Looking forward as a business

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Looking forward as a business. Very often time seems to fly by and before you know it, you’re entering a new year. Whilst in life it might be ok to go with the flow and see what the next year brings, in business it is vital that you reflect on the past and plan for the future. Lack of planning in my mind is planning to fail. No matter how successful your business, if you don’t know where you’ve been it can be tricky to see where you’re going. 

As we head towards 2024, I’m going to share the best things I have learnt about planning for the year ahead during my decade and a half running my own business.

Planning is a year long activity.

To some degree a business owner should be planning all the time. Running a business is a constant process of checking where you were, in line with where you intended to be. Then looking at ways to achieve that, as opposed to a process that just takes place at the end of the year. In my business, Sovereign Beverage Company we start planning well in advance, we start discussing the next year’s plans in Quarter 3 and then get everything secure and in place during Quarter 4.

Be Flexible

What has been planned for the past year won’t always go to plan and the same goes for plans for the next 12 months. If the past few years has taught us anything, with a pandemic, conflicts around the world and a cost-of-living crisis, it’s that things can change at anytime and our plans and businesses need to have a plan in place for how to adapt to those changes.

Review

Before starting to plan for 2024 it’s important to look at where you’re coming from. I tend to look at what has been achieved financially and how we as a team have performed against the KPI’s set. I use this information to set budgets and targets for the coming year.

It’s also important have a look at resources, considering what you have that you want to take forward into the next 12 months, what you’re going to let go and what resources are going to be needed to help you to progress.

In terms of staff the planning seems to be more fluid if there have been reviews throughout the year. At Sovereign reviews are quarterly, this helps to stay on top of any problems that the team might be having, and they can then be addressed in the moment.

Also take into account that your clients and customers will have different planning cycles, in our industry it’s the breweries getting their prices for the next year at different times. However, I’m sure that whilst it won’t necessarily be suppliers for all businesses, businesses will have to account for the variables of those outside of the business.

Review the company’s goals and objectives and also look at what is coming into the business in the next year and counterbalance that with the business and regular clients you already have. I’d also advise using this time to review internal processes. It is easy to become complacent if things seem to be working, but a quick review might highlight slight flaws in reporting or how data is collected that can be rectified and make 2024 even more successful.

Finally review your margins, gross profit, budget, and your people. Ask yourself is there anybody missing from the team? If so, could the role be filled by somebody already in the business? How can the team develop? What training and education will be needed to make the team stronger and more efficient? If there are any gaps in the knowledge of the people in your business plan for how you can fill them.

Reflect

Take some time to reflect on the past year. I use the time of reflection to examine performance figures, market share and customer satisfaction. Evaluation provides the insights as to how to improve in the future we do this via a SWOT analysis to help identify strengths, weaknesses opportunities and threats. It can also be a time to reflect on mistakes that may have been made during the year and how to avoid making them again. 

Communicate

Finally, communicate your plans with everybody who needs to know. Personally, I hold a team meeting where the leadership team and I present to the wider team our findings from the last year and what we plan to do in the coming year. Communication is key to the success of any plan as giving people the time to understand and have input creates buy in from them and when all of the team is invested in a plan there is a higher chance of success.

Whilst plans can and do change, I believe having these things in place will help set most businesses up for success in 2024.

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David Davies (44) grew up in Lytham St Annes, and he knew from a very early age he wanted to be an entrepreneur. From the age of six he was working in his father’s business during school holidays, developing his work ethic and learning the logistics industry. He continued this journey throughout school and university, studying business and finance. Sovereign Beverage Company Limited first sparked into life in 2007, when David set out his '10 commandments' for starting a business. At the time he was working as an Account Manager and identified that there was a gap in the supply chain for the exporting of UK beer. It was during the 2008 recession that Sovereign Beverage Company Ltd officially launched, working with key suppliers such as Marstons Brewery and Batemans, exporting their premium craft beers abroad. Since then, Sovereign Beverage Company Ltd has increased its annual sales by over 10,000% (in litres sold), expanded to a full-time team of ten, and has become the UK's leading exporter of premium beverages, with over 12 million pints sold annually worldwide in 2022.