Business Plans For Dummies
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Don’t wait until your business is upended by change before you refocus your business vision. Stay proactive by annually assessing how well your product, location, distribution, staffing, and operations suit the market situation you face today and tomorrow.

Here are three areas within your business you can look to when it’s time to reshuffle the deck.

Business refocus #1: make product changes

To assess whether your product is in need of a minor-to-major overhaul, go to the Product/Service Description Checklist you developed for your business plan, this time completing it with change in mind.

  • Summarize your product and its features, this time frankly assessing whether the features of your offering are still competitive in your marketplace and, if not, what new features you could add to address changing wants and needs.

  • Then summarize your target customers, assessing whether your current products might appeal to different groups, within your current market area or in new market areas, in order to provide the sales volume you seek.

  • Next, summarize the benefits your product provides, asking whether customers still value those benefits and, if not, how you could revise your offering to create a different value proposition.

  • Finally, consider whether your company could adapt to its changed market environment by creating and offering an altogether new product, so long as that product fits with the capabilities of your business and your company’s brand image.

Business refocus #2: move your business

Whether your location is online or in a bricks-and-mortar building, sometimes a move is necessary to address the wants and needs of your primary customers and to kick-start lagging business. As you weigh your situation, assess how a change to your location could benefit your business.

  • Consider where your business could be located — physically and online. Can you achieve greater success in a different location or market area? Can you realize higher profit margins if you shift the nature of your location, reducing or eliminating physical inventory in favor of virtual inventory?

  • Outline what would be involved to physically revamp or relocate your business, or to establish an additional location.

  • Outline how you could achieve a stronger Internet footprint — by improving your own site, expanding your online social networks, establishing online marketplace affiliations, or establishing new ways customers could access your products online.

Business refocus #3: revamp your operations and processes

Some business reinventions involve changes to the very way companies operate. For example, a manufacturer that can’t achieve competitive pricing due to high costs might orchestrate a major business redesign by licensing proprietary designs for manufacture by third parties.

A business that can’t keep full-time staff productive might revise operations from an employee-based business to a virtual workplace staffed by freelance contractors. A business that requires large volumes of supplies or services may decide to create new business divisions in order to provide such components internally.

  • Consider whether your business would benefit from a major change in how it’s equipped. Would adding equipment allow your business new production options? Would selling equipment and subcontracting through third-party suppliers provide your business with higher profit margins?

  • Assess whether your business might benefit from a redesign of the way it’s staffed and organized.

  • Reconsider how you produce your product, how you handle inventory and delivery of your product, and how you maintain and guarantee product quality.

Business refocus #4: alter distribution channels

If your business planning is motivated by the need to turn your business around, consider how you might overhaul how you distribute your offering.

  • Outline new ways your product might reach your marketplace. If you’re currently a bricks-and-mortar operation, consider what an all-online distribution model might look like. If you currently sell through an internal sales force, consider how you could benefit from shifting to sales through wholesalers, distributors, sales representatives, auctions, or other altogether new sales approaches.

    If you currently sell directly to consumers, assess whether your business might benefit from strategic alliances with intermediaries that might purchase in bulk for resale to consumers.

  • Consider whether the market area you serve is sufficiently large to sustain your business, or whether you should expand or shift emphasis to new markets.

Especially if your business is about to undergo major changes, define in your written business plan how you plan to shift your business focus by altering your product, location, distribution, staffing, operations, and marketing.

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