Time for a little spring cleaning

This kind of cleaning does not involve mops and pails or culling through old files and office or shop debris.

This kind of cleaning does not involve mops and pails or culling through old files and office or shop debris. It has to do with dusting off and freshening up your business plan.

Doing an annual review of your business plan is crucial in that it helps you gauge how much progress you have made over the past year. It helps you to put things in perspective, allows you to see if you are on track, make course corrections if necessary or most importantly identify new opportunities.

One of the first things you should do before getting into your actual business plan is to review your SWOT analysis. This will help you understand if those Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats have changed. For example, perhaps you have been able to deal with a weakness and can now move it into the strength category.

Both a SWOT analysis and a Business Plan review revolve around asking a number of key questions whose answers will help you evaluate what works, what does not and enables you to establish strategies that will put your business out front.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when doing a SWOT analysis.

Under strengths … What is it that you do better than anyone else? What advantage do you have over the competition? Have you added anything to your business that provides a better or unique product range or service?

In looking at weaknesses it is best to be honest. How can you improve what you do? What are some of the things that you are lacking that others may have? How is the competition doing?

Opportunities are always available so how have you been dealing with them? Are there any new trends you can take advantage of? Are there any changes in the market that you can capitalize on?

When it comes to threats, do you really know who and what you are up against in today’s business environment? What are the obstacles that you must face before you can move forward?

In terms of your business plan you need to look at the goals you established previously. Are you achieving them? What have you really accomplished over the past year? Have you been true to your vision for your business? What about sales? Is your pricing in line with what the market will spend?

As a business plan also deals with the day to day aspects of your business, how has that been going? How has your advertising and promotion been doing? Have you been generating good publicity?

One part of the review you should not overlook is to get a sense of how your public or publics rate your business. What kind of feedback have you been getting?  Have your public relations efforts been successful? Have they been reaching the right target groups?

These of course are just some of the questions that need to be asked. Each business will have its own set of questions that will focus on your area of expertise, service or product selection.

A business plan review is not just another administrative exercise. It is an opportunity to refocus, prioritize and plan for success. Keep in mind an adage I often use when giving a course on business planning … “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

Joe Smith is a communications consultant and an accomplished fine artist. He can be reached via email at joesmith@shaw.ca or visit his art website at www.joesmith.ca

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