When I’m writing an article for StartupPrincess.com, I often reach out to our followers on Twitter and ask them a question to get some feedback or tips on the subject I’m writing about. I did the same in preparation for this article.
I went on twitter and posted this: “PRESS OPPORTUNITY for Women Entrepreneurs on how you do #business #financial planning. Instructions here: https://www.facebook.com/startupprincess”
The answer: Crickets.
No response on Twitter, Facebook or email. There were lots of retweets, and then after some time I got one response from a friend (which is was so insightful, I’m posting it later as a full article).
I then had another woman who is also part of my network reach out to me. I asked her a little about cash flow and financial planning and she told me “off the record”, “Honestly, I don’t do it.”
She’s not alone. Most of the entrepreneurs I consult don’t do any kind of planning whatsoever. No financial planning, no business planning, no marketing planning, nothing. And they wonder why they aren’t experiencing what they want in their business growth and paychecks.
I know I sound like a broken record, but “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
Here are some tips for financial planning that are critical to your business success:
1. Create an annual marketing and promotional calendar. Don’t be surprised that this marketing nerd started with a marketing plan instead of a financial plan. That’s how I roll. The reason I start here is because too many small business owners are running a DMP a.k.a. “Desperation Marketing Plan,” which means that because there is a lack of money, the promotions are coming from desperation instead of strategic planning. Some small businesses are so strapped for cash that they are running promotion after promotion. They have told their clients that there will always be a special price and they will never feel a sense of urgency to purchase the product. Words like “limited time offer” and “never so low” have lost their meaning.
Good promotions are six weeks apart and vary in the offer. Good promotions are ALWAYS in alignment with your brand. Some brands could never get by with steep discounts and hokey offers. Some brands would be better off “Stacking the cool,” as Frank Kern would say. Perhaps you could give bonuses instead of discounting your price. Perhaps you could come up with bonus products or offerings instead of always giving discounts. Think through your business and brand. Businesses that depend on repeat customers (i.e., retail and restaurants) can afford to do more discounting than high-end consultants. However, EVERY company needs to ensure their discounts increase transactions (or transaction amounts) instead of decreasing brand equity. To do this well, plan in advance. For example, it’s almost too late for Mother’s Day promotion planning. You need time to create, seed and advertise promotions so they can be successful. Plan your promotional calendar 12 months in advance so you can vary your offers and have time between promotions. You’ll have greater success instead of your own “set of crickets” when you put a special offer on the table.
2. Revisit your business plan (for some of you, this may need to read WRITE your business plan). Do you have a plan? Do you have goals in your business? Do you know how much you want to make a month? Do you know what steps you need to take to fill the gap from where you currently are? Writing a business plan isn’t about making your head spin; it’s about creating structure and purpose to your business so you have a map to follow to business success. Business plans also don’t need to be pages and pages long (unless you’re planning to get funding from investors or the bank. In these two instances you’ll need to be a lot more thorough in your business plan).
Here are the sections to a business plan:
a. Table of Contents
b. Executive Summary
c. Business Description & Vision
d. Definition of the Market
e. Description of Products and Services
f. Organization & Management
g. Marketing and Sales Strategy
h. Financial Management
You can get a lot of mileage out of a detailed paragraph or two for each of the above. Often just going through this process provides direction and ideas for changes you can make to build some financial security into your business.
If this still sounds overwhelming, don’t give up. We’ve had a lot of clients and readers who have benefitted from the Sticky Note Business Plan.
Every step you take to plan for the future adds strength to your financial foundation. You can’t afford NOT to do some better planning.
Once you’ve done some planning, you’ll probably notice some “holes”. Every business has ‘seasons’ where the money flows freely and other ‘seasons’ that feel like famine. Hopefully, you’ll then revisit your promotional calendar and figure out how you can make the feasts more plentiful and the famines less painful. For some, that means doing
promotions in those off times. For others that means building STRONGER promotions during peak times so that the good times can be GREAT. Your annual marketing and business planning is an important step to making strategic decisions in your business’ financial future.
3. Know when to bootstrap and when to go into debt. Though I’m a HUGE fan of bootstrapping and do everything I can to avoid debt in my life and business, it’s worth “charging” something from time to time. For example, I use my Visa card from Capital One to defer big payments for 30 days so that I can wait for receivables to come in that are a little behind. I have never had to pay interest on a business expense, and the card provides the ability to give myself “terms” on an expense. I also get the joys of the rewards and discounts from my card. I’ve never had a business loan, but I know good clients and good friends that have lines of credit at the bank so that they can take money out in lean times and pay it back in plentiful times. PLEASE get the advice and help of professionals as you make decisions like this. Your coach or mentor, local Small Business Development Center and even your local bank can be a great resource for bouncing off ideas and plans. Whatever you do, READ the fine print and make sure you understand the interest you’re paying and the payment schedule that’s expected. Keep your financial commitments so that you
don’t damage your credit or lose assets.
4. Keep up and be consistent. Trends change. Industries change. Sales ebb and flow. When necessary, revisit your promotional plan and your business plan and make the changes required so that you can keep up. That said, give your plans some time to work. Changing too much makes you a moving target and you’ll lose customers and potential customers because of your lack of direction and consistency.
5. If after all of this you’re STILL unsure about how to tame the financial ebbs and flows in your business, get some professional help. If the SBDC can’t help you, seek the advice of a mentor, consultant or coach. Often a second set of experienced eyes can help you strategize next steps.
Hopefully one (or more) of these tips will help you prepare for your next 12 months.
I’d love to hear your ideas and tips: How do YOU efficiently and strategically do your company’s
Michelle McCullough is the Managing Director for Startup Princess and is also a sought after business strategist and speaker. She’s the creator of “The Life Balance Myth” coaching program and self-study system for entrepreneurs & professionals. She’s been featured in numerous media outlets including entrepreneur.com and UVBQ’s 40 under 40. She’s also the host of a weekly radio show. As a mother of two young children she knows there’s no time to mess around. It’s time to Make It Happen.
I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa
for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s.
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*I further declare that this or any other advice should not be taken as a guarantee or business fact. I wish I could guarantee that my advice would make you rich and your business solvent, but I can’t. Your results and success are entirely in your hands. Good luck and make it happen!