Small Business Planning for the Future - Surviving in Uncertain Times

Let's face it - being a small business owner is tough. You're constantly faced with challenges like rising interest rates, layoffs, scarcity of skilled employees, and new technology like the thousands of AI tools that have sprung up over the last few months! It's hard to know what the future holds, but that doesn't mean you should bury your head in the sand or give up. With some strategic planning, you can get through this and perhaps, even come out on top. So, let's jump into some tips for planning for the future in uncertain times (like we live in today). Below are a few questions you need to ask and answer to successfully navigate this uncertainty.

  • Where is your business today?

    • First things first - you need to evaluate your business without rose colored glasses on. You can't plan for the future if you don't know where you stand right now. Take a good hard look at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (aka SWOT analysis). Once you have a clear picture of where you're at, you can start thinking about where you want to go.

  • Where do you want your business to go?

    • Now that you have clarity with where you are now, it's time to determine where you want to go. You need a strategic plan with short, mid and long-term goals that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) to guide your business forward. (Don’t you just love these fun acronyms?) These goals should be tracked on a regular basis to help you stay focused on what's important and avoid getting sidetracked by shiny objects (like that new ChatGPT technology). Short-term goals should be tracked weekly, mid-term goals tracked quarterly, and long-term goals tracked annually. Don't be afraid to think big and set big goals for your company - after all, you're the boss!

  • How does my business compare to my competition?

    • Do you know how you stack up to other companies in your industry? What about companies in your city? One thing that is consistent is change so it's important to stay on top of industry trends and changes. If you continue moving forward with what worked yesterday, you will get left behind while your competitors (who are embracing change) are moving ahead. You can stay informed by connecting with resources who work with many business owners in the same industry, reading industry publications, and going to conferences. Don’t discount the value of evaluating the changes happening in other industries as well! John F. Kennedy once stated “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth”, so if you only watch and conform to your direct competition, you may miss out on other areas to grow in creative and valuable ways.

  • Where should our next investment be?

    • On the same vein of technology, it's important to consider new ideas that can improve your business's efficiency, productivity, and customer service. That new fangled AI technology might seem intimidating and scary, but it could be just what your business needs to stay competitive. Of course, you'll want to weigh the pros and cons before making any big investments. And if all else fails, just remember - there's always duct tape.

Where to I go from here?

In uncertain times, it's more important than ever to plan for the future of your small business. Evaluate your business, develop a strategic plan, stay up-to-date on industry trends, and consider technology upgrades. And don't forget to keep a sense of humor - it can be the glue that holds your business together in tough times. After all, as the great philosopher Charlie Chaplin once said, "A day without laughter is a day wasted”. So go out there and conquer the world - we believe in you!

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