Business Plans – we should all have them, but the ones that you spend days (even weeks) writing only to sit on a shelf are no use to anyone.
We believe that a business plan should be simple to read, accessible and most importantly something you come back to regularly. With the constant changing of industries due to technology, we even have hesitations about solidifying detailed long-term (more than 2 year) plans. We’re more inclined to have some large goals of where we want to be after 2 years but leave the ‘how’ open for interpretation as the environment surrounding us changes.
What we do in our business
We love transparency so we’re more than happy to tell you our approach to business planning and monitoring.
To start with at the start of each financial year we set aside 2 – 3 hours to plan what we think the year is going to look like.
We typically complete a Balanced Scorecard for our business and this helps us to identify key areas that we need to keep an eye on throughout the year. The scorecard is ‘balanced’ because it doesn’t just focus on financial measures (something that people with accounting backgrounds we can be biased to focusing on) instead we add in internal processes, customer and learning factors. We’ve got more detail on what a balanced scorecard is here.
After we’ve completed the scorecard we’ve narrowed down 4 – 6 key metrics that we want to track for the year. We know that if we hit our targets on these metrics we will be performing in all four areas of the scorecard and therefore moving our business forward. Often to ensure we hit these key numbers there’s some standout actions that we need to take – these become projects to run throughout the year. We rank these in terms of greatest impact and easiest to implement and then prioritise them for the year ahead.
We continue by preparing a 3-way-forecast for the coming year.
To begin this, we use our financial figures for the 12 months just gone (yes, our bookwork is kept up to date at least weekly so we can do this in the first week of July). We then add in scenarios for what we expect to happen throughout the year, this includes client growth, new product releases and any additional costs.
The 3-way forecast then crunches the numbers to give us a detailed projected.
- – Profit and Loss (how much money we’re making)
- – Balance Sheet (what will our net assets look like)
- – Cash Flow Forecast (will we have enough cash throughout the year)
We then look over this, especially the cash forecast to determine if there’s any areas that we are going to have to be prepared for. For example, if we need to inject some capital to get products off the ground prior to sales.
From this we build out a dashboard plotting our performance against projected. We also add into this the non-financial metrics from our balanced scorecard – so we’re looking at everything on one page.
We work in 90 day cycles – 13 weeks just seems long enough to get projects completed without them dragging on.
At the start of each 90-day period we choose between 1 and 3 projects that we want to complete (these come from our prioritised list under setting strategy). Typically, we’ll choose a high impact and an ease of implementation project. We then break down the project into smaller tasks and milestones and allocate these between us.
We use a planning app to monitor progress and keep each other accountable. We’ve also just started working with an accountability coach to really ensure we follow through.
We also set ourselves a reward if we deliver and a punishment if we don’t – however as we’re business owners we’re naturally motivated to complete what we set out, however if you have staff in your business you will likely need to find their ‘currency’ or what motivates them so that they help you to move your business forward.
At the start of this blog we said the worst thing you can do is put a plan on a shelf. You need to find your organisation’s rhythm to monitoring progress.
We have a weekly meeting where we discuss business performance, tasks completed, operations and tasks due in the coming week.
We use the dashboard we built under ‘visualisation’ along with our project planner to monitor where we’re at. The system we use updates every night with the previous day’s results so we’re always looking at real-time data. If things change along the way (e.g. an additional product idea or software requirement) then we scenario plan that out and use our dashboard to compare our original scenario and the updated one and decide on what to do.
For important items, we set automatic alerts in our dashboard system – this means we don’t even have to log in to see what’s happening, the information comes to us and we can quickly action what we need to.
As our business grows and we have staff in dedicated areas, we will build them their own dashboard with their performance KPIs so that they have the information they need to ensure they are delivering their role objectives.
We love having information at our fingertips and believe that it allows us to not only move our business forward but also take advantage of opportunities as they arise. It also keeps us agile and able to pivot as our industry continues to change which means that we continue to be relevant to our customers.