Make business planning part of your success

Finding time to plan might feel like a luxury, but it’s one of the best things you can do to help your business thrive. Wherever you are in your business journey, we’ve got your back when it comes to business planning.

Starting with a business plan helps you define what your business is, how you will operate and what you hope to achieve over time.  It helps you test your new business idea, set operational and financial goals and make sure your business is manageable and effective.  You also need it to secure financing and investment to get your business up and running.

If you don’t already have a business plan or are writing one for the first time, check out our Write a business plan guide. It will help you define your vision, goals and operations.

It’s important to not let business planning drop down your priority list when you’re in the thick of it. Here are 6 tips to keep your business plan on track and help you gain back some control.

Three women sit around a wooden table laughing with their laptops open in front of them.

1. Review your plan regularly

A business plan is not a set-and-forget document. It needs to change as your business changes over time. Get out your business plan and read it. Does it still reflect where your business is and where you want it to be?

Are there external impacts on your business you need to consider? How can you adapt to respond to challenges and opportunities?

Reviewing your business plan at 3-, 6- and 12-month intervals is good practice, as well as when there are any significant changes to the market, or for you.

Consider the flow-on effects of updating your business plan – if it changes, you’ll probably need to update your marketing and social media plans to reflect your new goals and reach any targets you’ve set.

2. Make planning fun and collaborative

Business plans are more likely to succeed if you keep staff engaged and involved with your vision of success.

Collaborative planning is a great way to check how the business is performing.  You can uncover roadblocks, gaps and areas for improvement, as well as identifying what’s working.

Don’t be afraid to encourage creative thinking and involve all staff members across your business. It will make them feel appreciated and they may see opportunities that you don’t.

You never know where the next great idea might come from, whether that’s a small improvement to processes, or a new product to expand your line.

3. Set achievable goals

Your vision of success is unique to you and your business. Goals can take time to achieve, and the end-goal can feel like a mountain to climb.

Create smaller, actionable goals to build a sense of momentum and progress in your business. Ticking off these goals as you achieve them will set you up for success in achieving your immediate, medium and long-term vision.

Not sure where to start? Use Business Victoria’s free Business Planning Tool. It steps you through the tasks that most successful businesses undertake for your stage of business. You might still be testing your business idea or have seized a new opportunity to expand.  The Business Planning tool helps make big tasks easy to manage. You can choose your current priorities and find complex tasks broken down into bite-sized pieces as well as related resources, tools, and templates.

4. Create an action plan

It doesn’t matter how great your business plan is if you don’t use it. Creating a 12-month action plan will help you focus on the things that matter most.  Break your large goals into smaller achievable activities with timeframes.  A great way to get started is to think about 3 things you’d like to work on or achieve over the next 12 months. For each one, list the most important actions to take.

Setting diary reminders is a great way to make sure your action plan remains on track. To get started, try the one-page action plan template.

5. Build in resilience and plan for uncertainty

A great business plan can’t protect you from everything, but it will help you to respond with confidence. You need to consider your risks, take action to minimise them and prepare to adapt when challenges arise.

A resilient business can adapt more easily to disruptions. To build the resilience of your business you can:

  • consider how different market forces will impact your business
  • define how you will respond in difficult times and document actions to take
  • identify potential new markets and diversify suppliers
  • update critical information, processes and policies such as insurances.

Staying operational and retaining your staff, assets and brand equity are all important to long-term success. If you’re prepared for the worst, you’ll be in a strong position to recover, re-launch and/or grow when the time is right.

To start preparing your business for the best chance of success during challenging times, use Business Victoria’s Disaster Resilience Toolkit.

6. Get help from experts

You don’t have to do it all and you can’t know everything. Getting advice from specialists is an essential part of any business, no matter what stage you’re at.

Having trusted advisers and experts on board can help test and confirm your ideas and set realistic goals. Getting advice from an expert who can look at your business objectively is an important way to understand how your business is performing and how it can develop.

You can get expert advice from an accountant, lawyer, financial adviser, banker, or business coach, depending on your business and goals. Your planning will improve with access to their focus and in-depth knowledge.

Engaging with a business coach or mentor is another great way to test plans, receive support, and brainstorm improvements. Learning from their experience and applying their insights will help you succeed.

Not sure where to start? Book a session on the Business Victoria Small Business Bus. The Bus travels around metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria, bringing expert business advice to you.