Keep Your Business Plan Current

Nothing in the world of business or business planning stands still. Ten years ago, no one could have predicted that smartphones and tablets would radically alter the way people receive and send information, for example. Ten years from today, as-yet unforeseen changes will likely have come along to transform the competitive landscape.

It would be nice to think that, after you’ve finalized your business plan, you can tuck it in a drawer and get on with running your business. But a business plan is a living, breathing document — at least it better be, if you want to stay nimble enough to keep one step ahead of the competition.

The only constant in business is change. The business-planning process is never over, so your business plan will always remain a work in progress.

The pace of change varies depending on your industry. If you manufacture high-speed telecom switches, your world is in constant motion. If you run the corner hardware store, change may come more slowly. But no business sector is immune to change at some level or another. And in virtually all businesses, these days, the pace of change has accelerated.

For years, a medical practice was one of the most secure (and lucrative) businesses around. Everyone gets sick, after all, and doctors thought they had a well-defined, stable market for their services. Along came managed care, and the business of doctoring changed dramatically — and some would say for the worse. Today, healthcare reform is creating even more change in this industry, as it will for the health insurance industry.

For further proof, consider the family farm. Farmers have always been at the mercy of the weather, but for generations, farming remained a pretty steady and predictable business in all other ways. Enter big agribusiness and new, sophisticated agricultural technologies and the business of farming changed forever from top to bottom. Now, with growing interest in organic produce and local production, small farms are coming back. Who would have thought?

Change isn’t all bad. It creates opportunities. In fact, more than likely you wouldn’t be planning to start or expand your company if markets, customers, and competitors weren’t evolving in one way or another. However, change also poses threats — from the arrival of new competitors to the enactment of stringent new regulations — which is a big part of why you need to make business planning an ongoing process.

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