Business planning to thrive, not just survive

Small business plays a vital role in our community, and people are often encouraged to support their neighbourhood businesses by shopping locally. However, sobering ABS statistics released recently mean many small-business owners sit in fear as Christmas approaches. I believe I know the reason why; and it is simple.

Small-business owners fail to plan. By failing to prepare, when economic times become tough, they fall into survival mode, forgetting it is possible to thrive. There are no mechanisms to capture the day-to-day issues of the business. Each moment is spent tackling problems, rather than creating an active space to flourish, and not just survive.

Economic downturn is no reason to panic. Instead of fumbling from month to month, simple business planning brings passion and fun back into business; usually the reason many started in the first place. It lights up the path. By nominating numbers and creating goals, space to create is made. Issues are identified, strategies are inserted into your diary, and you can ride unexpected storms, instead of shrinking from them.

The impact of your small business ripples throughout the community. According to Small Business Matters, there are more than 210,000 small businesses in WA. This makes up a massive 97% of all businesses in the state. At a time when unemployment is rising at an alarming rate, it pays to remember that small businesses employ nearly half of all jobs in Western Australia. In short, we need them to succeed for the health of the state.

I know too well how important planning is to win the race, and not just trudge the treadmill without competing effectively. Despite being given five years to live in the early 2000s, I went on to represent Australia in several International Triathlon Union World Championships over a 15-year period. This was after having my ovaries, cervix and uterus removed, followed by losing my appendix and lower bowel and re-adjusting to living with an ileostomy bag.

That experience was certainly not one I had expected, but the goal to compete internationally became my driving force. At no point was I prepared to let it destroy me and, thankfully, through an intensive drug program, the disease finally left me. Instead of just surviving, I threw myself into training and my small business.

I know how difficult running a small business can be, but the importance of successful businesses in the community is one of my motivations to keep helping. I know that planning is the missing link in so many commercial operations. As we approach Christmas, many begin either winding down or getting bogged in the craziness, particularly if in retail. By the time New Year hits, panic sets in, along with exhaustion. For example, 10 January is ground hog day. The treadmill fires up, and it is another year of surviving.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. If business owners have their plans in place by the end of November, they can ride the hectic festive season, whether it is capitalising on higher demand, or spending time with their family. I know that this is what I will be doing.

This is the perfect time for business planning and dedicating time to forging a vision for 2017.

Suzzanne Laidlaw, ActionCoach and business planning veteran

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