It’s important to develop plans when you’re running a business. If you don’t have goals that you’re working towards and ideas about how to get to them it’s all too easy to find yourself making decisions from moment to moment that don’t pull together to create success for your business. Hiring decisions, advertising, marketing placements, new products, pricing and more all need to be informed by an overall vision for the business: if your advertising positions your business as a premium experience, but your pricing and marketing placements emphasise cheapness and value, no one knows what to make of your brand and sales will suffer!
Today we’re taking a look at some of the ingredients that go into plans and strategies for your business’ future so you can make informed decisions about the sort of business you want to build.
One of the things you need to account for in any plan is the existence of the competition. Other businesses in your space (but your niche and your locality) are trying to build towards stable long term success as well, using the same resources as you – most notably the same customers, but also the same raw materials, the same logistics routes, maybe even the same products!
You don’t have to dominate the competition to find your success, but you do need to plan if you’re going to coexist peacefully. Competitor wargaming can help you understand how your rival businesses will respond in different situations, allowing you to plot out sales and product launches that have a chance to breathe rather than competing for attention.
Your Vision of Success
It’s important to reflect on what you personally want from the future with your business, and why you started down this route in the first place. There are all sorts of visions of success, but they won’t all make you equally happy. Some may conflict with deeply held values, others may simply not play to your strengths, and what you enjoy about entrepreneurship. If, for example, what attracted you to starting your own business was the independence it offers, then pursuing fast growth that leaves you obliged to demanding shareholders or investors isn’t the right vision of the future for you!
Don’t feel obliged to buy into dominant myths about what success looks like: you needn’t shoot for the biggest business in your industry, the highest turnover or the greatest personal wage. A business that pays its way, moderately supports your family and treats its employees fairly is an equally fair ambition to shoot for.
As well as the logistics of building a business, you’re also doing the slightly fuzzier work of developing a brand. This is much more than a simple advertising motif or logo. Your brand expresses your business as an image or personality your customers can relate to. When you’re planning for the future you need to identify the characteristics of the brand you’re building so your decisions can pull together to support the brand rather than undermining it.
Market research is useful here, as it tells what customers already value about your business and the associations they’re developing around it, so you can recognise what you need to lean into and what might require some work to establish.