Business planning is a key function for all companies

Tuesday 2 April 2013

All businesses, no matter how large and successful they end up, start from the same point. Born out of a creative idea, they are the fruits of the founder or founders' labour - their entrepreneurial vision. Starting a business can be a hugely rewarding experience, both extrinsically and intrinsically - but particularly when the company establishes a niche and starts to deliver a profit. The key for business owners is to find this gap in the market, and to use their skill and endeavour to exploit it.

But no matter how attractive a product or service may be, how affordable it is to consumers or how much effort the business owner puts in, there are no guarantees of success for new companies. Businesses can fail for a number of reasons, including bad timing, poor location, a slow economy and just plain bad luck. Yet there are some ways start-up owners can minimise the risks associated with creating a new enterprise, and give themselves the best possible chance of success.

The importance of business planning

One of the first tasks any company founder should perform - even before they register their new enterprise - is to conduct research and write a business plan. This should guide the evolution of the company, helping to inform the owner's decision making during those first few months and years. Without a clear growth plan and well-considered strategy, most businesses cannot attract funding and may struggle to get off the ground.

But business planning is now just a one-off tasks - it should be an ongoing process for all firms. Decision makers should constantly review their strategy and look for potential improvements. This can have benefits not only for start-up enterprises, but also established businesses, in terms of keeping them on-track. The plan serves as an ongoing guide for companies, whether they are in the initial growth phase, on a plateau, or targeting further expansion.

Potential benefits of business planning

Business plans can offer a number of practical benefits to growing companies. The plan should serve as a clear statement of the firm's business mission and vision - and as such, a suitable point of reference. Should the business gradually drift away from its original aims and objectives, consulting the plan can help to refocus.

Not only this, but the plan can detail a set of values which need to be adhered to in order to support company growth, but also ensure the firm enjoys the right kind of success. This can vary from businesses to business, according to the ideals and ambitions of individuals. It can also detail the strengths and weaknesses of the company, allowing improvements to be made.

Business plans can help company bosses to track the performance of their enterprise over a period of time, both in isolation and in relation to rival operators. Carrying out a benchmarking process can help business leaders change course where necessary, and respond to new opportunities and threats as they emerge.

As part of the wider business planning process, company bosses should be keeping a close eye on the finances. Office 365 provides a range of tools and solutions which help businesses control their costs, including Excel, Word and Powerpoint.

Posted by Sarah Parish