Every successful business has a plan and knows where it is heading in the future. A financial services business is no different. Taking the time on an ongoing basis to review the company's past performance, and predict its future performance, gives it a road map to follow.
The very first strategic planning most businesses do is a business plan. When you first start your business, you will likely have prepared a mission statement, a budget, and a marketing and promotion plan. The business plan is a good first step, but it needs to be reviewed and updated as the business continues and grows. If you shove it in a drawer and let dust gather on it, it won't serve as the foundation of your business, as it was meant to.
SEE: 4 Steps To Creating A Stellar Business Plan
It can be difficult to find the time to plan in your business. Other, more pressing priorities, like trying to bring in revenue, may grab your attention; however, carving out time regularly will help you keep on top of your business. In my own practice, I blocked off two hours every Tuesday afternoon to review the prior week's financial performance and to update my marketing initiatives, to make sure we were still on track. Once a week worked best for me, but you don't have to do it that often. You may find that a few hours a month accomplishes the same thing.
Regardless of how often you plan, make sure that you set it in stone in your day planner. Block off the time and don't let anything else get in the way. Turn off your cell phone and, if at all possible, go somewhere away from your office to plan, in order to minimize distractions.
SEE: Time Management Tips For Financial Professionals
The Planning Process
How you go about conducting strategic planning will depend on many variables, including the size of your business, the time frame included and your personal preferences. The most common style of plan is goals-based. In this type of plan, you set goals for the business (financial and non-financial) and map out the steps needed to meet those goals. For example, if your goal is to have $100,000 in revenues next year, the steps to get there might include bringing in five new clients a month and attending three trade shows. Whatever the goals you set for your business, they should be concrete and measurable so that you know when you reach them.
Another method of strategic planning is mission-based. When you first started your business, you likely developed a mission or values statement, outlining the purpose of your company and its overall reason for being. A mission-based strategic plan ties each part of the plan into the mission, to ensure that the company is always operating in the service of that mission. For example, if your mission statement is to be recognized as a leader in the financial services industry and to help families become financially independent, your strategic plans should address how you will meet those goals.
A critical part of the planning process is reviewing your previous plan and comparing it to your actual results. Were you able to bring in five new clients last month? If not, why not? Tweak the plan going forward to account for changes in your business or the general economic climate. The more experience you get with the planning process and with the operational side of your business, the more accurately you will be able to plan.
The Bottom Line
Planning out the future of your business is the best way to ensure success. It may seem awkward and difficult at first, but with practice, you will be able to move your business in the right direction.