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    Christine Taylor is a Sanford, Fla.-based freelance author. She writes for numerous trade publications, including the Florida IADA. She can be reached via e-mail at ctaylor421@gmail.com

    Christine Taylor - Sanford, FL
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Work on your 2015 Game Plan

Appeared November 2014 - volume 11 - issue 11 - page 20
Article has been viewed 316 times.

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How was your 2014? Good, bad, could’ve been better? Wherever your answer ranks, there is almost always room for improvement in any business, but hoping or praying for it won’t make it happen. If you want to see big results, you have to focus your energy into a strategic plan of attack.

Just like the head coach would never start a football game without a sound game plan or a general would not invade without a strategy, dealers can’t expect to reach their business goals without a clear plan on how to do it. More specifically, effective leaders execute well-planned strategies, and the best way to lay out a sound business strategy is to write a thorough business plan. If you haven’t written one yet, you are making one of the most costly, and often fatal, mistakes of running a business.

A business plan in itself does not guarantee success, but you can’t capture continued success without one. Even a draft of a plan on the back of a napkin is better than no business plan at all. Hopefully, you understand the need of a well-written, and organized business plan and if you do not have one written for your dealership, you are ready to write one or freshen up the one you have. When you do, make sure you include the following elements:

Vision. The vision of where you are going should be explained in the Executive Summary. Every team needs a vision of what the future will be like when you reach your goals and are operating successfully. The executive summary is an overview of that vision. It describes who you are, what you do, why you do it and how you are going to achieve your goals. It should contain a vision statement, a mission statement, and proveable statistics and insights about the market and what you see as the business opportunity.

History. This is your story told as a brief account of how your company began. Though the history of your dealership is exciting to you, it may not be for outsiders. In an official business plan, it is best to keep the corporate history short and to the point. It’s relevant because it illustrates the foundation of the company and gives insight to the direction of the future.

Goals and Objectives. Anyone can set a goal, but to set a goal that can inspire real accomplishment, it must be SMART. That means every formalized goal needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-phased.With a clear goal, your team can focus their thoughts, actions and energy on the identified target and perform with maximum efficiency. Goals can be further broken down into objectives, which act as the stepping stones that will help you attain it. If constructed well enough, goals will provide your business direction that will help guide it and build momentum.

The Team. Your success is in the hands of your employees and how well they can carry out the plays. Every team has all-stars. These are the players in key roles who are charged with executing the business plan. In your written business plan, include the biographies of these Key Players. No matter how good the plan is, its ultimate success depends on the talent and drive of the key players. Your best plays and strategies will ultimately fail without a focused and talented team, just like the best teams and best players will ultimately lose without a game plan. Build the hype for your team, and share your enthusiasm for their skills and accomplishments.

The Product or Service. This is the “what” of what you do, and ultimately why people will pay you money to do it. In this section you should describe in the product(s) or service(s) you offer. Go into detail and be as specific as possible. A good business plan can be even better if you go past what’s expected and add the things that make you unique. Sell it to yourself, to employees, to investors, to banks and ultimately, to customers. That means thoughtfully answering that question everyone is going to ask: Why should I buy a vehicle from you?

The Market. Who is going to buy your products and services? The market. So, the marketing section of your plan has a distinct and important purpose of describing the market demographics of your business and associated buying habits in reference to your product or service. Describe your niche in detail to illustrate your understanding of your customer and why they will choose you. Use this portion as an exercise in determining who your “perfect customer” is and what they need.

Strategy. Now the fun begins. The actual plan part of your Business Plan is found in the strategy. It is the nuts and bolts of your business idea. This is where you draw the circles and arrows that will describe your winning game plan in detail. Give specifics on how you’re going to achieve your goals and objectives. This section holds the entire plan together by giving the orders on a detailed strategic plan of action and covering contingency plans for any problems that may arise.

Financial Projections. The numbers won’t lie, and are needed to ensure your plan will work. The financial projections section of a business plan typically accounts for a five-year period, with two years of historical and comparative data and three years of informed projections based on the demand of the market and the company’s ability to meet a percentage of that demand.

Exit Strategy. It may seem odd to include an exit strategy for plan that might just be beginning, but most businesses have a specific life cycle. They start up, they grow, they change hands, they close. The exit strategy depicts the projected life cycle of the business and the long-range plans of the owners. Including an exit strategy can ensure a happy ending rather than a tragic end. It also helps investors specify and minimize the financial risk of their investment in your company.

SWOT Analysis. Any organization, business or company that is truly committed to reaching the next level will make sure it has evaluated itself objectively with a SWOT Analysis. A SWOT Analysis highlights four strategic factors of influence that are used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of a business. The first two factors highlight the key strengths and weaknesses of the organization while the second two illustrate the current opportunities for expansion and threats to the existing business model. The purpose of the SWOT analysis is to identify the internal and external factors that will affect the ability of the organization to achieve its stated goals.

Writing and preparing a business plan takes some time and effort. When you put in the practice, work and dedication it takes to make a solid plan, though, you will find the rewards you are looking for.

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