Entrepreneurs and small business owners hear a lot of talk about preparing for the future, or "looking at the road ahead." Even here at Wise Business Plans, we're always telling clients to make sure they have a map to guide them through the twists and turns of starting and running their own company.
But what twists are we talking about? And how will you recognize the dips and turns ahead? What will they look like? That's where the experts we employ come in. They know the landscape and have done the market research that shows what future trends and technology may look like. Here are a few examples of what the map of the future may hold.
People may find that they are "online" all the time. There will be a constant connection to customers via wearable technology and touch sensors in the home, office and vehicles, even mass transit. Things like glasses and smart watches are already here and will become cheaper and more common. Quickly on their heels will be new products such as facial recognition, iris scans, even contacts for your irises and brain implants.
Your data will be the most valuable currency. As the struggle between more data/more resistance toward it, continues, consumer information will be more precious. Businesses that know a lot about their consumers and what they like can offer that knowledge to those that don't have or can't get the data. They will pay a premium for it because they can't operate without it. Along those same lines, privacy issues will become bigger than ever. As more data is collected from every aspect of a person's life, consumers will put up bigger walls protecting privacy. Customers will be less likely to freely hand over their email, online credentials and especially their actual address and phone number.
Refer to the original vision
But the pro-business plan lobby argues that, when market conditions unexpectedly change and you're thrown into disarray, it's important to refer to the original vision and belief system that you started out with. These will help to keep you grounded and avoid going off at tangents every time you hit an obstacle.
A plan also helps to prioritise your daily activities. Without it, everything becomes urgent and the resulting chaos will destroy your work/life balance and leave you feeling overwhelmed. If you are more than a one-person operation, a business plan enables company teams to align their activities to the overall vision and to work congruently to achieve the same goals.
"An effective business plan is a flexible, growing and dynamic tool that can help you think creatively and come up with new solutions for some of your toughest business challenges," she says.
Keep the plan simple
However, the thinking around the required depth and complexity of a business plan has changed. A decade or two ago, management gurus advocated elaborate 40-page plans with detailed sections covering objectives, mission, organisational structure, target market, customer behaviour, competitive advantage, marketing strategy, sales forecasts and financial projections.
The reasons for this change are many. A lengthy document is likely to be unread — particularly by younger-generation employees with short attention spans. Even if it is read, it's unlikely to be remembered in detail because of its complexity.
What should be in your one-pager? South Africa-based digital marketing and content strategist, Casandra Visser, suggests:
- Vision – What are you
- Mission Statement – What you do, what your product/service is and who your customers are
- Objectives – Your business goals for the next week, month or year
- Strategies – How you plan to achieve your objectives
- Action Plan – Steps you will take to action your strategies, including dates/deadlines.
Finally, remember that your plan is a living, breathing document that needs to be meaningful in a constantly changing business environment. So, break up your annual plan into quarterly plans that take into account micro and macro changes in your specific operating environment. Keep it relevant, keep it simple — and your business plan will be an invaluable asset in navigating your business journey.