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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Next year could be your best year, that is if you plan for that kind of success

Employee Benefit Adviser

By Jack Kwicien

December 1, 2008

... It's a great time to reflect upon what we can do differently to improve results and to make adjustments in operations to respond to the changes in a very dynamic and recently tumultuous marketplace. Clearly that job is considerably easier if you have a written business plan for your business. Since we know that the majority of you do not have written business plans, perhaps now is a great time to consider the creation of a written document for your business. ...

... Consider a business plan a road map, a guide to running your business. It should articulate your business purpose and your mission. Who are your customers? What is your value proposition? How will you grow your business? How much realistically can it grow? Will it still be profitable? And what resources will you need to make it all happen? ...

You may be asking yourself, why does my business plan need to be written? ... First, the very discipline of writing out the plan forces you to think through all the issues that are involved in managing your business and to succinctly articulate why your business matters. ... Putting your plan in writing makes it more definitive or permanent, and it will solidify your commitment to the plan. It will be easier to clearly and effectively communicate your plan to internal and external audiences without any misinterpretation. ... Historically, businesses that have a written business plan have a higher success rate.

... Knowing where you are is essential when starting a journey. Gather the key financial metrics for your business, and also put together information about your marketing positioning, service standards and any guarantees, and client perceptions. ... At a minimum, think about:

Who does your business serve? Who are your target customers? Who should be interested in your services? Who are the critical business relationships (carriers, vendors and advisers)?

What is your business? What products and services does your business sell? What will your firm sell in the future? What is your value proposition? What is your competitive advantage? What strategies will you employ to grow your practice? What strategies will you employ to improve profitability? What role will technology play?

When was your business established? When do your clients need your services most? When the marketplace changes ... will your business be ready?

Where will a prospect be likely to hear about your business? Where will your future clients come from? Where do your best leads come from? Where will your future management talent come from?

How will your business grow? How quickly? How much? How will you recruit the talent that you need? How will you know when success is achieved? ...

Ultimately a plan will begin to come together, including the financial resources and human capital that will be required to achieve your objectives. The plan will cover a lot of territory ... Every thing from client value proposition to growth to operational structure and succession planning should be addressed.

Clearly the document you will be creating can be used with your own management team to run your business. It can be referenced when important strategic decisions need to be made. You will want to periodically update it so that it remains current and reflective of how you are conducting business at a point in time. ...


Kwicien is a managing partner at Baltimore-based Daymark Advisors, a consulting and advisory firm. He can be reached at jkwicien@daymarkadvisors.com.