Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Start-ups and early-stage ventures are faced with a myriad of challenges and options; but how can you efficiently manage all the fine details? Read on to find out how a few simple tools can help you keep your business plan on track.

What has happened to the plan you wrote when you launched your business? Have you revisited it since investing thousands of dollars and countless hours in charts, coloured tables and earning projections?

If you’re like many start-ups it’s likely the business plan script may look a tad insipid now. It might even be somewhat irrelevant to what is confronting you each and every day.

Planning tools start-up businesses

Ask the question: Is this s million dollar opportunity?

You’ve identified an opportunity in your industry and its marketplace to do things better, cheaper or faster; but how big is the opportunity really? Will it be big enough to justify your investment and effort?

Develop a filter to eliminate the things that aren’t worth the effort. Small ideas can take just as much time to evaluate, test and take to market as big ones, so why bother? Your mindset from now on should be: is this opportunity big enough to make my investment worthwhile?

What kinds of opportunities are big enough? It depends on your goal: if you’re looking for a multi-million dollar payday then you need a multi-million dollar idea.

Review your business strategy every month

A single-sheet strategy statement can become the most important intuitive planning tool you’ll develop. But it does take effort, collaboration and analysis. As a time-strapped business owner, you’ll be challenged, but performing this every month, rigorously, is essential to business growth.

Name it ‘month plan’ or ‘strategic plan’, but address each of your main functional areas:

  • Sales
  • Product development
  • Finance
  • Operations
  • Marketing

Handy tip:

Use colour-coding to relate and tie them back to your overall business goals, for example ‘securing the first 100 subscribers’.

This sheet should be updated during the month, and importantly, kept focused on higher level strategy issues, which will determine the success of the business over the long term.

Build a daily priority list

Review the sheet daily and identify a priority list which, when activated and totalled over the month, should bring you close to achieving your monthly strategic goals. Your entries could be as detailed or brief as you wish.

Some people like to assign a timeframe for each activity; others prefer to limit the items to four or five to ensure they’ll be addressed and completed.

Handy tip:

This tool is dependent on your time management skills, so you might need to track how long each task takes you.

Coping with emergencies

Unpredictable stuff happens. On the upside, you know you have this sheet for today, even if you have something like a cash flow crisis due to non-payment by a large customer.

Here’s how to handle emergencies:

  • Risk management: Conduct you own risk assessment as part of your planning process. If an event such as a bad debt is ever possible, then have a contingency so it can’t derail your business. For example, set up a credit facility for emergencies only.
  • Prioritising: If your emergency is time-consuming, such as a technology break down, revisit the tasks and goals in your current strategic plan and deal with the big issues first. Work out which items are low-priority and push them into following months.
  • You can do it: Adopt the attitude that ‘no matter what the crisis, I can respond’. Get back on track with the important things and don’t waste time working on things that are not.

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