Many of us have great ideas for a business but don’t know how to make it happen. Here are some steps to ensuring your business ideas comes to fruition.
Anyone who loved the movie The Castle could never forget the father’s view on one of his sons. “He is an ideas man,” he would observe to the other members of the family. A Sydney-based accountant has carried on the great idea of ideas in giving guidance to up and coming business owners.
Dennis Mattiske, former small business expert at accounting firm HLB Mann Judd laments that many holiday-inspired good ideas never see the light of day.
“It doesn’t take long for business owners to get caught up in the day to day issues and priorities concerned with running a business,” he says. “It means that all those great ideas, developed while the owner had the time and leisure to think about them during the holidays, are likely to be forgotten or put aside.”
A simple plan
He sensibly suggests bringing these thoughts together in a plan to add significant value to a business. Mattiske says put your big ideas in writing now as part of your overall business plan. Why do they need to be put into print? He lists the following reasons:
• It makes it easier to share the plan with employees;
• It allows the plan to be given to financiers and stakeholders;
• It helps monitor success (or failure); and
• It ensures there is a record for future reference.”
Mattiske’s gives us five tips for making it happen and making it work for the business.
1. Keep it simple
Business plans can be short or long term and include personal, marketing or any other more focused plans. While short-term plans are more relevant to day to day operations Mattiske recommends having some form of longer term business plan —five to ten years — no matter how brief, that deals with where the business is going and the broad strategies of how it is going to get there. “This acts as a guide for the focus of the short term plans, which then detail the objectives for that year that are in line with the long term objectives,” he said. “The plans do not need to be long-winded, and don’t need a great deal of background to be effective.”
2. Follow a format
Mattiske says that every plan should follow the same basic format, covering:
- Now – looking at where the business is now, and the issues that are facing it.
- Where – outlining where the business wants to go, and its vision, objectives and competitive advantage.
- How – the strategies and actions to get there.
This can be reduced to as little as one page, or more often one to two pages, for each of now, where and how. Real estate guru John McGrath told me years ago that he operates off a one A4 page business plan. He likes something that can be looked at and referred to easily rather than a weighty document that never gets used except for impressing bankers.
3. Measurable objectives
The old cliché always applies and especially in business: If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Objective indicators are a great way of working out what is working for the business and what is not. “The ultimate measurement of business objectives is usually a financial measurement – the profit or loss earned or balance sheet balances achieved,”
Mattiske advises. “But shorter term objectives should be measured with non financial measurements.”
Here’s a simple example.
You might want to boost sales and decide you need to make more calls or do more face-to-face visits. You can count these and compare them to other weeks or months. Linking these to sales performance could give great insights. Customer satisfaction surveys are another important non-financial measure you can look at to get a handle on how your business is performing.
4. Action plans
Once the plan is laid out, an action plan is needed to make it happen within a desired time frame. These should be done according to overall importance. On the time frame Mattiske points out that the time frame must take account of the fact that the actions are usually in addition to other daily tasks and therefore will take more time to complete.
5. Someone to keep you honest!
Okay, so now you have a great plan but what’s to say that you will stick to it? Day-to-day dramas and old habits can get in the way. Mattiske says a formal process should be implemented to ensure all actions are fully completed and objectives met. He has another suggestion which I reckon works. “An independent party who is privy to the business plan is ideal,” he recommended. “Or alternatively, use a formal report back process to others in the organization.”
Another great cliché, which I get caught out using all of the time is: Small business don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan! Get into it and in the words of the dad from The Castle: “Feel the serenity.”