Posts tagged ‘Business Plan’

Often when I mention the words “business plan” to people, whether they are just starting up in business or already established and looking to grow or change their business, they give me the “do I have to?” look!


Business plans haven’t been dreamt up by accountants to allow them to charge a fee to their clients for “added value” services or simply to bore you to tears.  Every book you read about business success and every leader you hear speak will highlight the necessity of planning.  So “yes” you really have to, unless you like to live life by the seat of your pants.

Failing to plan and planning to fail

If you are starting up your business and you don’t have a plan, how do you know

  • what that business will do
  • what it’s target market will be
  • how it will work  (processes, structure, personnel etc)
  • how it will be financed? (funding, cash flow, collateral/security/personal guarantees etc)
  • whether it will make money and
  • whether you will get out of it what you want?

Are banks still lending?

There has been much reported in the news over the last year or so about how difficult it is to get bank lending nowadays for small and medium sized businesses.  Ask any business bank manager this question and they will quip “we’re always open for business” but there is no doubt that they are being very cautious. If anything is going to help you get the banks on your side,  it will be a comprehensive, well thought through business plan with back up for your assumptions and a realistic timescale for paying back the loan.

If you want to approach an investor, your business won’t even be considered for investment if you don’t have a business plan that you can back up with facts and figures that make you and your business a credible investment.


Getting value from the planning process

Planning is not just something business owners should do when setting up their enterprises or when getting finance.  There are plenty of benefits of planning on a regular basis.

  1. Take the time to think through a plan and then write it down, you are more likely to actually do it than if you keep it in your head.  Even better, communicate that plan to a trusted adviser such as your accountant or a business coach who will be able to help you evaluate it and provide an objective viewpoint.
  2. Take off your rose tinted glasses, a great looking plan may make you feel good now, but it will demotivate or be dismissed as irrelevant later.  Be realistic and honest with yourself and don’t forget to factor in non-monetary elements such as the amount of time you intend to invest. 
  3. Use the planning process to brainstorm.  Perhaps carry out a SWOT analysis to help you to ‘stretch’ your thinking.
  4. Use the plan as a way of involving key people in your business.  This will help them to be more committed to the results and encourage leadership/loyalty.
  5. Most of the ‘added value’ of business planning comes from regular reflection.  Don’t take the time to write a plan and then archive it!

In summary

A good business plan will help you to understand where your business is going, give it structure and direction, provide a communication channel for key stakeholders and build credibility when obtaining any funding or investment that you need from external sources.

If you haven’t got an up to date, clear and realistic business plan, take action now. 

The information provided in this blog illustrates my opinions and experiences, it does not constitute advice and I do not accept responsibility for any actions taken or refrained from as a result of reading this post.

Everyone in business has heard the term “Cash is King” and understands the importance of cash flow, but when in the day to day ‘busy-ness’ of business it is easy to take your ‘eye off the ball’.

So in these difficult times, if you find yourself in a position where cash flow becomes a matter of urgency rather than a procedural chore, what can you do to turn things around?

Here are my top five quick fixes, each one worthy of a post of its own.

1. Debt Collection

Focusing on getting paid for what you have provided is an obvious place to start. 

Don’t allow customers to improve their cash flow at your cost and don’t get lazy when it comes to implementing rigid credit control procedures. Many ledger clerks are instructed by their managers not to issue payment until a debt has been chased both in writing and verbally, so don’t cut corners or get caught off guard. 

If you are uncomfortable with this discipline or you have accepted that this is not your skill set, outsource it.  I recommend Ken Brown from Direct Route for everything from collecting a single difficult debt to completely managing your sales ledger. 

Also, be sure to focus on servicing customers that do stick to your payment terms.  Don’t forget my previous advice about allowing “he who shouts loudest…” to distract you from those that are key to your success.

2. Improve terms and conditions of sale

Meet with each of your valued customers without delay and renegotiate terms.  By prioritising their needs and building confidence in your business relationship, agreements regarding quick payment, or even payment on delivery can be made. 

If need be, offer an early payment discount to encourage quick settlement.  Often the reduction in margin, is substantailly less than the cost of finance such as overdrafts or the deminished goodwill from not meeting debts as they fall due.

Don’t forget that it costs a lot more to attract and service new business than it does to obtain more business from your current clients.


3.  Get your bank manager onside

Having up to date management accounts, a clearly defined business plan that demonstrates that the current difficulties are short term and building an open, honest business relationship with your bank manager will no doubt create flexibility. 

Once they have built confidence in you as a business owner, they will at short notice be able to offer solutions and support.  Involve your accountant in this process.

4.  Manage suppliers

This aspect is often not given enough attention.  In the same way that you manage customers, prioritise, negotiate and treat your suppliers with respect. 

Being honest with them and honouring any payment arrangements you have agreed with them will keep your integrity and prevent suppliers from ‘digging their heels in’.

Also, if you hold stock, review your processes and speak to your suppliers about delivery times etcetera, they may be able to help you to manage a ‘just in time’ system by offering you a priority service. 

5.  Increase profitability

Certainly not the easiest or quickest approach and one where you might want to seek support from your accountant or a business coach.

Looking at overheads is an obvious point, but how about reviewing historic data to identify which products/services in your sales mix generate the biggest contribution and assign time and effort in pushing these.  Perhaps redirect your marketing budget and reward your team for selling these items or finding innovative ways to deliver these at lower costs.

As well as focusing on your most profitable products/services, take time to identify your most profitable clients

Budgeting can take time, but often some ‘quick wins’ can be discovered by carrying out these accounting exercises.  They can also drive long term process and cash flow improvements. 


The information provided in this blog illustrates my opinions and experiences, it does not constitute advice and I do not accept responsibility for any actions taken or refrained from as a result of reading this post.

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