Comment: Reflecting on your business

By: David Boyce, NZ Trucking Association CEO

You need to take time out regularly to reflect on your business, to see what has worked for you and what hasn’t, and to make some plans for the future

When I started in the trucking industry, I didn’t have any great plans. In fact, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Like many in this industry, I fell into my first job because my father had said to me, "Give it a go son while you make up your mind what you want to do with your life." Forty-four years later, I’m still here.

After the festive season rush is over, take some time to reflect on your business, to look at what worked well in the last year and to plan for the future

One of the things I learnt early in my life is that you can’t just keep putting one foot after the other doing the same thing all the time expecting the situation to change. You need to take time out regularly to reflect on your business, to see what has worked for you and what hasn’t, and to make some plans for the future.

After the festive season rush is over, take some time to look at what worked well in the last year and plan for the future.

Grab a pad and a pen and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What went well?
  • What didn’t work?
  • What have you learnt?
  • What are you going to stop doing?
  • What trends and changes are developing in the industry?
  • What are your top goals?
  • What opportunities are there?
  • How are you going to get ahead of the competition?
  • How are you going to review progress?

Once you have gathered all this information, it’s time to write a business plan—one that’s successful and profitable.

A business plan helps to structure your business correctly

You can use it to monitor your progress, manage your business, and to set goals and objectives. It also forces you to review other aspects of your business, including your value proposition, marketing plan, operations plan, financial plan, and staffing plan.

Having a broad plan also allows you to spot connections between different areas of your business you may have missed or any hurdles that you may need to overcome. Here are some of the top reasons a business plan is useful.

Managing your finances

Careful management of cash flow is a fundamental requirement. Many businesses, even profitable ones, fail because they become insolvent (unable to pay their debts as they fall due). Cash flow management is extremely important. A well-structured business plan will allow to plan your funding requirements in advance.

Mapping your path to success in the future, working out your priorities, and achieving your long-term goals. A strong business plan gives your company a general direction, helps you to work out your objectives, and come up with strategies for how you might get there.

You might know roughly what you want to achieve and how you plan to go about it in the back of your mind, but without committing it to paper, you risk being unprepared for and unable to deal with the bumps on the road and will likely waste a lot of time and money on things.

With a solid plan, you can spend your time doing the things you need to do

A business plan can help a company figure out the road ahead and make the most of the opportunities that come their way

You should also regularly review and update the business plan and use it to assess whether your current strategy is working, adapt to any changes, and make the most of opportunities that come your way.

A business plan gives you control over your business and helps to look at what things are working and what need to be improved. By writing a business plan, you can learn about your industry, market, and competitors, work out where you are in the market and where you are headed, understand your finances and identify challenges and how you can avoid or deal with them. You could also seek employee feedback for ideas and improvements on your business plan.

Help you to plan an exit strategy

At some point, you may wish to retire or sell your business. If you think about your exit strategy in advance, you can use it to inform and direct present-day decisions. When you are ready to sell, you want to have liquidity in your assets, so if you liquidate your investment over time, it becomes easier to cash out when you want to.

Exit strategies may include being acquired by competitors, mergers, family succession, or management buyouts. Having a plan is essential in such cases. Selling a business can take a long time, and the new owner or successor will want to hit the ground running.

If they can see that you have been planning this for quite some time, the price you will achieve will likely be much higher. A business plan gives buyers confidence that there was a strategy for the sale and that it’s not just being sold out of desperation. 

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