Why benefit advisers need a business plan

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It’s the season for making resolutions. For individuals, this typically means writing out personal goals to define what’s important and guide their behavior in the coming year.

For businesses and their owners, this more likely takes the form of an updated business plan that addresses the challenges and prepares for the opportunities that lie ahead. As with personal resolutions, ideally your business plan should be written out in a cogent and thoughtful manner.

Now you may be asking yourself, why do I need to write out my business plan? After all, you have it all in your head and you’ve gotten this far, right? And, let’s face it, most businesses, even some that are highly successful, never get around to doing this.

But you are not ‘most businesses,’ and it’s the very discipline of writing out your plan that forces you to think through all the issues you must consider. Putting your plan in writing makes it more definitive and enduring, and it will solidify your commitment to carrying it out. It also forces you to put a stake in the ground and make some hard decisions. And once they’re made, it will be easier to clearly and effectively communicate your plan to your employees, investors and other stakeholders without any misinterpretation.

Need another reason? Historically, businesses that go to the trouble of writing out their business plan have a higher success rate and ultimately command a higher business valuation.

Business planning is a strategic exercise that will by its very nature be an iterative process. A good place to start is by gathering the information that you need to establish a current baseline. Knowing where you are at is essential to figuring out where you want to go. To this end, consider scheduling a strategy session (preferably somewhere off-site and away from operational distractions) where you can discuss the key issues surrounding your business. Involve a select group of team members that interact regularly with clients and employees. They might include business development and sales managers, consultants, account managers and so forth.

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Here are some things that your confab and the plan that emerges from it should address:

  • Why does your business exist? What is its mission? What does your brand stand for?
  • Who does your business serve? Who are your target customers? Who should be interested in your services?
  • What products and services does your business offer? What will your firm offer in the future? What is your value proposition? Should that remain your value proposition?
  • How will your business grow? Realistically, how much can it grow? What is your competitive advantage?
  • Do you have the resources you need to carry out your mission? What role does technology play? Are there new technologies, processes or strategies that you need to adopt?
  • Where will your future clients come from? Where will your next generation of managers come from? How will you recruit the talent that you need?
  • How profitable is your business? Is it profitable enough? If not, what steps can you take to make it more profitable?

These are important questions and it will take some time to reflect on them. But make sure you also allow time to ponder your succession plan as well. Who will run your business in the future? How will your legacy be sustained? How will you pass on or exit your business? Are there internal succession candidates? Do they have the appropriate experience and skills? Will they have the financial resources to acquire your company?
Once you’ve carefully composed your plan, you should share it with your staff and new hires. Use it to help everyone who has a stake in your company better understand the nature of the business and their role in it, both now and in the future. Help them, so that they can do a better job helping you.

Document your plan and lay the groundwork for this to be the most prosperous year in your business career.

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Practice management Advisor strategies Strategic planning Strategic plans