Scaling up your business requires rapid and deliberate growth. To make sure this growth is sustainable and the scale up is successful, you need a great business plan.
Although you may have a plan already in place, how confident are you that it’s effective? It may be a well thought out and detailed plan that you were confident will work, but that doesn’t mean it actually is.
No one can make a perfect plan for something as complex as a business. Things change that are out of your control. If you don’t monitor your progress, you can’t know if your plan is still viable.
If you’re currently scaling your business, consider how well you’re monitoring your strategy. If scaling up is something you plan to do, think about working this advice into your planning.
What does growth mean to you?
Before you can say if your business plan is working, you need to understand what your end goal is. There are many ways you can define business growth, so you want to find the one that best fits your business.
What is your business’s mission?
This is what growth means to your business: the end goal. If your mission is well written, there will be something specific and measurable that you are aiming towards.
If your business was struggling to build a customer base, your mission may be to increase your market share. It could be that you wanted to cut wasted spending and improve profitability.
Whatever the specifics are, you had a target in mind. This target is how you can tell if your business plan is working. A hard, business target has an objective answer to whether or not it has been achieved.
The best metric
The best metric to measure your growth by will depend on the kind of growth you’re looking for. You want a goal that can be easily observed on a fairly regular basis.
Some things are easily measured, and some might require a little further preparation but are worth putting the time into. Putting in the effort to establish your metric tracking will help make your business plan more effective in the long run.
The number of individual sales you make, the total revenue, the profit and the costs, are all simple observables. They can be found easily by counting totals and some basic maths.
Customer churn rate analyses where you lose customers in your sales process. It can be very useful towards your growth to understand it, but it requires more work and analytics.
Return customers are valuable assets to have. It can cost as much as 25x more to sell to someone new, so understanding how well you keep customers could be a useful metric too.
When you’re scaling up, you likely have a few strategies and objectives on the go. They can all be tracked by their own most suitable metrics and compared individually. When running a business, data is your friend.
Of course, you can do more monitoring than just big review meetings. Strategies are made up of a number of actionable tactics. These provide a discrete checklist you can keep an eye on as well.
If your Finance Director has 2 months to research and shortlist VCs to seek investment from, this is a metric too. You can check up part-way through to encourage progress, and you have an objective condition for success.
When to check progress
When the best times to review your progress are again depends on your business and on your plan. You need to leave enough time for something to have actually happened, but make sure you have a chance to do something meaningful afterwards.
Taking a 2 year business plan as an example, you probably won’t see much if you have a review after a month. Likewise, reviewing it after 23 months won’t let you fix anything. After 1 year is a good middle ground.
The frequency you review your business strategy will depend on the overall complexity of your plan. The more there is to do, the more you’ll want to check in. The bigger your business, the more frequent the reviews should be as well.
If your strategy is to create a new marketing campaign to generate more leads, it doesn’t make sense to check on its impact until it’s been released. If you’ve made a quick change that will see an impact within a few months, there’s no point waiting half a year to see if it’s worked.
When you’re operating multiple strategies, you can check up on them individually using their own metrics. If one would take longer than the others, there’s no point checking too early but you don’t want to waste time waiting on the others either.
Reviewing in emergencies
Crises happen. No business, big or small, can truly avoid something big happening that they have no control over. You can make preparations, but you’ll still likely need to make changes.
When a crisis hits your business, you need to review your business strategy. It’s common that your business plan just isn’t viable in the midst or aftermath of the crisis. It may only be parts of your strategy that don’t work, but that still needs changing.
Taking the time to reassess and reprioritise in a crisis is the difference between stalling and riding it out. Adapting your business to fit will help you maintain your growth through the danger.
If you find that you didn’t grow as much as you’d like after your 2 years, that’s fine. So long as you came through strong enough to go on, you’ve succeeded against the crisis.
How to respond
Monitoring your progress is only valuable if you do something about it when you need to. If everything’s on track, you may not need to follow up. Chances are though, that something won’t be as you planned.
This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Maybe you’ll find that a strategy has achieved its target only halfway through the time. That’s great, but still deserves a response.
If the strategy is so effective, it would be a waste to just leave it be until the end of the plan. What ways could you expand on the strategy? Why was it so quick?
You may find there’s more you could be doing to keep up the growth or that there’s something that team did well you could apply to the other strategies. Checking progress can indicate when things are going well and should be implemented further.
Plans don’t always work as well as you hoped either. Strategies can be ineffective without you having done anything wrong. Spotting them early lets you do something about it.
If a strategy is failing, why?
It’s important to understand what’s gone wrong before you do something about it. The ineffective strategy may reveal something to you that you need to fix before you move on.
Business planning is uncertain. Sometimes things just don’t work out. You can always just stop the failing strategy and try something else.
Was the strategy let down by something else? If there’s a bottleneck in your business that means the strategy could never actually have worked, that bottleneck needs to be sorted.
Maybe your logistics network wasn’t robust enough for the increased load. Maybe you don’t have enough staff working customer services, so are losing customers you shouldn’t be. You can learn from failure and come back stronger.
Unfortunately, setbacks can come from an individual’s failure too. Although frequently there isn’t anyone to blame, you may find that someone was missing too many deadlines, for example.
Many small business owners haven’t had to deal with serious consequences before. As you grow your business, you may find that your current team aren’t the right people to lead a large company. This may be the time for critical assessments and hard conversations.
Are you confident?
In the end, the only way to really answer this question is to check. If your plan is working, it should be relatively easy to see.
Remember that there’s nothing wrong with your business plan not working out as you thought. You tried something that seemed right, and you can always try something different.
If you’re not sure why things aren’t working, or think you generally need support with your business strategy, help is available. Boardroom Advisors’s part-time Strategy Directors are experienced in creating and monitoring business plans. Their contracts are flexible to your business’s needs, so you can find help for the workload and budget that’s right for you.