In this article we will look at business planning for the coming year and some of the issues you should consider in your wet leisure business plan.

Strategic planning for the coming year.

Writing a good business plan can’t guarantee success, but it can go a long way toward reducing the odds of failure.

The idea of strategic planning for your business can seem quite daunting but at its simplest it is really only having an idea about what you would like your business to achieve over the next period, listing the resources that you have to accomplish that and how you intend to use them.

Like your overall business plan, your strategy for the next 12 months should be written down and it should address certain areas such as your marketing and sales strategy, your management team and staff, operations and financial forecasts.

In the corporate world, annual strategic planning is common but smaller businesses often miss out on this opportunity to step back from the day-to-day running of their company, take stock and make plans.

Some general advice would be to work backwards.

Think about what sort of position you would like to be in twelve months time. What sort of sales targets should you set yourselves and what sort of financial position you would like to be in?

We all know that this year has been tough and the next year is unlikely to be much easier but now is the time to face up to things. If there are problems that you can recognise then it’s easier to plan effectively to overcome them.

Be realistic, but then try being a little braver. Stretch what you think you might be able to achieve. Challenge yourselves.

Marketing and sales for 2012.

First of all you should look at the market. There are no reliable industry figures for wet leisure sales across the whole country but you have your own records and your own feelings for where things are going.

See if you can spot trends and think about how they may develop next year. It might be that some products are doing much better than others; it might be that your best customers are different to how they used to be in terms of age or lifestyle?

Should you concentrate on the top end of the market, which has remained relatively robust? Perhaps you need to specialise in green and eco products? Perhaps there are some areas of your business that simply don’t make enough money any more and you should let them go?

There are no simple or common answers but you will surely have some insights that can help you grow.

Take a look at your competitors. Note what seems to be working for them or where you think they might be going wrong.

Look back at your marketing activity over the past year and see what has worked best. That’s probably the area where you should concentrate your resources. Doing one or two things well works better in marketing then spreading yourself too thinly.

Get the calendar out and make a plan for the year ahead. Are there certain dates that you should plan activity around; the beginning of the season or a local show or event? Your local paper might be planning a special supplement on health and fitness or lifestyle products? Ring them and ask.

Mark these dates for specific marketing activity and then look at the gaps. What can you do in those weeks or months that will keep your business visible to your customers and keep you front of mind?

When it comes to looking at sales targets, give yourself goals that are realistic and achievable but will also push you and your staff to go that extra mile.

Management and staff.

The most important asset in any business is the people who actually work in it.

For a lot of people, feeling that they are valued and are really contributing to a business rates as highly, if not more so, than how well they are paid or incentivised.

Set your staff targets and goals for the year ahead that will stretch them but are achievable.

Give people new challenges and opportunities. Everyone can contribute to marketing your business and the best ideas sometimes come from the least expected places. All your staff that deal face to face with your customers will have a good idea of what your clients think is important and the issues that matter to them.

Do you need to plan any team-building activity for the year ahead or are there training courses – possibly government sponsored or grant aided – that might be useful?

Operations and financial forecasts.

Operations are really the nuts and bolts of your business; your premises and IT systems, your transport and stock.

If your premises are rented, in the current economic climate, it should certainly be possible to avoid any rent increases and it might even be possible to renegotiate the terms to your advantage but make a plan about that now, rather then when a review becomes due.

IT systems play an increasingly important part in modern business. Is all your data backed up and do you have budget set aside for updating computers or software if that becomes necessary in the coming year?

Keeping your transport well maintained is the best way to keep unexpected costs down and problems at bay but if you think you might need to replace in the next twelve months then, once again, it’s better to plan for that now.

Stock levels should be looked at. Perhaps in the past you were in the habit of keeping more stock than you really needed? Excess stock levels represent capital that is tied up but isn’t really working for you. With the speed of modern ordering and delivery, perhaps you can bring your levels down? Alternatively there may be products that have a particularly long lead time that you may need to think about holding more of or even finding an alternative supplier who can supply them quicker.

And finally, the figures.

Some people love pouring over the accounts and some people loathe it.

In either case, cash flow is going to be the most crucial issue for the coming year; just as it is every year.

Look at the areas mentioned above and look at the expenditure that you know your business is going to have to make. Look at the revenue that your sales targets should generate and then break them both down to a monthly basis.

Issues and challenges that are seen ahead and planned for are much easier to overcome than those that take you by surprise.

Planning for the business year ahead gives you time to think things through and prepare – and those are two things that make success much more likely.

We hope that some of the thoughts in this article are useful for you.

The idea behind WetLeisure.co is to make business growth for those working in the industry a reality. If you follow WetLeisure on Twitter, you will get notifications on free business support articles and if you register on the site you can join the groups and forums to share and benefit from industry knowledge.

Do you have something to add? Agree or disagree with our suggestions? Add your comments in the box below…

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