Ask SCORE: Successful businesses review their plans


Have you reviewed and adjusted your plans as COVID-19 crippled our economy last year? Lewis Carrol said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. This is unfortunately true when it comes to strategic business planning. The end of the year is a great time to review results, update your plans, and set goals for the future.

Willis Kanaley

Data from the US Small Business Administration shows that companies with a written plan that is reviewed and updated regularly grow 30% faster than companies without a written plan.

A strategic plan will help to:

  • Focus business activities on more efficient growth and improvement.
    Improve communication with employees and the management team.
    Set priorities and make better decisions.

Start with the numbers. What are your sales, expenses and profits and how do they compare to last year and your plans for this year? Calculate the differences and analyze the reasons for the differences. Preparing a list of things that went wrong and things that went well will provide a good starting point for making improvements.

While the numbers are critical, they aren’t the only thing you should be looking at. Things like your overall vision and mission for the business need to be considered. Do you have the right people in the right job? Do you have a succession plan? What training is needed? Are you satisfied with the style of your organization? How is morale? Are you satisfied?

Small businesses are risky: 30% fail within two years and 50% fail within five years. Having a plan that is clear and understood by everyone in your organization can significantly reduce these risks. The following set of manageable steps can help lower your risk.

Make sure your vision aligns with the corporate vision that is shared with employees and customers. It should be short and clearly state what the future of the business will be, including products, markets and long-term goals.

Review and analyze your current situation. A good technique is to use a SWOT review of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Where will future growth come from? What are your competitors doing and what will be your competitive advantage?

Establish personal goals with your employees and general goals for the business, along with plans on how to achieve them. One effective technique is to use the SMART Checklist for Plans. They should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Actionable / Achievable
  • Identify the responsible party
  • Timely with intermediate checkpoints.

Regular reviews and follow-up are essential to ensure progress is being made. A common approach is an in-depth monthly review with weekly follow-up on a few specific items. Plans rarely work exactly as expected. It is important to allow flexibility and to incorporate ideas and emergency funds to deal with unforeseen events that are very likely to occur. A collection of professionally prepared business plans can be reviewed here: https://www.bplans.com/

SCORE, “Mentors to America’s Small Business” is part of the SBA. It is an organization of volunteers who offer unlimited free confidential advice to business owners and entrepreneurs. They have local members who have prepared business plans and are available to help. A variety of courses are available at https://www.score.org/courses-demand If you want a confidential review of your situation, you can schedule a meeting at www.score.org or you can call 610-376- 3497 in Reading, 610-327-2673 in Pottstown or 717-397-3092 in Lancaster to speak to a volunteer.