December is National Write a Business Plan Month, and while this month of holiday gatherings and indulgent food may seem like an odd time to write a business plan, it actually provides a much better opportunity to prepare your business for 2017 than the typical January scramble. You want to be able to hit the ground running New Years Day, not be starting from square one. December will also likely bring fewer requests from clients, vendors, employees and partners, allowing you to focus on your business plan without interruptions.
We already covered the steps to building your original business plan here, but did you know you should also carve out time at the end of each year to review your business plan and make necessary tweaks as well? Before you reach for the old plan though, take the following actions to evaluate your company’s current situation and identify new opportunities.
Pay attention to your customers.
Make note of who your customers are, what demographic seems to be your “bread-and-butter,” which unexpected demographics you’ve picked up, and what value your company seems to bring to their lives. Also, search for customer reviews on your social media channels, Google and review sites. Record the qualities people seem to most appreciate about your business and which they could do without.
Talk to your employees.
Like you, your employees are on the front lines of your business, and are intimately familiar with your company and its products or services. Unlike you though, they are likely more aware of issues within your business or with your product that you may be blind to. Tap into this wealth of information by having honest discussions with a few of your trusted employees, or pass out a survey around your office.
Note pleasant surprises.
If you’ve had any wins this year that you didn’t expect, identify them and think about what caused them to occur. Maybe you picked up a new expected customer base, or one of your services was significantly more successful than anticipated.
Note unforeseen challenges.
When crafting an initial business plan, every entrepreneur has one aspect of the company that should be a breeze, but for whatever reason just doesn’t seem to be coming together. Make note of what that is for your company, and why you think you’re having trouble with it.
List out new industry trends.
In today’s fast-paced world, even the most even-keel industries change and go through different trends year to year. Record what those are for your industry, and try to identify new opportunities and problems you can solve within them.
Once you’ve taken these steps, you’re ready to revisit your business plan. Armed with the knowledge you have from the above research, you’ll be able to map out a strong course of action for 2017.