Knowing your small business’ future is the most important thing you could be working on today. And yet so many small business owners don’t have a solid idea of where they want to take their businesses. Other, more immediate issues demand your attention every day – like how to solve your biggest customers’ problem with shipping or approving a purchase order for new office chairs. These decisions seem (and are) so important. But you’ll never know if you’re making the right decision unless you have a strategic framework of where you want to be in the future.
It may seem daunting to plan your business’ future. I recommend first developing a picture of success, then filling in the details based on how to paint that picture. This method was developed by Yastrow & Company, and we’ve used it for all of our joint clients.
The picture of success has two components. The first is a deadline, such as three months from now or in the next five years. The second is financial. What business results do you hope to enjoy?
Ask your small business,
“Where do we want to be one year from today?”
Asking this question may yield answers such as:
- We successfully introduced our products into three new markets and now 10% of our revenue comes from these new sources.
- Revenue has grown 20% from our financial customers.
- Sales from our new product category have grown 50%, as we’ve educated our existing customers about them.
- We diversified our customer base so our largest customer no longer accounts for 30% of sales. This stability will allow us to take advantage of new opportunities.
Once you have envisioned your picture of success, you need to assemble the tools that will enable you to create it. List what customer actions have to take place and how you will facilitate those actions. Think about the big picture and what will have to change, such as product offerings, sales efforts or reporting systems. Also think about what must stay the same, perhaps your key philosophies or an unavoidable business reality.
Then apply your picture of success to all the details of your day. Before making decisions, determine how the outcome will affect your goal. Don’t be afraid to say no to new opportunities that won’t help you to reach your goal. Small business owners face a barrage of options every day – Should we advertise in this new publication? Should we start selling this new product? Should we enter into a referral partnership with another business? By keeping your picture of success front and center, these decisions become easy.
When each decision you make fits your picture of success, you will succeed. To make your deadline, be proactive about the most important factors affecting your success, and start making improvements to your small business today.