Small-Business Planning in Times of Trouble
Sometimes the going gets tough, and your strategic plan is reduced to tatters as a result. Maybe your business model — your plan for how you make money — isn’t quite what it was cracked up to be. Maybe your financial projections were a little too rosy. Maybe your analysis of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWAT) missed some key points.
Instead of throwing up your hands in despair, try to pinpoint what went wrong and to begin planning a way to turn the situation around.
Most companies don’t land in hot water overnight. Usually some warning signs present themselves, even if they’re slight and build slowly over months or years before someone at the top finally says, Uh-oh.
So how do you know if your company is headed for trouble? Use the sample form to scan some of the early warning signs. If you see items that hit close to home, check out those issues as they relate to your company. If your company passes the test, keep the list handy and return to it from time to time, just to be on the safe side.
If you check three or more items on the form, definitely revisit your business plan and the assumptions behind it. Pinpoint the problems and redraft your business plan to accurately address your business situation.
Suppose, for example, that customers aren’t flocking to your new location the way you thought they would. Go back to your original market analysis to see what assumptions you made at the outset. Next, look at how the current situation differs from the way you envisioned it to be. Do you face unanticipated competition? Have your customers’ wants and needs changed? Was your promotion inadequate?
Don’t launch into the blame game or look for scapegoats. Even if you ultimately decide that you need to make personnel changes, the first step isn’t to place blame; you need to figure out what went wrong and how to get your business back on track.
Sometimes getting an outside opinion about a difficult business situation can be very beneficial. When your company faces a crisis or near crisis, you can bring in turnaround professionals to help determine what’s wrong and how you can revise your business plan to address the situation. To find consultants, start at the Turnaround Management Association website.
Before you enlist outside help, you may want to bring your own management team together to assess the damage and to attempt to find a solution. Done right, this meeting of minds will create a stronger sense of teamwork and inspire the troops. And, with any luck, you’ll come up with good creative and strategic solutions.
Your own management team may not see critical issues objectively. Vested interests, assumptions, and emotions can get in the way. Outside consultants, such as turnaround professionals, don’t carry the excess baggage. They can take a clear-eyed and unemotional look, pinpoint what’s wrong, and help arrive at a solution — even if it’s a painful one. Most are available to guide the redirection of your business plan and to help steer the turnaround process.