Business plan

The 4 phases necessary to develop a successful business plan

As they say in the army, “the enemy has his say”. The key to winning is adapting. In 2021, expect COVID-19 to continue to impact the first half of the year, while the second half could represent different opportunities. Moreover, a new presidential administration, with its new initiatives, could have an impact on your market by 2022 and 2023.

This is where business planning comes in.

Planning is about understanding the landscape, knowing what you want to achieve, and then figuring out how to get there. This requires collecting information to understand your environment; determine the current deployment; Resources; where you can request help and then figure out what you need to do (or get) to give your team the resources they need to complete the goal. Then it’s all about execution – developing a plan to achieve your future goals.

The phases of developing a plan include:

1. Introspection, research and insights

2. Idea generation

3. Aggregation and execution

4. Continuous evaluation and improvement

While it sounds comprehensive, and it can be, it can also be streamlined. It all depends on your organization, your style and, if you use an outside facilitator, their ability to ask the right questions, understand your business/industry and add ideas.

1. Introspection, research and insights

This first step is crucial. It is about collecting information: quantitative information and qualitative information.

This may include macroeconomic information, market information, industry information and data analysis. The goal is to get a sense of how the economy and market is changing while understanding your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT), which comes from gathering information.

Understand your relationship with your market, your business, your customers and the potential of each. Data can provide this information. Internal business intelligence data, combined with external economic data, can be powerful tools.

Some additional areas to consider include:

  • Do you plan to expect today’s COVID-19 environment or another? For how long?
  • What is your market expectation? Future macro trends and the potential opportunities they may create? For example, what will be the likely impact of the new presidential administration’s focus on clean energy and climate on your markets?
  • How have your processes been impacted?
  • More importantly, how are customers and their customers impacted? What are their new expectations? What is their vision?
  • What is the contribution of your staff?

As part of this process, information about “customers” can be beneficial. It should be a 360 degree entry. End customers/sub-contractors, distributors (if you are a manufacturer), sales people (and representatives/RSM), maybe even employees or suppliers. Ask for their opinion on the market, their opportunities, how “you” can improve and more. Contributors want you to succeed.

Then ask departments how they can improve. How can it be easier to do business with “you/they”? What added value can each bring to its customers? What processes need to be improved? How can utilization and productivity increase? What is their value proposition, and that of the company, today and what could it be?

If you’re in sales, the issues are the same, but focus on their goals and account package. Where are the customer needs? Where are they going? What is your value proposition according to your sales organization? How to generate more? What do you need to be successful (or, more importantly, what does your business need to do to be more successful with your customers/in your territory?)

Ask what is important for account retention as well as share ownership. Then prioritize.

It is about asking for information, looking for opportunities, developing ideas, changing models and anticipating the future, acquiring knowledge. As 2021 approaches, many companies will be more cautious with investments and will seek to reallocate funding. Concentration and improving models will be essential. The opportunities abound.

2. Idea generation

Once you have gathered information and know the current and projected state, the next phase is to identify the strategies you want to pursue. Conduct a brainstorming exercise to determine what’s next.

This brainstorming exercise identifies the new strategies that will emerge. Consider what competitors are doing. Look at distributors/manufacturers in other industries or markets. Ask customers what would benefit them.

3. Aggregation and execution

Then it’s about aggregating ideas, developing a project plan, and planning activities to ensure timely implementation.

For some initiatives, you may want time to present the strategy to your key suppliers or distributors to get their feedback, or perhaps get their buy-in. For distributors, remember that your co-op funds earned in 2021 will likely decrease, as they are based on 2020 performance.

Gather thoughts, determine feasibility, get a budget overview, then set priorities. Of course, you can’t do everything. Every business is, at some point, running out of resources.

4. Continuous evaluation and improvement

One area that presents a challenge for most companies is the ongoing evaluation of strategy with periodic reviews that allow the company to refine its strategy. It’s like taking a road trip and discovering that there is construction on a stretch of the highway. You can slow down or consider a detour/alternative route that allows you to continue. Adjustments are needed in the plans. The key is to reach the end goal within the set time.

Communicating these measures to different stakeholders also helps to gain buy-in for future initiatives.

Next steps

Strategic planning is a commitment to succeed intentionally. It’s a leadership decision that confirms to your staff that the company has a roadmap for success and is committed to profitable growth. Involving your team helps develop a better “product” and gain their buy-in for strategy, implementation, and success.

Planning can be a process or a workshop. The key is to have a plan so you can be intentional in your actions.

David Gordon is President of Channel Marketing Group, a distribution strategy and marketing consultancy that helps distributors, manufacturers and representatives from the industrial and construction sectors generate ideas and ideas to drive the growth. For more information about Channel Marketing Group, visit Contact Gordon at [email protected]

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