The best businesses see business planning as a continuous activity setting both long-term and short-term goals and objectives. Both are important, as is regular monitoring to determine if goals and objectives are being met...
An analysis and review of the external environment, combined with your own values and expectations, will help you to develop a purpose and a vision.
Purpose defines ‘what the business does’. It is an explanation of ‘the business that you are in’, guiding the activities of the enterprise and defining the key customers.
Vision, or goals, defines ‘where the business is going’. It is a statement of desired competitive position, outlining challenging but achievable goals with defined timescales.
When you are planning to meet your objectives you must set priorities within your established goals. When you are prioritising the steps you must beware of:
doing the most interesting work first;
doing the easiest work first; or,
doing things ‘in order’ - ie first in, first out.
Instead, evaluate each task in light of how important its completion is in moving you closer to your goals, as well as how urgent the completion of the task is with regard to your deadlines.
One way of planning your business is to undertake a PEST analysis. PEST analysis involves looking at the Political, Economic, Socio-cultural and Technological factors that could affect your business.
Every business needs to consider a range of external forces in order to take decisions. For many people imagination is very limited and is coloured solely by their own experience and personal beliefs. This can lead to wish fulfilment or a refusal to see reality or recognise the critical changes that are happening in the world around them. It can also lead to grabbing short-term solutions that, if they do not exacerbate problems, certainly ignore the longer term. In the business world pressure is often applied to take decisions quickly, acting on judgement and instinct rather than careful analysis.
Once you have decided on your course of action and begun to implement it, you then need to monitor progress and, if necessary, take corrective action.
In many cases, the implementation phase will be easy - or at least will appear easy. If you are installing a new machine then you will know whether it is working correctly. But don’t forget that installation is only part of implementation. If you expect a certain level of work to ensure that the machine pays for itself, you will also need to monitor sales, machine utilisation, etc. In other words, it is the whole project that you have to monitor.
A non-disclosure agreement, sometimes referred to as a confidentiality agreement, is a legally binding document that protects a product or process that you have invented from being disclosed by another party. If you do not want information about your invention to enter the public domain, then you should draw one up prior to meeting another party to discuss your idea. A non-disclosure agreement can provide 'peace of mind' and, in theory, should prevent your idea from being 'stolen'!
Scenario planning can be used both to look generally at what might happen in the environment (for example, the effect on the economy if the government changes) and to help you think specifically about your own business and its position within the market place.
Scenario planning is a way of helping businesses to organise what they already know, or can easily discover, about the possible environment in which they will be working, say, five years ahead. It helps to add a framework to the process of strategic thinking.
SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
SWOT analysis involves identifying your business’s strengths and weaknesses, and examining the opportunities and threats which may affect you.
SWOT analysis can be used to analyse your organisation and its environment.
Carrying out a SWOT analysis can help you identify changes that can be made to improve your business.