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Under normal circumstances, finding the time to plan ahead is one of the biggest challenges for small business owners. Doing that legwork now could help you avoid costly mistakes down the line.

The legendary investor Warren Buffett once said that to be successful you should be fearful when others are greedy and greedy only when others are fearful. There is certainly plenty of fear around at the moment, so why not spend some time asking yourself where you want to go with your business and give some thought to how you might get there.

You probably already have a plan in your head, but make sure you put it in writing. Firstly, this means you are more likely to stick to it and secondly, writing it down will force you to think it through again before you make any major decisions. There is also plenty of research to suggest that companies with a written business plan are more successful.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to stick to the original plan come what may. There has been much talk about how society and business will change as a result of the coronavirus, so it is important to factor possible changes into any forecasts.

For instance, will your customers be more inclined to have goods delivered rather than collect them? Will staff expect more flexibility around working from home? Will you have to find new suppliers?

Business plans are not just for start-ups either. Even established businesses can benefit from a plan that looks at what has been achieved and what changes might be required, especially if you were struggling before lockdown.

In an ideal world a business plan is a roadmap to profitability, although in the early stages it may be more about developing the brand, maximising growth and securing funding. Once you have made your first month’s sales you should be forecasting cash flow and preparing the business for peaks and troughs. Ideally you should monitor cash flow on a weekly basis – if there is a problem, leaving it until the end of the month might be too late.

Be honest about the cost of growing the business. You should be able to work out the additional cost of recruiting more staff or moving to larger premises, but what about your suppliers – could they handle larger orders without increasing their prices?

It is also important that take time to consider your own ambitions when creating a business plan. Being an entrepreneur might not sound like a career, but it is so you need to consider how you will achieve your personal objectives and the areas you need to improve to ensure your business has the best chance of success.

With so many businesses likely to go to the wall as a result of the current restrictions there will be a lot of goodwill towards new ventures over the coming months. A sensible, realistically costed business plan will leave you well placed to capitalise on the likely post-lockdown surge.

You can download a copy of the Business Plan Guide HERE

Marc O'Dwyer

After completing a Graduate program in Marketing, Marc’s impressive sales career began at Allied Irish Banks, Pitney Bowes and Panasonic where he received numerous Irish and European sales performance awards and consistently exceeded targets and expectations. In 1992, Marc’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to set up his own business, Irish International Sales (IIS). Initially, this company was a reseller for Take 5 Accounts and Payroll software. Within four years, IIS became the largest reseller of Take 5 in Ireland, acquiring four other Take 5 resellers. He also found time to set up two mobile phone shops under the Cellular World brand and a web design company offering website design services for small businesses. In 2001, he bought the majority share in a small Irish software business, Big Red Book. At that time, the company was losing money. The company became profitable within two months, and Marc then acquired a payroll company to compliment Big Red Books Accounting products. In 2003, IIS were appointed as Channel Partners with SAP for their new SME product, SAP Business One. Marc sold his Take 5 business and concentrated on developing this new market for SAP As a result, by 2007, IIS was recognised as the largest Channel Partner for SAP in EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa). In 2008, the IIS Sales Manager bought the Company from Marc in an MBO. He launched Big red cloud in June 2012, the online version of big red book, to date the company successfully converts 59% of trials into sales and the number of customers is growing rapidly. Marc continues to run both Big Red Book and Big Red Cloud which now support 75,000 businesses. He is a very keen sportsman, having played rugby for 20 years, represented Leinster at under 16 and under 20 levels, and league squash with Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club for 10 years. Marc has competed in 11 Marathons, including the London and Boston Marathons, and has completed several Triathlons and Half Ironman races. He has also completed six Ironman Races in Austria(x2), Frankfurt (Germany), Nice (France) , Mallorca (Spain) and Copenhagen (Denmark)

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