Insights and Opinions

 

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Planning for Your Business: A look at Business, Strategic Marketing and Information Technology Plans

from David Gadish, Ph.D.





The success of your startup is likely to be greater if you plan your business. The ensuing discussion focuses on proper planning prior to the start of operations, and continued planning during implementation.

There are a number of types of plans to consider for your business. They include Business Plans, Strategic Plans, Marketing Plans, and Information Technology (IT) Plans. We review reasons for creating such plans, discuss when these plans should be created, and suggest some of the key areas these plans should cover.

BUSINESS PLANS

Creating a Business Plan will help you secure funding as well as non-financial resources (such as supplies) for your start-up. Family, angel investors, banks, venture capital firms (VCs), and strategic partners will want to review and understand your plans as part of their decision process to fund your start-up.

Even if you believe your business does not require a formal plan, it is beneficial to conduct at least some preliminary research prior to committing yourself legally or financially to your business enterprise.

Different companies have differently formulated business plans. They are however likely to have many of the following components:

  • Executive summary
  • Company summary
  • Products / Services
  • Market analysis
  • Strategy and implementation
  • Marketing strategy
  • Sales strategy
  • Milestones / Business stages / Launch plan
  • Management team
  • Resources
  • Financial analysis
  • Appendices

    The business plan can also help you allocate resources properly, handle unforeseen complications, and make good business decisions.

    A good business plan is a crucial part of any loan application because it provides specific and organized information about your company and how you will repay borrowed money.

    A business plan precisely defines your business, identifies your goals, and serves as your company’s resume.

    STRATEGIC PLANS

    Strategic Planning is an on-going process to produce fundamental decisions that shape and guide what your organization is, what it does, and why it does it. This planning process should ideally start before you commence your operations.

    If you do not require outside funding or another form of collaboration, and choose not to create a Business Plan, you should consider creating a Strategic Plan. If you do need a Business Plan, then one common process can result in the creation of a Business Plan as well as an initial Strategic Plan.

    The outcome of the process is a plan to address your organizational, human resources, data, technology and financial needs in a fast changing business environment. The strategic plan is an internal document that is normally not shared with outside stakeholders.

    Strategic planning requires information gathering, an exploration of alternatives, and an emphasis on the future implications of present decisions. It can facilitate communication and participation, accommodate divergent interests and values, and foster orderly decision-making and successful implementation.

    A customized strategic plan will cover the following areas of your organization (where applicable):

  • Management Systems
  • Operational Systems (Production, Warehouse, Sales, Marketing, etc.)
  • Human Resources Systems
  • Information Systems
  • Financial Systems
  • Communication Systems

    Your company should develop the capability throughout the organization to achieve strategic goals while maintaining its competitive advantage. This capability will:

  • Engage the whole organization.
  • Build momentum to overcome inevitable obstacles.
  • Develop processes for innovation.
  • Increase the entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Prioritize the opportunities for improvement.
  • Brainstorm and document solutions to address opportunities.
  • Define a series of measurable projects for implementation.
  • Begin implementation of projects to address problems and opportunities.

    MARKETING PLANS

    The marketing plan is the key element to growing your company’s sales cohesively. It should include traditional, as well as online marketing.

    The marketing planning process is an on-going process to develop a marketing strategy and direction. It helps you define, plan and implement coordinated marketing campaigns that will allow you to monitor and increase your sales.

    The Marketing Plan will form your “playbook” for a coordinated marketing campaign. It limits the ability of plan participants to indicate they were not sure what they were supposed to do, when tasks were to be completed, and how they were to be completed.

    A correctly written Marketing Plan, including proper controls, becomes the centerpiece for all your company’s marketing activities.

    Your Marketing Plan should:

  • Identify the targeted market segments that your company is trying to sell to.
  • Outlines how to penetrate identified markets and to acquire new customers and retain existing ones.
  • Defines company sales goals, marketing procedures and methods.
  • Defines required actions and schedules.
  • Promotes control.
  • Becomes a reference source for all marketing information.

    INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (IT) PLANS

    The role your IT infrastructure plays in achieving business success is crucial, as your business strives to achieve its competitive edge.

    Your IT department’s or external contractor’s ability to deliver expected service and support levels effectively increases your organization’s business value. It is therefore important to align your IT infrastructure to your organization’s business processes and strategy.

    Planning will ensure your IT operations are proactive rather then reactive. Proper planning can:

  • Reduce total cost of ownership (TCO)
  • Minimize risk
  • Increase productivity
  • Improve performance
  • Reduce costs
  • Enhance flexibility

    Your IT plan should consider all or some of the following areas:

  • Website Planning
  • E-Commerce Planning
  • Online Marketing Strategy
  • Customer Relationship Management Planning
  • Enterprise Resource Planning
  • Enterprise Content Management

    CONCLUDING REMARKS

    It is never too late to start planning different aspects of your business. If you have not planned thus far, you should consider starting with small steps. If you have done some planning, consider creating an ongoing planning process.

    A formal, ongoing planning process for your business may be important since technology in general and the internet in particular are transforming the way organizations operate.

    As the market changes, the competition changes, consumer behavior changes, and new competitors, products and services find their way into the market. These forces are likely to affect your business down the road. Therefore, once you start planning, make sure you never stop.

    Additional information about business planning, strategic planning, marketing planning, IT planning, organizational audit and IT audit is available at www.Gadish.com. David Gadish has been working with industry and government since 1991. David Gadish held executive positions in government and industry prior to forming Gadish Management Consulting in 1998. David and his team have consulted for organizations in over 30 business fields, including: Information Technology, Biotechnology, Real Estate, Construction, Retail, Wholesale, Manufacturing, Distribution, Entertainment, Media, Finance and Healthcare. David is a faculty member at CSULA. He serves on the board of directors of several organizations. David can be reached at david@gadish.com.


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