Running your own small business is never easy. Whether you’re just starting out with your business idea or have been running your own company for years, whether you have a few loyal clients or a whole lot, whether your overhead is minimal or substantial, running a successful and profitable business takes a lot of hard work.
Luckily, there are several ways to make it easier. While the Oregon Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has loads of resources—some we’ll tell you about here—that can help small business owners, the best step you can take to improve your odds of success is to plan properly.
In this article, we’re outlining six strategies you can implement for successful business planning.
1. Start Planning Early.
It’s never too early to begin planning—never. Whether you have an idea to start a business, you have a business ready to launch, or you already have a successful business and are thinking about what to do next, a strategic plan is crucial.
The Oregon SBDC is here to help with your business planning at any stage. From startup to scaling, our advisers have the tools to help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and build a solid foundation for your business.
It may feel daunting to write a business plan for your Oregon small business. Though it’s possible to find business plan templates, what’s important to remember is that there’s no single way to write a business plan—it simply needs to meet your business’s needs! Your business plan will likely include sections such as:
- Executive Summary
- Market Analysis
- Company Organization
- Overview of Your Product or Service
- Marketing Plan and Sales Strategy
- Logistics and Operations
- Financial Projections
Learn more about writing a business plan.
At the Oregon SBDC Network, we leverage tools and resources to help simplify business planning, budgeting, financial projections, and performance tracking to help business owners make more informed decisions.
In addition to an overall business plan, there are other types of business planning to consider, such as succession planning, disaster preparedness, and cybersecurity planning. These types of business plans are critical road maps that can prepare you for when the unexpected occurs. Be sure to take the time and effort to create these types of business plans to protect your business!
2. Set Your Goals.
Your strategic business plan needs to include more than just ideas. While the vision of a business is an important component, a key factor to success is setting SMART goals—specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
Creating business goals helps you (and your team, if you have one) work toward a common objective, and may be a mix of short-term and long-term goals.
Oftentimes a big goal is tied to several smaller goals you need to achieve along the way. For this reason, some business owners set goals by month or quarter, while others set goals for the year. The right timeline to choose depends on you and your business goals.
Goals do not always have to be financial goals; they can also relate to your operations! Because each business is unique, there is no right or wrong method of setting your business goals. However, once you set your goals, remember to revisit them often to track your progress and adjust your strategies as needed to stay on track.
Without setting clear goals and reviewing them on a regular basis, it will be more difficult to determine whether your Oregon small business is successful or not.
3. Identify Your Staffing Needs.
When people think about goals for businesses, they typically think about financial targets they want to hit, potential physical expansions, new strategies for upcoming product launches, and the like. But another factor that merits consideration and forward planning is your business’s future staffing needs, especially in today’s climate.
If your business goals include expanding your operations, such as bringing on a management team or additional employees, the number of full-time, part-time, and/or contracted workers will likely change. The cost and time it will take to hire for your staffing needs requires planning.
Here are a few considerations when calculating your staffing needs:
- Whether additional staffing is needed beyond those who will replace current workers
- Whether your need is for temporary, part-time, or full-time workers
- What your hiring strategy and timeline will be
The Oregon SBDC Network’s advisers can support small business owners who need additional guidance as they navigate hiring and expanding staffing for their business.
4. Understand Your Financials.
Awareness of your business and personal finances is a vital part of successful business planning. Even if you’re “in the black” and seeing profits, understanding your finances is important when making decisions and planning for the future of your business. And this means knowing a lot more than just what’s in your bank account.
Analyzing your financial statements and understanding how much money is coming in and going out each month, your product costs, the cost to manufacture, the cost of goods sold, labor costs, fixed and variable costs—these are all numbers you need to know so you can make decisions for your business.
Your financial indicators are the drivers of your business, and if you don’t understand them, it can be easy to make a costly mistake.
Having a solid understanding of your business finances will also be helpful if you decide to apply for a business loan or to seek funding from investors.
5. Put Together Your Marketing Plan.
A marketing plan may sound like the kind of thing that only big businesses with their own massive internal marketing departments need to do. But small businesses also need to have marketing plans. And just like any other part of running a business, your marketing requires a carefully thought out and meticulously detailed plan.
From the channels you will use to the creative you want to deploy to your monthly marketing budget—write it down. Building and implementing a successful marketing plan can help your business grow exposure and revenue.
Some areas that you should consider creating in your marketing plan include:
- Performing a SWOT analysis to determine strengths and weaknesses
- Making a detailed marketing budget
- Identifying your target market
- Outlining of your marketing goals and marketing strategies
If you are a small business poised for growth and need help with market research as you prepare to scale, the Oregon SBDC Network can help with that, too!
6. Evaluate the Previous Year.
When you’re running a small business, there are times when you’ll have to look back in order to move forward. Looking back can be fun, especially if you’ve experienced growth in your business and can count your wins over the year. It can also be hard, if you’ve experienced a challenging year that didn’t live up to your expectations.
Need More Assistance?
You have probably heard the saying “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Even if you are good at what you do, no one expects you to have it all figured out when it comes to your business.
Oregon small businesses can benefit greatly from leveraging the Oregon SBDC Network’s resources. Whether you need guidance to write your business plan, prepare for potential investors, expand your product or service, or streamline your financial statements, our team of experienced advisers can help you strategize for long-term success.
Connect with a local Center at OregonSBDC.org/Centers to get started.
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