By Erica Wolfe-Murray
At the start of this year, more than ever, I have found the quote ‘Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable’ to be the main underpinning for my thinking for the year ahead.
Attributed to US commander General Dwight Eisenhower during WWII, it acknowledges that nothing will go according to your set plan during a battle, but planning for change, for as many eventualities as possible is vital. So what planning can all of us do to ensure our businesses are sufficiently flexible to weather the months ahead?
Assess what assets you own
There are three main types of assets that businesses own – once you have listed them all, you can develop an outline strategy on how to develop and use them more effectively to build your future.
These are the ‘soft’ assets of your business, such as your past client list, your company data, the knowledge you have about your markets and processes etc. All of this has value to help you pivot or expand your offer to meet market shifts and new trends.
These include hard items like property, machinery and materials. An assessment of what you own and how you use these business assets might reveal spare capacity to develop new products or hire them out to other companies.
Intellectual property assets:
Most people underestimate the IP they own. Every freelancer and micro company owns IP – whether they realise it or not. As an automatic right, you own the copyright of everything you produce – provided it is not copied from someone else. Presentations, methodology, imagery, writing etc – when you’ve turned an idea into an actual thing – the copyright can be owned, sold, licensed. Trademarks, design rights and patents are other types of IP asset but which require registration. It is important to ensure you catalogue what you own as you may be able to develop new products and services from these.
Switch your radar on
Commercial turmoil will be part and parcel of the year ahead, just as it was last year. Staying informed, seeing new opportunities open, past markets shifting and reducing, maintaining an agile approach is more critical than ever to many businesses. To do this you have to ensure you keep watching, listening, talking to others and continually assessing how this knowledge could impact your business.
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, I encourage my clients and their teams to read the weekend papers regularly. Why? Because they will see a wide range of articles about subjects, events and people they might never come across on the Google rabbit-holes our personal algorithms feed us. These will inform you in a very different way adding to your existing background knowledge.
Look for additional revenue streams
I spend my working days helping clients evolve new revenues from what they already own. Every single person and business is capable of developing additional income, without exception.
When businesses are launched or as they evolve, most have one or two core revenue streams they come to rely on. If their markets are booming, this strategy might be fine. But this does not develop resilience. Because if the market shifts or contracts they could find themselves in difficulty.
However if you develop additional business models unlocking new markets and differing revenues streams, you have much greater commercial flexibility in the face of a shifting future.
In your planning for 2021, look to widen how you can earn revenues in ways you have not tried before, using the assets you have identified to create new products and services for shifting or emergent markets you’ve identified.
None of the planning you do for the three areas outline above will be wasted – unlike a more formal plan which may have to be scrapped. Planning gives you flexibility and options. It will feed into your future in exciting and often unexpected ways allowing you to emerge from the months ahead stronger, more resilient and ready to face whatever the future offers.
About the author
Erica Wolfe-Murray works across the creative, cultural and tech sector helping companies to innovate through imaginative use of their intellectual assets/IP. Referred to by Forbes.com as ‘a leading innovation and business expert’, she is the author of ‘Simple Tips, Smart Ideas: Build a Bigger, Better Business’ . Full of her usual easy-to-use advice, lots of case studies, quick tips, diagrams and innovative ways to think about growing your business and developing greater commercial resilience – its 288 full colour pages will help you transform your business. Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.
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