Step 7 – Contingency Plan
The seventh, and last, chapter/section in the business plan is the contingency plan section (or the “what if?”). Since very few plans happen exactly as planned, and to demonstrate good planning acumen assuming a question like: “What will you do if you do not make the plan?” – from anyone who reviews the business plan, you need to contemplate the two obvious scenario’s:
- What will we do if business is “better than” planned?
- What will we do if business is “worse than” planned?
This then anticipates that the management team has developed Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) that can be tracked every month. KPI’s being those 6 or 7 key indicators of business health for any business.
These KPI’s should have “trigger points” where it is obvious that the business is doing either “better than” or “worse than” the volumes in the best case scenario contained in the business plan. Reaching these trigger points should indicate that it is time to implement one of the predetermined contingency plans outlined in this section of the business plan.
Tracking these KPI’s in combination with the review of progress against the quarterly strategic milestones in the strategy section, the management team has a proactive methodology for maintaining control over the business.
Once developed in the way in which advocated in the plan-for-planning process, any management team can easily create a winning business plan.
In this step of the Plan-for-Planning process, you focus on the development of the organizational chart.
The sixth chapter in the business plan is the organization section (i.e. who is going to do it). It should contain the Organization chart for the company, as well as manpower tables by function. A sample overview is:
Board of Directors
President – CEO
Chief Operating Officer – COO
Finance & Accounting
Marketing & Sales
Research & Development
Manpower tables for each function should be included after the organization chart.
Explanations for any manpower growth over the business plan period should also accompany each table. If there is a specific manpower strategy, that should be referred to in this section.
Total salary expenses for the company for each year of the business plan, should be highlighted in this section, as well. Likewise, if there is a profit sharing/bonus consideration that should be discussed in this section, too.
Anyone reviewing the Organization section will have a clear picture of the total compensation expense of the company for each year of the business plan, along with explanations.
There you have it. It doesn’t get any easier than this.
Step 5 – Asset Management
The fifth chapter/section in the business plan is the financial section. It should contain the projected Profit & Loss Statement, the Balance Sheet, Cash Flow projections, and key financial ratios for the business plan.
All of these financial statements should contain commentary where required to explain and clarify any specific numbers.
Additionally, any substantial capital expenditures over the business plan period should be noted and explained in the Asset Management section.
Summary level examples of these statements are:
Projected Profit & Loss
Operating Plan Period
20XX 20XX 20XX
Cost of Sales
Estimated Balance Sheets
As at: 20XX 20XX 20XX
Estimated Cash Flows
Opening Cash 1/01/20XX
Closing cash 12/31/20XX
Estimated Significant Financial Data/Ratios
20XX 20XX 20XX
Receivables Collection Periods
Debt to Equity
Return on Assets
Projected Capital Expenditures
20XX 20XX 20XX
Reviewing the Asset Management will give any reader a clear picture of the projected financial situation of the company over the business plan period.
Step 4 – How are we going to get there?
Typically called – “Strategies” – this section/chapter lays out the strategies that the company has developed to grow revenues and profits for implementation during this business planning period. You’ll want to answer all of the questions for each strategy to ensure full consideration.
The format for this section is (for every strategy):
- What the strategy is (a description of the strategy)?
2. What the rationale is for the strategy (why we are implementing this strategy)?
3. Who is responsible for implementation (a specific manager)?
4. How long is the implementation going to take and what is going to be accomplished quarter-by-quarter (specific activities by quarter)?
5. How much is going to be spent on each activity each quarter (a quarter-by-quarter listing of expenditures)?
6. What is the expected return on the successful implementation of each strategy (the ROI for the strategy)?
When completed, this section should present a clear picture of what the management team plans to accomplish to continue to grow the revenues and profits for the company, and how much that will cost.
This section is particularly important because it lays out the quarterly strategic milestones that have to be reviewed on a quarterly basis, so that depending upon the success or failure of the expectations for each strategy for that quarter, decisions can be made as to how to continue to proceed strategy-by-strategy. And how to continue to allocate investments based upon these results.
This way management can better control the investments in the company’s future depending upon the levels of success or failure of each strategy on a quarterly basis.
Continuing with your business plan – the story about your business:
Step Three – What are we going to do it with?
Typically called – “The Marketing Summary” – this section/chapter identifies the products/services that the company offers, and their plans for each during this business plan period.
The format for this section is:
- A description of the product/service, and the market(s) that it competes in.
- Where the product is in its product life cycle (E,G,M,A).
- How much it contributes to the profitability of the company.
- The specific marketing strategies for this product/service.
- Any plans for modifying this product/service to meet changing customer requirements, and by when.
- Any concerns about competitive threats.
When completed this section should present a clear picture of where the company is in its life cycle and the individual products/services positions in their life cycles that support and contribute to the overall company life cycle position.
Ideally, this should be summarized in a table-like presentation:
Product Life cycle position Projected sales Profit contribution
A G Yr 1 Yr 2 Yr 3 Yr 1 Yr 2 Yr 3
As you can see this simple presentation gives the reader a complete picture of how each product/service contributes to the total projected sales and profits of the company for each year of the business plan period, as well as where each is in their product life cycles, and the company as a whole.
In combination with the narrative for each product/service you have a complete presentation of “what we are going to do it with”.
Stay tuned for Step 4!
As always, send us your questions for Dr. Business to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this week’s post, Dr. Business continue with Plan for Planning process by discussing STEP #2:
Step Two – What will help or hinder?
Typically called – “Key Problems & Opportunities” – this section/chapter identifies short term (within the next year) problems that the management team must deal with/resolve, and short term opportunities that can be exploited over the coming year.
Problems and opportunities also come from the SWOT analysis described in Step One. Every company has short term problems and opportunities that need to be described in their business plan. To have a well done and complete business plan theses issues have to be highlighted with the actions planned to deal with them discussed in detail.
The format for this presentation and discussion is:
- Description of the problem e.g. Training and development of sales personnel.
- Action plan: Contract with a professional sales training company for quarterly one day detailed seminars on professional selling techniques.
- Measurement: Individual salesmen’s improvement in their selling techniques as measured by: 1. Increased sales, and 2. Feedback from customer surveys.
- Description of the opportunity e.g. Implement Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM) system.
- Action plan: Research CRM systems for the one best suited for our business/marketplace during the first quarter.
- Evaluate and select a system during the second quarter.
- Begin implementation during the second half.
When done well this section/chapter of the business plan describes management’s proactive plans to deal with the problems and opportunities identified in the SWOT exercise. It represents positive actions that are being taken to deal with issues of critical importance during the first year of this business plan.
It should reinforce stakeholder’s confidence in the management team and motivate them to delve further into the longer range plans outlined in the business plan.
One of the major reasons businesses fail is either because they do not have a business plan, or have not updated the plan that they once developed.
A business plan is a story about your business: Where are you now? Where do you want to be? And, most importantly – How are you going to get there, and by when?
After helping hundreds of company’s develop business plans and teaching business strategy for many years, I explain my five step Plan-for-Planning Process in my book.
Step One – Where are we now?
Typically called – “The Executive Summary” – this section/chapter explains where a company finds itself at the beginning of a new planning period in terms of:
- Their sales and profitability at the end of last year.
- Their position in their marketplace vis-à-vis their competitors.
- The results of the most recent SWOT analysis.
- What their unique value proposition is.
- Management’s description of their vision for the future of the company.
This section can only be completed after the management team has gone through an evaluation of the current situation the company finds itself in. This encompasses an honest SWOT analysis. SWOT being:
- Strengths – What is our core technology i.e. what do we do better than our competition?
- Weaknesses – What don’t we do well i.e. in terms of execution of our strategies?
- Opportunities – What immediate options do we have that we need to implement as soon as possible?
- Threats – What can cause us to lose customers, and what can we do about it?
Since a business plan is a story about a business, and as a story it has to be interesting and motivating for stakeholders to want to know more. Think about the introduction to any good book that you have read – hasn’t it encouraged you to want to read on?
Another important value to a well done business plan is that it can be shared with all the company’s stakeholders to give them confidence that they are part of a growing successful and profitable business. The most successful companies broadcast their unique value proposition, as well as the implementation of well thought through strategies that support their vision for their future.
A well done business plan is akin to reading the annual report of any successful public company wherein the company explains: where they are now, where they plan to be in the next 3 to 5 years, and the strategies they expect to implement to get to where they want to be. The continuing ability of the management team to achieve their goals supports and grows the brand equity of the company. This should be the goal for your business plan, too.