However hard it is to think ahead in such turbulent times, it makes sense to consider your long term prospects and start building towards your future today. Your business can’t afford to fail and therefore you can’t afford to not plan your business future. Not planning is planning to fail!
It’s worth noting that 2022 will likely not get easier, just slightly more predictable as challenges to global supply chains and shipping logistics start to settle and other elements of the new normal fall into place!
So how do you start future-prepping and assessing what your company is going to need in the short and long term?
The answer is with a business plan.
It’s surprising how many recent startups haven’t set out their roadmap from the beginning. It’s a path to failure. After all, sheer common sense should dictate the need to conceptualize a future business plan in order to move from startup to established.
Your business plan is, therefore, the tool that will help you make decisions about what’s ahead. It’s not set in concrete, though, but open to adjustment in a flexible and agile way.
So let’s take a deep dive into the topic.
Why Business Planning is Important
There are several good reasons why deciding to plan your business future is important in an economy where nothing seems very stable or long-lasting:
Business Planning Avoids Haphazard Actions
Planning prepares you for any unexpected events (e.g. further lockdowns!) and unwanted activities (e.g. strike action) that may happen in the near future. If you plan for these events, you at least avoid making decisions that are not well thought through.
Planning ahead also offers the opportunity to collaborate with all your key personnel and gain considered, relevant perspectives. This will bring into your whole business a wider awareness about what you might need to do in the near future to achieve your goals. This keeps everyone on the same course.
Planning Minimizes Risks
When there’s a plan in place, an organization becomes better equipped to handle regulatory and economic risks in a variety of circumstances. Allocating resources for possible eventualities and making proper preparations can be key to staying afloat during difficult trading times. And you’ll have effectively minimized risk and insecurity. No one can do more. But some firms do less!
Planning Provides a Basis For Control
Planning for the future sets your standards and goals early on. You’ll be able to take control of issues such as cost increases and profitability, budgeting, operational costs, and human resources – basic issues that keep your business afloat.
Business Planning Helps in Proper Distribution of Resources
When you plan properly, you can allocate the available resources wisely to meet your business objectives.
For example, when giving employees projects and tasks to do, your plan will guide your finance officer to assign resources, in order of priority, to the projects that will bring the most ROI, putting your company in a better position to achieve success.
Where to Start to Plan Your Business Future
1. Invest in cutting-edge expertise
If you feel you haven’t yet got a handle on forward business planning, a good place to start is with investing in some expert advice. This might come from independent consultants, industry experts, sales outsourcing professionals etc. The idea is to give your brand a powerful edge to move forward from.
The reason this is important is because, more and more, businesses find that they don’t have all the solutions in-house. The trend, therefore, is to partner with experts – perhaps for a short time but sometimes long term – to gain the expertise they need for forward planning.
However, you need to be careful when choosing these hires or partnerships because not everyone has the experience and insights you need. Your documented business plan (see below) will bring into focus what you need!
2. Make it digital
If there’s one thing we’ve all learned in the past almost two years, it is the power of digital. There’s no business future without digital platforms, omnichannel marketing and selling, and state-of-the-art technology!
So your business plan needs to include how you will use these digital assets:
- How can you leverage the technology and maximize your profits?
- How can you incorporate virtual selling into your business?
- What else can your business do that’s not already in place?
In other words, when you plan your business future, you have to actually define now how you will incorporate digital platforms and align yourself with the digital trends that will not go away.
3. Consider sustainability
Going green is no longer just part of future business trends. It’s here to stay. More and more consumers are choosing to shop consciously. This means that customers are making an effort to choose vendors and businesses that have environmentalism at the heart of their message.
As a result, and in order to survive in your business future, your business needs to plan on how you will apply green issues to your product or services, your mission, and your company values. This is another change that will not go away.
However, there are two caveats here:
1 Although increasing your green credentials guarantees a positive brand image and an increase in consumers, it’s also a beneficial decision for your business in your long-term plan. Changing the backbone of your business in terms of values, infrastructure, and more will save you money down the line. For example, if you have a more energy-efficient office, your power bills will reduce accordingly.
2 Customers and clients are now very aware of the habit of “greenwashing.” As a result, you must include in your business plan for going green some serious checks on whether the options you choose are really green or just look green.
4. Automate in the right way.
Automation is becoming more valuable for businesses today. Manual tasks take time, and time costs money. As the world changes, you need to conserve your resources. Your competitors are constantly finding ways to cut their costs and increase productivity. In order to maintain your competitive edge, you have to meet like with like.
So, as you plan your business future, make sure to consider newer ways of saving money.
One way to do this is to introduce some element of automation. First, consider your business processes and which tasks are time consuming. Those are the ones to plan to automate.
Then develop a strategy for the automation process, and document it into your business plan (again, see below!).
- What tasks are your priorities?
- Which automation platform will you use?
It’s best to introduce automation slowly. This lets your employees see
- how it improves their productivity, and
- how they can focus on other tasks that need their valuable human input to increase revenue.
Overall, then, what should you do, now that you’ve considered all these issues for your future plan? The answer is document it – as we’ve kept mentioning above!
Document a Detailed Business Plan With Specific Descriptions
For every goal you want to achieve, you must document the plan. This keeps everyone on track and allows you to analyze and make adjustments as circumstances change.
So, for each new future part of the plan that you’ve named, document it.
If this is your first written plan, also include at the start who you are as a business, and the types of products and services you provide. In addition, describe scenarios that may occur plus your intended steps to deal with them. That’s because, in our ever-changing world, to succeed you need to be prepared.
Next, you need to secure your business future with these tips.
5 Tips For Planning Your Business Future
1 Plan to Stand Out From the Competition
Analyze your competition’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and the threats they pose for your business. Work out your unique value proposition and highlight it for your customers.
2 Plan to Adopt an Agile Approach to Your Customers
Linked to the above point is this one: When the world changes fast, you need to be able to move quickly to navigate changing customer sentiments. Agile businesses
- value customer feedback and work to solve customer issues
- focus on actively improving the value of their products and service
- reshape business processes and methods and redirect business goals to maintain a customer-centric approach.
3 Plan to Build an Adaptive Team
There are many ways to achieve the necessary adaptiveness for today’s marketplace. But an important one is to use data analysis of candidates when hiring. One such system is PI, but there are others. This means your hires will not only bring the necessary skills to secure your business future but also display the complementarity necessary for high-performing teams.
4 Plan to Build an Adaptive Workplace
Moreover, in the business landscape, adaptiveness has taken over from agility to a certain extent as a necessary condition in your workplace for future success. That implies being willing to change and adapt rather than simply making changes fast. Your business planning therefore needs to include ways of helping teams work outside their comfort zone and develop solutions to problems themselves as they meet them.
5 Plan For Employees’ Learning and Improvement
In order to survive future changes in marketing and selling, your business plan must include ongoing learning and development for all your employees. Indeed, millennials now expect this in the jobs they take on.
For instance, you may need to help them swap obsolete skills for newer ones. For example, digital meeting skills that are needed for WFH scenarios, instead of risk assessments that can be done much betterl by AI analyzing data lakes.
Another area that requires constant improvement as you review your business planning is your business processes. You should constantly optimize and enhance these over time. You might want to:
- Add value to both the internal operations of your organization and how you bring your services or products to your customers.
- Constantly innovate your business processes to outmatch the competition.
How to plan your business future in this ever-changing world? The best thing to do is accept the idea that change will happen and look on it as an opportunity to reset what needs resetting according to future business trends as they come along, and to grasp new ideas willingly. It’s called a flux mindset.
Similarly, you can embrace the fact that you will not have all the answers and that often you’ll have to make decisions without having all the facts you need. When you’re willing to accept the uncertainty of the future, you’re suddenly free to try new approaches and methods that might well increase the value of your business. A win-win scenario!
And finally, with this mindset, you can
- Adopt a different way of thinking when necessary – maybe thinking “outside the box,” being creative, and visualizing your plan to imagine a way forward.
- Adapt new ways of doing things in your business – forming new habits, adjusting your schedule, etc.
- Refuse to be a blamer – not railing against circumstances outside your power to change, but becoming a problem solver!
Remember how we said at the start that not planning is planning to fail? A stark choice! But you don’t have to start your planning alone.
We Can Help You Plan Your Business Future
Here at Waterways, we love all aspects of business and sales. We’ve navigated through many changes during our collective 150 years of experience and are heavily involved in supply chains, manufacturing, technical support, and customer service, as well as – yes! – water coolers.
So we’ll be delighted to consult with you about all aspects of planning your business future, your goals, your pain points, and your current dilemmas. Contact us today and secure your future in an ever-changing world.