One of my good friends is convinced the end is nigh, and he prepares accordingly. He isn’t expecting an apocalypse of Biblical proportions, but he does anticipate the collapse of the American way to a certain degree; evident by the fact that he has a dedicated “bug out bag” he can quickly grab if he needs to take to the hills in the event of a societal fallout. You might call my friend crazy, but I’d like to consider him one of the last Boy Scouts: always prepared. Which brings me to the point of this post: how prepared is your business for 2014? Are you poised for survival, even in the most dire circumstances, or will your business unravel at the slightest market fluctuation?
Whether you’re convinced an apocalypse is imminent or feel that the “preppers” are out of their heads, best practice dictates your business should always be prepared. Below, I’ve listed several tools you should have on-hand to ensure small business survival in 2014; it’s your small business survival kit, or what you would put in your business “bug out bag.”
1. Business plan and growth plan reviews
You need a sound business plan, but perhaps you haven’t looked at it since your business was a startup. Now is the time to review it and determine whether you’re on track – and what might need revised as the market has changed since you launched your business. Also, create a plan for business growth in 2014: how will you reduce costs, afford health care, motivate new customers, retain current customers, offer new products and services, and increase sales in 2014? Answer all of these questions and formulate a plan for each.
2. Goals and achievement steps
Identifying where you want your business to go in 2014 is one thing, actually implementing the steps required to take you there is another. Clearly detail the steps you’ll need to take to achieve every goal you have, then create a monthly, weekly, and daily plan for goal attainment. Track your progress every day, week, and month so you can make adjustments accordingly.
3. Marketing plan
How will you market your products and services? You need a comprehensive plan that includes customer targeting, planned sales and special offers, and specific marketing materials: direct-mail postcards, business cards for networking, posters and flyers, catalogs, and more. You’ll also need to consider your digital marketing plan: websites, social media and mobile. Finally, you need to determine what a reasonable budget will be for you to achieve success, along with a projected return on investment and ultimate profit.
4. Risk tolerance cheat sheet
When opportunities present themselves, sometimes it’s tough to know when a risk is likely to pay off and when it’s not. That’s why it’s important to determine your risk tolerance beforehand – so you can act quickly, no matter your decision. Ever notice how NFL coaches have cheat sheets that define the odds in certain game situations? They know they have little time to think through decisions, so they consider potential scenarios beforehand and pre-determine how they’ll respond. Do the same with your business, and you’ll be less likely to miss out on lucrative opportunities and more likely to pass on those that are too risky for you.
5. Define your exit strategy
What if you really do have to “bug out” of your business? Make sure you have an exit strategy, even if you have no intention of actually using it. Doing so will allow you to maximize your profits and minimize any negative consequences if you have to sell or close your business, and you’ll vastly reduce stress by having your exit strategy planned out beforehand.
What’s in your small business bug out bag?