Everything You Need to Know About Goal Setting, Business Forecasting, and Business Planning to Successfully Grow Your Business
Mandy Maas, Your Front eOffice
For business owners, keeping an eye on the future can help in navigating challenges, identifying opportunities, and assisting in financial planning. Implementing formal planning and forecasting is a great way to help your business make informed decisions and forecasts.
Business plans help you run your business by guiding you through each stage of managing and growing your business. Developing a business plan is a great way to understand the purpose of your business and what direction you want to go. A business plan is comprised of strategies and objectives to help you achieve your business’ growth goals and determine if your business is on the right track quarterly. Businesses should be creating business plans
- Create a synchronized roadmap to follow and check in quarterly.
- Minimize risk by identifying any issues with your plan before implementing strategies.
- Identify any successes with your plan that could affect your overall strategy and or long-term goals/direction.
- Discover opportunities for growth.
- Obtain funding from investors.
- Get the whole company on board through participation and implementation.
- Achieve greater profitability with your brand, products, and or services.
Investors are looking for businesses that are committed to growth and have strategies to get them to their goals. Having a business plan can be the difference in whether you get funding through investors or establish new partnerships.
If you are looking to start a new business, check out this business planning guide from sba.gov, which will help you write a business plan quickly and efficiently with a business plan template.
You do not need to be a startup, or looking for funding, to create a business plan. By developing a growth plan, you are creating a living document that can be revised and utilized in many different scenarios throughout your business’ life.
BUSINESS GROWTH STRATEGIES
There are many types of business growth plans you can choose from to help you structure your business’ goals and the strategies you want to implement to achieve those goals. A few of the most popular strategies are market, development, and product.
Marketing strategy is used when your focus is on increasing growth through assessing and updating your business’s existing marketing strategy with your current demographic.
Development strategy is used to find new markets for your company’s products and or services. With this strategy, you would create customer personas and avatars, and seek out new demographics and markets to target with your marketing and advertising efforts.
Product strategy focuses on developing new products and or services to serve your existing customer base and increase sales, rather than finding new markets for your company’s products and services to compete in.
After choosing a strategy, you can keep it simple through breaking down your growth plan into manageable segments by answering these questions:
- What is your vision?
- What do you do?
- What your product/service is?
- Who you want to attract?
- What are the metrics involved to accomplish the growth plan?
The best way to start your business’ growth plan is by determining what you ultimately hope to accomplish by the end of this plan. You will want to consider what strategy is most cost-effective and realistic for your business and which method will provide the results and goals you hope to achieve. Additional details to try to incorporate in your vision are:
- Potential opportunities.
- Financial goals, broken down quarterly and yearly.
- Marketing strategies of how you will achieve growth.
Your financial plan with a breakdown of your company’s internal and external needs and financial responsibilities.
Before you begin planning, check out other growth plans and examples online, review models from successful companies, and seek out advice from other business owners who currently employ a successful business growth plan and ask them for advice and feedback. If you are specifically looking to scale and grow your business, a leading, free resource is the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program (GS 10K SB).
Participants of this Goldman Sach’s program gain business education, support services, and opportunities for capital through a 12-week course. Their program is comprised of partnerships with academic institutions throughout the country which provide participants with focused support, education, and new skills to develop an actionable growth plan.
The GS 10K SB program is a valuable opportunity to network with fellow business leaders, business advisors, trained faculty, and like-minded entrepreneurs. Through their curriculum, you will have opportunities to learn from other small business owners, receive expert advice from business professionals, get one-on-one business advising, and join a national network of entrepreneurs following graduation. (We know, our very own Aileen Gilpin is from cohort 31 of the 10KSB program)
If a 12-week commitment doesn’t work for you, or you aren’t looking for a detailed business plan for funding, another useful online resource to check out is LivePlan. LivePlan helps you think through every aspect of your business by following a fill-in-the-blank template. If you do not require a full-sized business plan to secure funding, this site offers simple, short, easy-to-use templates. If you’re not sure what to put in your forecasting, LivePlan offers industry benchmark data. It is as easy as entering your industry and location to gain access to key performance metrics for businesses similar to yours. To learn more about what LivePlan offers, click here.
Determining the right forecasting technique for your business depends on a variety of factors; such as, whether there is available and relevant historical data, what level of accuracy is required, how long is allotted to conduct the forecast and for which period in time. Businesses must also consider which stage the product or business cycle is in and how the availability of data, or lack of, affects different variables in forecasting within their business.
There are two main types of business forecasting methods: Quantitative and Qualitative.
The Quantitative Forecasting method requires historical data to predict future needs and trends of a business. Data is pulled from various places, such as your own company and or market activity. This method is beneficial for anyone that has extensive amounts of data at their fingertips.
The Qualitative Forecasting method relies heavily on anyone that influences your business, which encompasses everything from your target audience to your management team. This method is a good option for businesses that do not have enough data to apply the quantitative forecasting method.
Forecasting does not guarantee an accurate screen shot of the future, or the evolution of your business, but it does lead you in a direction backed by data, logic, and experiential reasoning. Even if you follow one of the outlined forecasting methods, you can still get it wrong. Some limitations to keep in mind for business forecasting include:
- Unsupported data or errors due to forecasters and or management.
- Incorrect data and or inaccurate historical numbers.
- Sudden changes in market conditions and or new industry regulations.
Forecasting and growth business planning help you predict potential issues, make better financial decisions, and provide you with an opportunity to analyze how impactful those factors are on your business. Business planning helps entrepreneurs develop beneficial strategies for current and future trends and events, and complex data helps make forecasting easier, more accurate, and customizable to each company.
Business growth plans are an important first step for any company looking to scale and or grow. Your business plan can help attract investors by conveying your business’ potential and showcasing your goals to those that can provide financial resources to help you achieve your financial goals.