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Thinking ahead

We have all heard the phrase ‘the only constant in life is change’ and this also applies to business. In fact, there is an argument to be made that the best time to plan ahead is when everything seems fine because you are not burdened by immediate concerns.

When planning for the long term you need to consider the predictability of customer demand, the economic circumstances you will be operating in, availability of staff and access to finance. As discussed in previous blogs your intentions for the business are also relevant – if you started out with a view to selling up in the next few years your objectives will be different from someone who is in it for the long haul.

No time to wait

It is not easy to make time to plan for the future when you are working long hours just dealing with the day-to-day demands of running the business. However, a business that is just trundling along leaves itself open to being overtaken by more progressive competitors.

As a small business your ability to make changes may also be limited by your dependence on a limited number of large customers. When you are a small part of a large supply chain and a major customer asks you to jump, your response will probably be ‘how high?’

However, many large companies are in the midst of transformation programmes that will have a major impact on their supply chains and what they want their suppliers to do for them. By taking the time to find out more about these programmes you may discover that the changes required will yield long term benefits that outweigh any initial disruption.

What’s the plan man?

The first step in long term business planning is to understand your priorities. When resources are scarce it is vital that improvements are targeted at those areas that will make the most difference, so ask yourself what matters most to your customers. From there it is possible to develop a strategy that will ensure the business focuses on the right areas to increase sales and profitability.

Factors that get in the way of long term planning include understanding and managing your supply chain and finding people with the right skills and experience.

It may also be helpful to take time away from the business to network and think about other things, or even just to clear your mind.

Don’t sell yourself short

A common explanation for why small businesses don’t look too far ahead is that they lack the positivity and belief in their product or service to succeed. The best way to overcome this lack of confidence is to remind yourself how you got to this point.

This is just one of the reasons why financial planning is a key element of long term business planning. Costings should be critically analysed at each stage of the process, which is where the insights derived from a cloud-based accounting solution such as Big Red Cloud can be invaluable.

Don’t convince yourself that you haven’t got time to plan for the future. Like money, time is there to be managed and used effectively.

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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