It’s now December –how did 2016 disappear into thin air? It only seems like last month we were developing our business plans for 2016 and now I am talking about the 2017 plan!

As accountants, and more importantly as business owners, we should be leading the charge with our clients, by having our own business plan and getting ready for the New Year.

The holiday period is a time to reflect on the year that has been, and decide what we want the New Year to bring. It’s important to work out what strategies worked this year and how far you have come towards your goals. Just having this focus on your business will provide clarity on what you want the coming year to provide. Always measure how far you have come and celebrate the wins, then realign the strategies and actions plans for the new business plan. The business plan is a powerful tool to keep a business on track and allow you to be better equipped to proactively make decisions to meet your goals.

As the “Trusted Advisor” for your clients you have a really unique view of their organization and are well equipped to assist them in developing their 2017 plan. You understand the figures, the pulse of business and how it ticks. You have the ability to prepare forecasts and budgets and neatly fold these tools into a business plan. The tools help you advise your client in preparing for future growth or downturn in their industry, provide insight into funding requirements, which leads to all the other areas of business e.g. human resources, marketing, stock control, procurement etc.

Your client just requires the structure and support to turn these strategies into a business plan – that’s where you come in! It’s important to think beyond the numbers and be a provider of advice and counsel that strengthens your role as your clients’ primary advisor.

The first step in an engagement is to schedule regular conversations, find out how they are going and what their top 3 issues are. These will give you the direction the plan should take. The communications will help you stay in the loop and, by using the business tools, have the ability to compare real time figures with budgets.  Interpret the reports, help your client understand the results and to plan for the future. Discuss what’s working and what’s not, so that you can identify the changes and focus on the future by using the business plan as a roadmap.
Provide proactive advice.

When assisting your client in creating their business plan use the following helpful tips:

  • Set the time-frame for the business plan – ten years, five years or one year.
  • Objectively look at the business in terms of success and failure – where is the business NOW? Measure key factors so that you have a point of origin so that you can easily identify the changes that have been achieved over the coming year(s). Use your other business tools (budgets, forecasts, financials etc.) as they will help clarify this section.
  • Then develop the goals and WHERE the owners see the business in the specified time period. Detail this picture so that the owners can get a real ‘feel’ of the future business and create the emotion to motivate them to engage with change.
  • Set the key performance indicators so that they will recognize when they have achieved their goals. These are the measurements of success and do not always have to be financial.
  • Determine the strategy that will start the change process, keeping the end goals in mind. Ask, what needs to happen for X to be achieved?
  • Once the strategies are determined, work on the actual actions that will have to be implemented to achieve the strategy. The steps involved in moving forward.
  • Set a time frame by which each action will need to be completed so that the next action step can commence.
  • Assign each action to a person that will be responsible for implementing the strategy. This may encompass more than one person. Appointing a person also provides accountability for the plan.
  • Assist your client in the implantation of the business plan. Have accountability meetings to see how they are going and where you can help. Check in at least quarterly if not monthly.

Now, as you have gone through the process to develop your business plan, you can now take your clients through the same process – easy isn’t it?  

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