"Scanning and Planning" - What about 'planning' for change and growth?
Planning a change to your business is always pretty nerve wracking. Adding a suite of products, expanding your services, or embracing a new market, while all require different implementation, they also all require the basic step of planning.
Hopefully by now you’ve completed a thorough scan of your business and your environment and you have a good understanding of the pitfalls to avoid, but maybe you're asking yourself "what’s the first step in taking that information and turning it into a good plan?"
No matter what you’re change you are making, you need some basic tools to help you.
You need a workable timeline, you need to ensure you have the budget to undertake the activities, and you need to be absolutely sure that your business has the capacity to handle the change.
It can be helpful to approach the timeline aspect from both ends. Stop and work out if there is a specific date or event you’re working towards with your launch. This might be a time of year such as launching a new product before Christmas to catch the gift-buying rush, or preparing to expand a service when you know demand will be higher, like car servicing just before the summer holidays roll around. Think through the major consumer events and figure out if you have the time to catch the wave.
You will need to block out your launch into steps, and add to each one a sensible estimate of how long it will take to achieve them. And then, add 20 per cent to that estimate for each item so you have some wiggle room if something catastrophic goes wrong along the way. These two steps will help you work out when you need to begin your implementation.
A good tool to use is a Gantt chart, which includes milestones and allocates responsibility for each task. Adopting a critical-path project management view can help you isolate the key steps which will block steps down the line, as well as show you which steps can be done independently so if you do suffer a set-back you aren’t sitting on your hands waiting for a resolution.
As with timelines, setting yourself a reasonable budget is a necessity. Thinking through the details of what’s involved with your launch or expansion can be a daunting task, especially if you’re not sure how much things cost and how much is a reasonable amount to allocate to each step. Doing research at this stage can be invaluable to get a sense if you’re on the right track. And, as with timelines, always add 20 per cent extra to your costs as a buffer if something goes wrong. Nobody wants to get 80 per cent of the way through their project only to run out of money just before the finish line and not be able to launch in the most efficient way possible.
One thing many small business owners overlook is internal capacity for change. Assessing your business’ systems and your staff – their skills, knowledge and availability – will help you understand if your big idea can handle the extra demand. If your systems are set up for a small volume, you may need to think about upgrading aspects of it, or replacing it entirely – sometimes a hidden cost well worth exploring. If your staff don’t know enough about the product or service you’re introducing you risk annoying your customers by setting expectations for service delivery which your staff can’t meet, in turn, damaging your relationship with your most precious resource! Working out what information your customers will want or need, and at what stage, will help you develop a strong training regime to ensure your staff have what they need for the customers when they need it.
If you are wanting to ramp up production or service delivery in advance of a busy period like a holiday, quizzing your staff if they will be around at that time is an absolute necessity. There’s no point in launching into the wild blue yonder if you have no staff to handle the extra demand!
If you’re thinking of expanding your business or embracing some major change, having an expert on hand to offer support and guidance can really help make the change as painless as possible. Reach out on my contact form if you’d like to book a consultation on how I can assist in growing your business in a sustainable – and dare I say fun – way.