Small start-up businesses will initially use their business plan as a blueprint or a guide to help set up and get their enterprise off the ground. However, the plan you started with may start to become ineffectual after a while, once your business has found its feet.
It’s good practice to give your business plan a spruce up every now and then and ensure you are ‘on track’.
But, if are facing some issues, such as a major threat from a direct competitor, or you’re presented with a promising business opportunity, then you will need to revise your plan so that it reflects the challenges you now face.
Issues that many start-ups face
We all know that business projections are not linear and there will be some ups and downs along the way. But there are clear signs of trouble to look out for and must not ignore; for example, your costs rising while your revenues are steadily falling.
Things don’t tend to go wrong overnight in the business world, so when you see costs starting to creep up while your turnover is declining, it is time to review your business practices and processes to find out what is going on.
You may notice other issues start arising, such as:
- Increased customer complaints
- Staff members becoming frustrated with their workload
- Tasks not being performed at all, or even duplicated without awareness
- Increasing raw material costs
- Internal wastage increasing due to mistakes
- Processing bottlenecks slowing down production
- Poor productivity and missed deadlines
Your business processes are a fundamental part of your company’s practices and define everything; from what you do and how you do it, to how you operate and how you present yourself to the world.
Your business plan is your blueprint for your processes and by sticking to it you can continue to deliver a high level of consistency, quality and brand experience that is so important to your end customer. However, this will only work if your business plan is accurate and up to date.
Amending your business plan as your business evolves
No business is static. You don’t start up a business with the sole aim of staying exactly where you are.
Every business will evolve and grow over time and this means that your business practices will need to change following the ebb and flow of your growth, the current business environment and the overall economic climate.
Business processes that worked for you as a new start-up with maybe just one single product or service will not work as effectively as they did once you have expanded your product range or you begin to offer more services.
Correcting your processing issues is a challenge, but first, you need to identify them before you can come up with an effective solution. The two most simple, effective and straightforward actions to take are:
- Hold regular problem-solving sessions
- Customer journey/value stream mapping/ reverse-engineering
Let’s look at each in turn;
1. Holding regular problem-solving sessions
As a small business owner or manager, you know that you have a good team around you. Each person in your team has a lot of working knowledge and experience in their role, so why not utilise this and leverage their knowledge by holding regular problem-solving sessions?
Holding these sessions can be very effective, especially when you have identified a problem or issue, but you are not confident about how to resolve it. Many minds make light work here so one of your team may be able to offer up the perfect solution.
The problem-solving session should have a clear agenda so that everyone is on the same page:
- What the problem is – a simple problem statement
- When or where the problem has been seen
- The scale of the problem
- The impact or consequence of the problem
Involving your wider team with representatives from each of your departments can help build your chain of custody and clearly show which link in your chain requires fixing.
You can then either work collectively on finding a workable solution to fix the issue, or you could form a working group of key staff members to dedicate their time towards finding a solution.
The outcome of this type of action will give you a shortlist of potential solutions and fixes which you can then take forward and test for viability. You can then implement the most effective ideas and closely monitor the outcomes.
2. Reverse-engineering your business from the customer back
If you are struggling to identify an issue with your business processes, but are still seeing your sales in decline or not meeting with your expectations, then it is time to reverse engineer your customer journey to find where the problem lies.
If your sales are sinking then your level of customer satisfaction may be the issue. There could be an unhealthy disconnect between the benefits your product or service delivers to what your customers are actually seeking.
This could be a problem with:
- Your quality control
- Poor customer service delivery
- New or increased competition in the marketplace
- Your marketing message is off-target
Start with your customer avatar
Firstly, make sure that you are targeting the right end customer by reviewing your target audience. Most successful businesses will have identified their ideal customer by creating a customer avatar during the research and development stages of the business.
The whole success of your business plan starts with your end customer. By identifying your goals to deliver your ideal customer with the solution they crave, you can start to work backwards to create a successful plan.
Start with a vision from your customers perspective and understand what they want. Work out what you are doing for your customer and how best to deliver what you promise.
Ask yourself what you can do better for your customer;
- Could the product be more environmentally-friendly?
- Can it be easier to carry?
- Is it possible to use less packaging?
- Could you deliver a more professional or higher-quality service?
Map your customer journey
Your user journey will tell you the paths they followed to purchase your product or service. Put yourself in their place and take note of every frustration experienced or confusion encountered on their journey.
Use this user experience to create a more pleasant, easy and friendly customer journey for your ideal customer avatar and ultimately for your real-life target audience.
You should also be collecting your customer data and leveraging this to help improve your customer-focused actions and services. Your end customers like to feel valued and included in your world, so by asking for their honest feedback you are reinforcing their interest in your business.
By acknowledging your customers, you will be making their feelings recognised, which in turn will help to build their trust and loyalty in your company and will help to increase your rates or return purchases.
Hiring in expert help
If you know you will struggle with implementing these actions, then you can bring in an expert to help in the form of an external business consultant.
Hiring in an expert in your field can help you more easily identify issues within your current processes, and your consultant will be able to supply you with a few tried and tested suggestions that have proved effective in resolving similar issues elsewhere in other organisations.
For example, Consulthon, which I co-founded, is an expert platform where you can post a question for free and see answers from a variety of consultants with experience in your sector. You can then book a one hour call with the consultant you feel best understands the issue you wish to solve.
This is a cost-efficient way forward if you don’t have the budget to hire a full-time business consultant yourself.
While hiring an expert consultant may not be the cheapest option open to you, it may be the most speedy and effective way to help resolve your business issues and set you back on the right path for your future prosperity and growth.
By taking a closer look at your physical business processes as well as your customer delivery and satisfaction levels, you should be able to identify where changes are needed to be made to make further improvements as your business grows and evolves.
Make it a regular operational task to review your business plan and amend and expand it as necessary as your business continues to expand. Involve and include your team so that everyone feels connected and an important part of your plans for the future.
About the author
This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Mirel Baila, co-founder of Consulthon, a UK Management Consulting Expert Network. The platform offers businesses access to a wide range of skills, in a variety of sectors and countries.
More on starting your own business
ByteStart is packed with help and tips on all aspects of starting and running your own business. Check out some of our most popular guides;
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- Small Company Directors – 9 Timeless Ways to Cut Your Tax Bills
Funding your business
- 5 Ways to Unlock Finance for Your Start-Up Business
- Finding Finance for Your New Business – Funding Advice for Start-Ups
- Preparing to Raise Finance for Your Business – 6 Steps to Success