Checklist: Plan for your business success

planning your business success

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It’s no secret that in order to succeed in life, there has to be some sort of plan. This obviously applies to business success as well. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that the ‘devil is in the detail’. The more information and detail in the plan, the more you can ‘measure’ whether you are on the right track, and the likely it is to succeed. If “Cash is King!” then “Clarity must be Queen!”

The problem of course is that many folk have no idea what needs to go into a plan. This statement is evidenced by the many failed businesses around us, often simply because individuals have failed to make plans or set goals of any kind.

Here are some guidelines and a ‘checklist’ to help you plan properly for business success:

■ Vision

Your vision, of course, is your dream or your intention. It is the ultimate goal. It could be something as dramatic as having your particular product in every home in the country by xxxx date, or as simple as providing training to 5 SMME’s (small, medium, micro enterprises) on a monthly basis.

What it should also include is the “what” and the “why”; What kind of product and why it should be in every household, or what kind of training and why it will make a difference.

■ Mission Statement

For me, the mission statement is a simple plan on the ‘how to’ achieve your vision. How do you intend getting your product into every household. How do you intend getting the SMME’s to sign up for your training. At this stage I wouldn’t go too in-depth, but rather have the basics down. The details can be fleshed out as and when you get to the information that you need.

At this point it is also a good idea to start getting your figures in place – the budgets. Number crunching is not always as difficult as we seem to think it is – just start with the basics. The finer details will come.

■ Culture Statement

As business consultant, often when I ask this particular question I am met with confused looks as well as the question: “The what…?” Every business needs a culture. As much as we are the ‘masters of our own destiny,’ we also need to set the course about the type of culture we want our business to have. The way that you choose to deal with customers, suppliers and your staff will largely affect the type of culture that your business will become. It may be that the culture is determined by external factors such as ethnic or religious influences, but it is mostly our ethics that influence the culture of the company.
“Who we are”, our ethics and business ‘morals’, is what attracts people to do business with us.

“Many businesses that have failed were because individuals had neglected to make plans or set goals of any kind.” 

■ Goals

Whether we realise it or not, we all have goals – some of them are really simple and we make them without even thinking, for instance “I need to get to work by 08h30am this morning”. Of course that is a goal. Is it one that you need to write down? Not necessarily.
But some goals can quite difficult and complicated. Or rather, we make them overly difficult and complicated.

For me the easiest way to put my goals into perspective is to break them down into bite size chucks. Where do I want to be in a year, or three years or even five years? That’s the end goal. Then break it down into the components: What do I need to do to get there? How long will that take me? Once you have written all of that down, it is easier to set goals with (realistic) time lines, be those timelines in hours, days, weeks, months or even years.

Here’s a simple example. I want to paint my home and I want it done in 6 months’ time (the end result). How many rooms are there? In which order will I paint the rooms? What has to be done before I can paint (preparation)? What materials do I need? How long will each room take (preparing the walls, covering or moving furniture). What has to be done once the room has been painted (clean-up and uncovering and moving furniture, etc.).

Now that I have an idea of all the tasks that must be done, I can assign a reasonable time frame to each. If I stick to them, I can complete my task within the time period that I have given myself. If for whatever reason, I cannot stick to my time frames, I must adjust my ‘end result’, if that is what is required. The point being: I have documented my goal and set a plan in place in order to achieve my goal. I can measure myself at every step along the way and see how I am doing.

In the same way and in every aspect of your business, this simple type of goal setting and planning can be implemented to ensure that you achieve whatever it is that you wish to do.

Now let’s look at some of the practical guidelines that can be used by SMME’s to plan for the success of their business.

■ Organisational Chart

Contrary to popular belief, an organisational chart is not just about knowing which staff reports into which departments, or which individuals head up the various departments. Having a proper organisational chart makes it that much easier for business owners to visualise the company with all its various divisions and compartments.

This in turn makes it easier to put strategy and infrastructure in place. It also allows business owners to respond to changing markets, trends and seize opportunities a lot faster and more effectively. Having a plan or chart clearly visible has a great impact, and is much more valuable than merely a “thought or idea” that is kept only in the mind.

The organisational chart also means that intensions are clear and well defined. This makes it a lot easier to communicate these intentions to your staff.

■ Positional Contracts

Although all staff needs to have their own contracts, having contracts that are specific to a position is always a good thing. Apart from the fact that the staff member concerned will be under no misconception about what their role in the company is, the business owner also gets to define that particular role and make their expectations clear.

The easiest way for me (and I suspect that this is standard practice) is to start at the top of the organisational chart and work your way downwards.

Remember of course to have the list of requirements for each task/position readily at hand and make sure that your expectations and requirements are clear.

■ KPI’s

KPI’s of course are “Key Performance Indicators” and they are how the performance of each staff member is to be measured. The old adage still rings true: “If you can’t measure, you can’t manage it!” The best way to set those measurements and implement them is in the KPI’s or job descriptions. That way, as the business owner, your intention is made clear from the start and the consequences of not meeting your expectation are also documented.
Just ensure that when you hire someone for a position, that they are capable of performing the required task. Else you will be responsible for setting them up for failure. You, as the business owner, have a responsibility for ensuring that the person you hire is qualified and capable of doing the work.

■ How-to Manuals

If you have staff, it is of the utmost importance to document the ‘how to’ of fulfilling their duties/assigned tasks. This ensures that things get done properly and consistently, and will also provide you with something to measure their performance by.

Documenting the ‘how-to’ will also remove all sorts of emotional issues like (but not limited to) “but I thought you meant” or “I thought I would do it like this today” or my personal favourite “But I always do it like this!” Instructions that are simple and clear provide the groundwork for work that is correctly and timeously performed, leaving little room for error, oversight and excuses.

Business owners too should have checklists for themselves, and measure themselves accordingly.

So, there you have it – the basic plans that you should have in place as you venture out into the world of Business Owner. Don’t forget to check your plans and goals on a regular basis though – not only to see that you are still going in the right direction, but also to ‘tick off’ your accomplishments as and when you realise them. Then of course there are always the little ‘tweaks’ that need to be done as you change direction due to market trends and legislative requirements.

Good luck on your business venture and don’t forget to always have fun along the way.

Nikki ViljoenNikki Viljoen is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist. Email [email protected] or visit:

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First published on: ForbesAfrica