Reimagining Your Business Plan in Today’s Environment

By Steven D. Peterson, Peter E. Jaret, Barbara Findlay Schenck

As you draw up your business plan, give serious thought to how changes in your industry could alter how you conduct your business. Mobile digital devices and other disruptive technologies have transformed not only the way companies interact with customers but also the way they run their operations and conduct business. More changes will come.

You don’t have to predict the future accurately. All you have to do is be aware of trends and developments that could change the way you and your competitors reach and serve customers.

The most pressing changes on your business horizon depend on the kind of business you’re in. Read on to explore two issues that are likely to affect most businesses as they compete in today’s changing environment.

Meeting the challenge of hiring and retaining top-quality people

The No. 1 factor in staying competitive these days is hiring — and retaining — top-notch employees. There’s a good reason that many high-profile tech companies offer employees all kinds of deluxe perks, from gourmet company restaurants to meditation rooms (not to mention competitive salaries).

They know that if a software engineer or creative type isn’t happy, he or she can jump ship and join any of dozens of other tech businesses. Especially in highly technical and creative fields, attracting and keeping talent is important. But even in less glitzy industries, hiring and retaining the best employees is critical to competitive success.

As the housing market recovered and the local economy boomed, a New York construction company began to land big ticket contracts to build luxury homes. Suddenly it faced an unexpected problem: hiring enough skilled carpenters, dry wall installers, stone masons, and other construction tradespeople.

Competing for customers wasn’t as much of a challenge as competing for skilled employees — people who could meet the exacting standards of high-end clients. To jump-start its hiring efforts, the business offered current employees a bonus for referring qualified tradespeople. The company also asked its current employees what perks would be most likely to win their loyalty. Forget gourmet lunches and meditation rooms.

What current employees most wanted was a little more flexibility in their schedules. Many of them had young children and a spouse who worked, so dropping the kids off and picking them up at childcare or school was a constant scheduling hassle. The company offered flextime — and to sweeten the deal, also arranged for food trucks to visit the major construction sites at lunchtime. Before long, they had tradespeople knocking at their door.

If hiring and retaining skilled employees are key to your business success, include the strategies you will use in your written plan.

Greening your business

Before concluding the assessment of your industry, customers, and competition, analyze the importance of environmental stewardship to your business success. Include the following considerations:

  • How going green provides a competitive advantage in your field: For example, building owners and operators increasingly consider LEED Green Building ratings important to leasing or sales success. Likewise, businesses from the Fortune 500 to the smallest Main Street are finding that environmental improvements attract customers and deliver market share growth.
  • How environmental actions can improve efficiencies or lower costs in your business: You can do so through reduced energy usage, cleaner technology, reduced consumption of supplies, or other positive impacts.
  • How greater sustainability contributes to a cleaner, healthier, more positive work environment: Beyond the financial impact, assess how going green enhances morale and loyalty in your field of business, both among employees and customers.
  • How environmental regulations affect your business: Stay abreast of how regulations are likely to affect your business, what actions will be necessary to stay abreast of the laws, and how you can get involved in industry efforts to address the issues with positive solutions.
  • How other businesses have implemented ecofriendly practices in your industry: Check how their actions have improved their images, competitive positions, and profitability.

In your business plan, include a section assessing the environmental impact of your business and industry, followed by steps to take to further green your business while also enhancing your competitive position, operational policies, workplace, community relations, and, often, your bottom line as well.