As an entrepreneur, you started your business because you believed in a great idea or cause. Your plan was to make a thriving business, and you developed an action plan to turn your idea into a reality.
Most likely, not everything went as expected, even with a solid business plan outlining all the aspects of marketing, producing, selling and delivering. A change in plans may be necessary for survival.
Business experts have long prescribed the need for business plans. Business plans can become the roadmaps for the predicted future of the company.
It is not unusual for company leadership to spend hours developing detailed financial models and implementation strategies, only to place them on a shelf never to be reviewed again.
Yet successful companies combine strategic efforts to adjust to the dynamic changing circumstances. These are companies that are comfortable in pivoting to a Plan B when Plan A is no longer viable.
Three Points of Advice
Don’t take your business plan personally
Most entrepreneurs believe that they have a winning solution that people will be willing to buy. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for individuals embarking on new ventures to underestimate the amount of money they will need to get up and running, or how many people actually are willing to pay for their solution.
They may find that it is more expensive then assumed to garner enough paying customers to make the business viable.
Marketing is a two-way street
Your marketing efforts allow your clients to become aware of your services and start considering the benefits you offer to them. Yet marketing is not a one-way street where you do all the talking and the clients listen.
For best results, treat your marketing efforts as a form of dialogue. Marketing efforts allow you to test your hunches and measure the attitudes and behaviors of your customers. Ask for their views and listen to their comments.
Marketing allows you, the entrepreneur, to educate your client about how your product or service will improve their world.
For example, if you own a company that sells and installs home security products, then explaining the benefits of keeping their family safe will be important. But it is equally important that you listen to their concerns about your product and the ease of use, or the cost of installation, for example.
Marketing efforts should be created that determine whether the client will actually buy the solution you offer.
By creating your marketing messages as a form of dialogue, you can customize the conversation to address different segments of your customer base which may have different reasons for buying your products or services.
For example, you may offer an online time management program that allows company sales executives to save valuable time managing their clients. They could be very interested in the templates you provide.
However, the same program may be useful for different reasons with an educational institution that needs its teachers to handle a growing number of students. Each example buys for different reasons, and the marketing communication must address those reasons.
As your company shifts to meet the changing needs of its consumers, the marketing communication plans shift as well. This is another example of pivoting to Plan B. As time continues, you may find yourself pivoting to plans C, D and E.
Win, learn but never lose
If things don’t go the way you expected, don’t throw in the towel. Pivot to Plan B.
What have you learned that informs the changes you decide to make? Running a business is a continuous learning experience.
As you map out long range plans, realize that changes will be a part of any equation. The economic environment moves through stages of volatility and adaptation is always necessary.
The days when a business plan could be researched, developed and implemented are gone in most instances unless your business is in a very stable industry environment.
For most, the success of a company depends on how fast it can adapt to a Plan B or how fast it can infiltrate a new market. To stay sane in this rapidly changing world, leaders need to keep the perspective that sometimes they will achieve winning results, and sometimes they will fall short of their expectations.
In these times of shortfalls, the opportunities to learn can bring profit in the long-term.
Dr. Ann Gatty is a partner at Strategic People Solutions, a business consulting firm, providing business implementation strategy, leadership mentoring and HR employment solutions. Dr. Ann created The Business Sphere of Excellence® a strategic business implementation model used to construct annual and long range business plans to help businesses run more efficiently and profitably. Dr. Ann partners with Beretta, her Great Dane therapy dog to author Leadership Unleashed: A Great Dane’s Wisdom for the Business World.