South: Tips on business planning and a shared vision

Going it alone – starting up your own business. Anya McLaren left her role in professional services to start her own marketing and business development consultancy. Here she discusses shared vision.

The decision to take that leap and start up your own business can seem rather daunting. Although many people start a business within an industry in which they have years of previous experience and knowledge, it still involves risks going it alone.

However, when I made the decision to start up my own marketing and business development consultancy at the back end of 2019, I knew I needed to embrace the risks involved, so that I could continue a career that I am passionate about, alongside the demanding responsibilities of a young family and indeed continue my love of running.

So I took the plunge and swapped my typical 10-hour working day, and daily commute jumping on and off tubes as an in-house marketing and business development manager, to work for myself. Admittedly, I am probably working even more hours at the moment to build my brand and client base but I do have a lot less commuting and do believe I have got the right balance.

Getting a real return on your investment

In my years of working for large and smaller businesses, I have often been tasked with putting pen to paper and writing a team’s business plan. Although my role as a marketing and BD manager involves a whole host of responsibilities, I consider the task of developing a business plan with a clearly defined marketing and business development strategy unavoidable, if you want to turn the vision for your business into a reality.

Once a plan is in place and responsibilities assigned to relevant individuals to undertake the required implementation, positive results, such as sales growth, are widely reported.

Sharing your businesses’ vision

In fact effective business planning techniques also ensure everyone shares the same vision resulting in a much smoother journey towards achieving a company’s end goals for the year.

Business planning could be considered a little like a recipe both requiring a clearly defined process with a list of essential ingredients. If you need some support as to where to start with a business plan some top tips for inclusion:

  • Executive summary – A short concise business summary including an overview of the company and its services, its current market position (pipeline/clients/wins), mission statement, competitive advantage and staged growth plan;
  • Business strategy – High level points on the businesses tactics and strategic issues to include its core values, identification of the industry you are in and how you are positioned currently to service it (facts and figures!);
  • Marketing and business development strategy – Identifying aims & marketing objectives, SWOT analysis, market research, activity plan, budget, distribution channels and follow up account management approach;
  • Team and management structure – the skills held by individuals, their profiles, skills gaps, recruitment approach, training and retention strategy, management systems in use or investment required;
  • Financial budgets & forecasts – profit & loss forecast, BD targets, top ten client accounts and gaps, target clients and revenue potential.

And finally, the key considerations that are needed even before pen is put to paper which seem simple but are worth a read…..

Involve key stakeholders in the business

If you are a medium to large sized business, there is little point in a few people from the senior management team being the only ones involved in strategic business planning. “Champions” representing their teams in all relevant departments such as HR, IT, Marketing and Sales within a business should act as the voice for that team and cascade information back to their teams so everyone is kept fully informed. If you are a small business, communication between everyone involved is just as vital.

Question whether the overarching vision statement is challenging enough

Ideally your vision statements (sometimes there are various) and the underpinning strategic plans have a three year life span where longer-term goals are articulated along with some shorter more detailed objectives. Whilst they should be achievable, you also want to ensure they are ambitious and give plenty of scope for really stepping up to another level.

Create milestones so you can reflect on developments

To keep on track with your business strategy plan, the team champions should sit down and review the plan on a six-monthly basis detailing gaps in achievements and putting together a smaller action plan to ensure objectives are met at the annual review stage.