If You Haven't Started Your Annual Business Plan for 2019, DO THIS

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If you haven’t started your 2019 annual business plan yet, don’t worry.  It’s never to late!   But where to start?

The first step in writing your annual business plan is to take a deep look at your current situation.  And I don’t mean just think about your business while driving home this evening.  This entails taking a deep and unbiased look at last year’s performance:  what went wrong, what worked, and what are the indications for the future.

Before you start your deep dive, you’ll want to gather pertinent information that you can review.  Have a white board or notebook available to capture thoughts and observations as they surface.  Include your team or trusted advisors in the process if you’re comfortable with their input.  A good tool to start your analysis is the tried and true SWOT analysis.   You can find a good PLAN REVIEW TEMPLATE with a SWOT template here.

Your annual business plan should focus on three areas: Marketing, Financial Budget and Operational Improvement. 

Let’s look at each.

Sales and Marketing

Start your sales and marketing planning with a 30,000-foot view of the situation.  Do some basic industry and market research on growth trends, emerging products and services as well as the general state of the economy.  A good place to find industry trend information is your local library’s website. The Louisville Free Public Library has expert business librarians that can help. Find information online at:  www.lfpl.org.    

The Louisville Small Business Development Center also has subscriptions to major market research databases and can provide you with detailed industry analysis and trend reports free of charge.  You can request an industry analysis report by contacting me directly at doetken@greaterlouisville.com.

Don’t forget about your competitors! Make a list of your biggest competitors and compare what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong against your business.   Download the Louisville Small Business Development Center’s Competitive Strength Analysis template HERE. This is a good tool to use to gain insight where your competitors may be winning.

After a hard look at your industry, your competitors and your past performance, you should have gained some ideas to implement in the upcoming year.  This will be the basis for your sales and marketing plan that you’ll implement in 2019.

Financial Budget

Really understanding your business’s finances is key to a successful business.  It’s important to know what the true expenses and revenue drivers of your company are.  Spend some time analyzing three-year trends in revenue and expense.   Using basic trend analysis, you can spot excessive expenses that need further investigation, identify high margin products or customers for expansion and develop a framework for your 2019 budget.

Having a budget is one of the things that separate a good company from a great company. The ability to forecast (somewhat accurately) revenues, expenses and cash flow takes a little practice but is key to truly managing your business.   Your budget doesn’t have to be overly complicated but the process of planning where your cash comes from and where it must go is vital.  Capterra published a great blog and created an easy Excel budget template that you can find HERE.  

This is also a good time to start gathering tax info for your 2018 taxes.  Wouldn’t it be great to have everything done early this year?

Operational Improvement

As part of your annual plan, you’ll want to assess how your business operates day to day.  Review workflow processes and capture this information in a workflow diagram.  You’ll want to do this for each of your major business processes and note possible improvements as you go. It’s a good idea to involve your team in this review as they are familiar with them. 

You’ll also want to review the major processes of your business especially the following:

Major Vendors, Suppliers & Service Providers – While having a vendor as a trusted partner, it is always prudent to identify substitutes, check prices, terms and service in case they are needed.

Insurance – Meet with your insurance agent and review current policies.  This is especially important if you’ve bought or sold new equipment or other assets for your business in the previous year.   You may want to increase or decrease your coverages accordingly.   Also, your annual review is a good time to meet with competing insurers to make sure you are getting the best coverage at the best price.

Legal – Make time to have a conversation with your attorney as part of your review.  This is doubly important if you are involved in any ongoing business litigation.  It easy to try to ignore something this unpleasant and just let the attorney handle it, but this is unwise.   Also, if you have intellectual property rights, trademarks or copyrights make sure you are current with all filings and protections

Tax and Accounting – Not happy with your current CPA, payroll processor or bookkeeping company?  Now is a great time to interview new tax and accounting professionals as part of your annual plan. 

Human Resources – Review current employee policy and procedures manual and employee handbook for needed updates and revisions.  Have you been meaning to write a policy and procedures manual or employee handbook?  Interview several HR professionals to help you and resolve to do this as part of your annual plan.  HR law is complex and best handled by professionals.

Include a review of your current team.  Do you have the right people in the right jobs?  Is there one employee that is a continual drain on the company that needs to go? Are there certifications or training that needs to be implemented? 

Put It All Together 

Now its time to start to put things down on paper.   On page two of your PLAN REVIEW TEMPLATE, start to populate the appropriate areas.   Use this to organize your tactics for your annual plan.  The key is to produce a document that encapsulates all your review and research and lays out tactics for the upcoming year to achieve the goals you’ve identified.

Using templates to produce your plan is a good way to save time.  Some of my favorites are Jim Horan’s One Page Business Plan, which is good for existing businesses as well as SCORE’s Business Plan Template for an Established Business.   Find Jim’s template HERE and SCORE’s template HERE.

A Plan is Nothing Without Execution!

Most plans fall apart right after they are written.  That why it is vital to build in help and support right form the beginning. 

Here are some good resources:

Business Plan Bootcamp – This intensive workshop is hosted by the Louisville small Business Development Center and SCORE spans two Saturdays and is 12 hours of hands on training by professional consultants. After completing this course you’ll have the tools, templates and knowledge needed to really produce a professional business plan.   Get more info and REGISTER HERE

Find a SCORE Mentor – SCORE has about 60 professionals who have agreed to volunteer to help Louisville’s entrepreneurs and business owners.  Having someone to meet with regularly and keep you accountable is key to meeting all your goals in 2019.   You can find more information at www.louisville.score.org   or REQUEST A MENTOR HERE

Meet with Your LSBDC consultant – Need help with your Annual Business Review?  LSBDC consultants will meet with you one-on-one and where you are to help you with your planning process.  You can  REQUEST A CONSULTATION HERE  or find more information at www.louisvillesmallbusiness.com.

Sign Up for Peer-To-Peer Support – Making time to work on your business strategically is one of the hallmarks of a well-run business.  And joining a CEO Roundtable is probably the best way to budget the necessary time.  CEO Roundtables are groups of 8 – 10 business owners of non-competing businesses of similar size that meet monthly to help and support each other, share best practices and generally be a sounding board for new ideas.  You can get more information or  SIGN UP HERE

Don’t neglect to improve your skills.  There are many free or low-cost small business seminars, webinars and workshops hosted by the numerous entrepreneur support organizations in the area.  You can find information for any organization’s workshops and SIGN UP HERE

If you want to really make 2019 the best year ever, quit thinking about it and get started planning your year now.   Please contact me directly if you think I can help.