Every business plan, like every business, is different. You might start off not thinking you even need a place; you might change your goals and business model around. There's no one way to do it. But there's no denying that planning for the future of your business can help you grow and thrive, and see you through the tough times.
Jacob Kent-Ledger is the founder of Citiprint, a UK same-day colour printing service - here he shares with us his process of developing a business plan.
When we go shopping without a list, what tends to happen? We waste time and money on things we don't really need, often forgetting the essentials. We mill around the supermarket grabbing whatever catches our eye, with a stomach bigger than our wallets.
This all comes down to our ability and habit to do something or carry out a task without planning - and the same goes for business. The way I see it, there are three types of business owners, which I'll break down in a second.
First up, we've got the hobbyist business owner. The type of small business which has grown from a passion or a hobby and usually takes little more than an Ebay or Amazon account if you're selling a product, or perhaps a Facebook page for a service business. Then we've got the typical sole trader, where you're playing every single role in your business on your own. And then we also have business owners with staff and larger businesses.
The fact is, whether your business takes up one hour a week of your time or all of your time, planning is key and something we all too often overlook.
When I started Citiprint back in 2016, it came from 6 months of planning after seeing a gap in a very competitive market. As a seasoned business owner at the time, I knew how to plan certain elements of the business such as social media, website, suppliers and pricing structure, so started off with those bits. The problem is, a business can grow and snowball quickly. And I mean quickly! What started off as an outsourcing business with nothing more than a shared office soon became a company supplying some big brands. Within the first 6 months, we'd exceeded targets, smashed expectations and started to build a fairly strong image. But then we hit the plateau stage. The 'now what' stage?
Some people are happy just to make a living from their business and finish at 5pm on a Friday to be with family, kids or friends. Some people want to spend every hour of the day working on their business. But whatever your aspirations for your business, you have to have a plan. I had an investor offer in the first year of business and took it, assuming money alone was what needed to push us forward and grow the business. But we didn't plan. When you've got money in the bank, you'll always find a way to spend it, just like we spoke about earlier in a supermarket. You have to look at every eventuality, every risk and plan accordingly.
For me, time is the most valuable currency we have in business. Early on in any business, we spend every minute being the sales, accounts and production people until we can manage to take on staff. It's at this stage that most business owners fall down because we don't have time to actually plan our business' next move! We're on a dynamic journey where one day we may decide to chase contract work, but the next we find ourselves with enquiries from local customers. How can we plan when sometimes we don't even know where our business should be going?
To make it simple for all you business owners, whether you're thinking of starting or have been going for longer than I've been on this planet, here's my 5 tips for planning:
TIME: Manage your time and everything will fall into place. You don't have to get up at 5am or work til midnight but set aside time each day or week for your business. Identify what you've done well and not so well and how you'll improve next time.
MONEY: This isn't always the answer. Always evaluate whether what you need is actually a skill or an opinion. Remember, money misspent won't magically reappear, invest wisely with an ROI in mind.
GOALS: No matter the size of your goal, break them down into smaller achievable chunks and plan how you'll work towards them bit by bit.
MENTORING: Some of the most successful business leaders in history had great mentors. Experience always speaks volumes and is key when planning your business. For me, it's been absolutely paramount to find the right person who shares your vision and understands how to plan.
YOU: You know your business better than anyone else, so don't forget that a lot of this is on you. Be the one who develops or chases their passion for their business, and a lot will come naturally. Remember, simple tasks like writing that shopping list make our lives a lot easier, albeit without the impulsive purchases of Pringles or Ben & Jerry's!
We didn't get to where we are now without some planning. There are times things go right and many where things don't, but plan accordingly and there will always be a solution to push forward and continue growing. My daily routine now starts with a phonecall with the management in the business to make sure we're on top of what the day has to offer; small things like this will transform how you run your business.
And like the age-old saying goes... Fail to plan, plan to fail.
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