Business Planning: Despair, gloom, isolation, depression … words we’ve been hearing during this global pandemic. With the current state of a depressed economy, many small business owners feel as though there is no need to plan ahead. Their idea is to just endure these uncertain times as best as possible, hoping for a brighter future.
On the contrary, planning is a must. When the recovery starts (and it certainly will one day), long-term growth will be a by-product of planning, instead of doing nothing or making haphazard business decisions.
Planning involves many different aspects of a business. Consider these five areas in your planning to help your business survive the pandemic:
1. Strategic approaches
There are a multitude of strategic approaches that a business can take, and each can be equally successful. This is what creates a competitive marketplace. However, if you do not have a clear idea of your strategic approach, then you cannot make decisions that will consistently lead to accomplishing predetermined goals.
Whether it is during good times or bad times, you must know what direction you want to take your company in order to better compete with rival businesses. Examples of different strategic approaches might be:
- Strive to be a low-cost provider.
- Have a higher quality product or service than the competition.
- Focus on a narrow market niche.
If you’re not completely sure of what strategic approach you will be undertaking, now is the time to perfect and market an approach that is most likely to secure business now and in the future.
Even though revenues are down in most businesses, marketing is essential to keep your company’s name in front of customers and prospects. Although you may need to reduce your marketing budget, it is important to concentrate on those marketing components that have and will produce the best results for the money spent.
As your business starts having an upturn, then your marketing strategy can be updated. Marketing is an integral part of any business and cannot be ignored, even during times of trouble. Having a marketing strategy allows you to connect with current customers, identify potential customers, and then convince everyone that your products and services have intrinsic value to meet their needs.
Strategic alliances can be a viable growth option for many small businesses. They can be a way to monetize what your business has to offer with little cost or liability. Forming the right alliances can improve market access and allow your company to gain entry into markets that would otherwise not be open to you.
When business is slow, it can be a great time to investigate different types of alliances that would be a good fit and start communicating with potential alliance partners.
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Financing and budgeting are also essential elements of planning. Businesses must plan for the future to ensure sufficient capital is available for operations, asset acquisitions, debt servicing, and possible expansion. Near-term and future cash needs must be anticipated; investigate various governmental assistance programs that are available and apply as soon as possible. Without proper financial planning, your operations could come to a standstill.
Although many businesses (if not most) have had to furlough employees during the pandemic, companies must plan when and how employees will be rehired. Businesses also need to consider if skill sets in the future will differ from the skill sets required today.
The best products or services cannot be sold or provided without quality employees, so if your employees were laid off, you need to consider if those same employees will be available when operations resume at full strength. If you will be hiring new employees, there needs to be proper training in place to facilitate returning to full operation as soon as possible. Employees are the most valuable asset your business has, so employee planning is definitely an important aspect of overall general business planning.
Create a blueprint for the future
Although business survival rather than planning might seem like the activity of the day, small businesses must still plan, if even only for the next quarter or next six months. Proper planning today with forethought for the future allows for implementation with a reasonable timeline. If you choose to wait until “the time is right” before planning and executing the action, you may miss out on opportunities.
Planning is the blueprint for building a solid business. It is a road map to guide your company to success. Rarely does a business beat its competition by making spur-of-the-moment decisions. Good planning and good execution are interrelated functions that create positive outcomes.