When’s the last time you went on a vacation without an itinerary?
Chances are, never. So let me ask you, when was the last time you sat down and conducted a quarterly business plan review, or even an annual review? If your answer is similar to over 80% of business owners who say they start the year without a plan, then I’m here to tell you that this needs to change – starting right now.
To continue to grow your small business, startup, or any business for that matter, you need to review your progress on a quarterly basis. So set a reminder in your calendar to sit down with your business plan and undertake a thorough review.
I recommend scheduling the first saturday after the 15th of the following months: April, July, October, and December for best results, following this highly effective review structure I use for my businesses.
Step 1: The Quarterly Financial Analysis
The first step in the quarterly business plan review is to assess your financial standpoint. Look really closely at your financial results for the quarter – the numbers that reflect your efforts as a business owner and manager. Look at metrics such as:
- Your Spending:
Are you spending too much or too little? A misconception I encounter all too often is that spending less than your budget is a good thing. That isn’t always the case, as too little spending on your business can be as bad as too much. For instance, did you avoid hiring a new person to save on overheads? Could this have reduced your earnings as a result?
- Your Overhead:
Do you have services you don’t really need, or aren’t getting the most value from? Is that Dropbox subscription sitting unused? Is water delivery to the office necessary? Get tough on unnecessary spending.
Did you hit your sales targets? Do you even have sales targets? You NEED to specify measurable sales figures during the simple business plan process each and every quarter to be able to measure whether your sales are going up, going down, or going nowhere at all.
Say you exceeded your sales targets, you might think it’s an automatic “job well done”. Be careful. You need to look at your budget at the same time. Did you exceed sales targets, but exceed your budget in the process? If so, that may affect your net revenue, so you need to look at the bigger picture and analyze how much you spent to bring in the earnings.
I want to share an insider secret with you. If you’re a small business, solopreneur, or entrepreneur going at it alone, then you must treat your startup like a real business. No questions asked. That’s because if you don’t, and if you don’t take steps to create a plan for your success, then you WILL miss out on growth opportunities.
In fact, in a small business study of 2,877 small business owners, 64% of those who made a business plan, and stuck to it, reported growing their business. Compare this to only 43% of those that didn’t have any formal business plan in place. As seen below, other metrics such as “Secured Capital” and “Secured a Loan” also favored those who
planned for success.
Image source: https://smallbiztrends.com/2010/06/business-plan-success-twice-as-likely.html
That means you need to hold each team member of your business, including yourself, accountable for achieving goals and milestones you set as part of your simple business plan.
This is the only way you can expect to improve your finances, your business, and even your life. This rings especially true for the people who manage one of the most important aspects of your business – your finances.
Step 2: The Quarterly Sales Analysis
The next step in a quarterly business plan review is your sales – what sold well, and what didn’t?
This is where you take a look at exactly where money is coming into your business, and from where. You need to use your financial data and look beyond the bank account to the root of your business income, and the factors that influence your cashflow.
Some of these influential factors could be:
- Seasonal effects:
Do some products sell better at certain times of the year than others?
Is a new hire doing well?
Are there external economic influences (such as a Federal election, perhaps?) at play that can either drive business growth, or quiet things down?
Have you been doing any? Is a marketing campaign doing well, or not doing well?
Now you’ve completed Step 2, you should have an understanding of what you want to achieve for your business in terms of financial goals, and you will now know how you are going to achieve it through sales figures. So if you find that your sales targets are not being met, then you need to adjust your marketing.
After all, successfully executed marketing will lead to sales, sales lead to revenue, and revenue equals profit in your pocket – if your expenses are managed!
So let’s take a look at Step 3.
Step 3: The Quarterly Marketing Analysis
Your marketing plan drives your business growth, and is essential to this business plan review process I use for each one of my thriving businesses.
Your marketing analysis needs to consider the following:
Did you budget enough funds to achieve the sales figures you set in Step 2? Remember, your marketing budget is essential for generating new business, so you need to find a balance here. A lot of this comes from experience, and a business coach can walk you through baseline figures that work for your business.
- Your Team:
Analyze the job description of every one of your employees – even if it is only yourself. After all, clarity of roles in the office leads to achievement in the boardroom, so make sure every person is playing their part in your business, and reaching their own targets too. If it’s only you, then it’s time to get tough. With every role that you play, I want you to ask yourself “would I fire myself” for each position you hold.
There are two potential outcomes here if the answer is “yes”: 1) fire yourself; or 2) implement a performance improvement plan. This same approach can be used on any of your employees (albeit tactfully) to assess where your team is at. Treat it informally – spend five minutes or so doing it, and save the detailed review for the end of the fiscal year.
If you don’t know your Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, then you need to define them before you can measure the results of your marketing efforts. KPIs are like the lights on your car dashboard – if nothing lights up, then nothing should be wrong. So if you aren’t achieving business growth, then you can look to your KPIs for insight. But beware of misleading KPIs, or focusing only on KPIs that could sacrifice other areas of your business. Just like in the sales example earlier, you may be exceeding sales targets, but did you exceed your budget too?
Step 4: Schedule It!
The final (and most important) step in the business plan review process is to schedule it!
Use an online, digital calendar such as Google Calendar to schedule a review of your business on all of your digital devices (PC, phone, tablet, computer, etc.) so that you can see it and access it anywhere, on any device. And make this a must.
Once it’s scheduled into your calendar, you absolutely CANNOT delete it. You are only able to drag and drop. Doing this increases your likelihood of following through – a form of accountability that I can recommend to you as a business coach.
Your Business Plan Needs a Fresh Set of Eyes
Just like creating a travel itinerary for a trip to the Bahamas, you need to know the direction you want your business to take in order to get desirable results – whether it be profits, brand reach, increased business valuation, or any other KPI. And that’s what an effective business plan can do for you. But that’s not where the work ends.
While “taking it as it comes” can be fun and relaxing sometimes, let me ask you: Do you want your business to be fun and relaxing, or do you want to make an impact in your profession, and continue to excel as a leader in your field? That’s why you MUST review your plan at least quarterly – more often if you can – to ensure that you’re running on track for a podium finish.
Titanium Life Podcast E076 – http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/apollo-productions/titanium-life-with-arman-sadeghi/e/e076-quarterly-business-plan-48051641
A Business Plan Doubles Your Chances for Success, Says a New Survey – https://smallbiztrends.com/2010/06/business-plan-success-twice-as-likely.html