Many business owners in the financial services industry have invested a great deal of time, money and effort into building their business and maintaining stringent regulatory standards over the years. Surprisingly though, many will concede that the majority of their successes have been largely accidental and seldom result from structured and orchestrated strategies, says Mimi Pienaar, Masthead’s Head of Business Development.
‘Moving directly from idea to action without cohesive and meaningful planning is much the same as firing weapon before taking aim – you may hit your target, but then again you may not,’ says Pienaar. ‘Eventually you need to ask yourself if the future of your business is worth the gamble.’
She believes the vision you have for your business merits far more than a bunch of scattered thoughts and ideas. ‘You have to define that vision, document it, identify action roles and timelines, execute it and track progress towards it. In this way, a business plan is the roadmap for your business – a document that reminds you of your vision, goals and benchmarking.’
A business plan creates momentum and also provides the opportunity for a reality check – what worked last year, where there are gaps and how next year will look. Business plans also make you and your staff accountable. ‘And when the year has been mapped out, you can get on with running the business instead of thinking about it,’ says Pienaar.
She continues, ‘In light of this, one clearly needs to plan a business to plan success. With this understanding, not only do you ensure your survival, but you guarantee your competitive standing in an exceedingly challenging environment.
‘If you are the only person in your business, it may be tempting to neglect business planning,’ warns Pienaar. ‘Planning can be a time-consuming process and, specifically in the case of small business owners, time spent planning is likely to be time when you are not earning money. However, the benefits of good planning far outweigh any temporary loss of earning.’
As important as the business plan is with you at the helm of your business, so is it without you. According to Pienaar, a business plan is incomplete without a succession plan that provides for the uninterrupted transfer of business ownership and client services in the event of your planned or unplanned exit.
‘An effective business plan will include clear and well-defined succession goals that are inextricably linked to the business’ overall strategic objective. Not only is this a regulatory obligation, but it also provides numerous benefits to you and your business,’ she says.
Structured continuity prolongs the life of the advisory relationship that a client has with your business and safeguards the integrity of that client’s long term financial objectives. This increases client transferability and creates a potentially valuable estate and retirement vehicle for the business owner.
‘The strategy to maximize the potential value of a business brings a business owner back to the important exercise of documenting a business plan that includes clearly articulated business goals, systematic action plans and realistic timeframes aimed at enhancing capital value and achieving predetermined successes,’ says Pienaar.
She believes business planning should not be considered an annual administrative event. ‘It is a call to action that must become a part of the business’ daily diet.