to best their competitors need to consistently track the pulse of the market and test theories based on their experiences.
Market research can be supplied by third-party agencies, software, surveys, or cold calls. It could also be gathered firsthand through in-person observations (ethnography) for discoveries about the target market to illuminate what they themselves may not have seen. For the most comprehensive view, it’s best to combine primary research (survey, cold call, and ethnography) with secondary research and to triangulate findings based on trends, patterns, associations, and relationships between outcomes.
It’s important to process the results of your market research with empathy, putting yourself in your prospective customer’s shoes, following the path they would take when interacting with your brand. This will give you the insight you need to form the right frame of mind before developing a business plan around services, products or ideas.
Through market research, you will not only find out what your prospective clients want from you but also how they perceive you and what will drive them to work with you and not your competition. Without this recon, you are flying blindly with your new business plan based on biases and preset ideas from past experience, which may or may not work this time around. Don’t take that risk with your team’s time and your company’s money.
The development of a successful business plan in this day and age requires a long view of your company’s growth while keeping an eye on how you intend to get there.