Simple Steps to Success

Aug 6, 2010

In a complex world of blur, the aftermarket scampers to achieve success. We claim to be in business to do business, but the reality is a number of aftermarket businesses were fostered from avenues of opportunity.

Some were molded into the enterprise as second-generation gearheads learning the trade through their mentors. Others were hooked by the simple love and passion for working in a lifestyle business with few business skill sets.

But, regardless of the path you took to get here, the simple truth remains that the aftermarket business demographic is confronted with the responsibility of wearing the many hats of management, marketing, and even human resources expert.

In a tactile hands-on aftermarket, the many skill sets required to fully manage your business start with the understanding of what’s truly at the core of your efforts.

But the simple question is where does one start or restart their aftermarket business? It’s more than the roof over the shop, more than hiring a fellow gearhead; more than following your dream. The consequences are far-reaching, and with many roads to business success or failure you are challenged to understand where the logical business starting point is.

You’re likely a small business that fits big in our society. According to Business Week magazine, small businesses create half of the private gross domestic product, create more than 60 percent of net new jobs each year, and pay 44.3 percent of the private payroll.

So what steps can you take to ensure the greatest possibility of success for your enterprise?

The Plan of Approach

In any business there is a plan of approach from which you construct the metrics, or measures, of your business plan. (You do have a business plan, yes?)

And furthermore, add to the mix a marketing plan. One doesn’t have to have a business degree to formulate a business path, but it is strongly suggested that you master the key points of each formulated plan to successfully operate your manufacturing enterprise, retail shop or any aftermarket business.

The obstacles will be reduced to manageable, the likely success factors will be in your corner, the ability to resolve daily questions will be increased, and your sleepless nights are likely to be fewer.

As simple as it sounds, developing a business and marketing plan takes forethought, a systematic approach to thinking your way through the process, and will enable you to have an established and organizational approach to management of your aftermarket enterprise. Frequently, the intention is good but the follow-through is not always achieved.

Many businesspeople ask me about the simple steps to creating their personal plan. Your business is unique, you are different, you are likely to think and react differently than your competitors, and thus a personal approach is required and not just a fill-in-the-blanks template from a typical software program off the shelf.

Planning Your Plan

Answering the questions to create your personal business and marketing plan will enlighten you as to the goals and direction of your business. A plan is just that—in both good and challenging times.

The result is the positive cause-and-effect of your decision-making process, which leads to better business practices with less confusion.

Consider the following steps and keep in mind that the traditional business/marketing plan approach is more fully developed. What we are looking at is a starting point to progress to the next levels of understanding business as a business.

  • Develop a business mission statement that sets the company role, your business definition, distinctive competence, and future indications.
  • Create a financial summary that represents the framework of getting from A-Z and the potential pitfalls. This is where you need to be realistic yet optimistic. Painful as it may sound, the truth is paramount.
  • Develop a market overview, which is the process of the picture-mapping of the overall market and includes the market structure, market trends, key market segments, and the gaps that go in the analysis.
  • A SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) is a method from which you analyze the inner-workings of your business by better-understanding your strengths and weaknesses compared to your competitors and further consider the opportunities and threats for each key product or segment.
  • A portfolio summary represents the offering of your pictorial summary of the SWOT analysis. This makes it much easier to see at a glance the relative importance of each of the four elements within SWOT.
  • Make assumptions regarding the underlying segments critical to the planned marketing objectives and strategies.
  • Set marketing objectives that act as the quantitative statements in terms of profit, volume, value and market share, and your path to achievement.
  • Determine marketing strategies that act as a starting point on how the objectives are to be achieved. They often involve the four Ps of marketing—product, price, place and promotion.
  • Identify resource requirements and budget, the show-and-tell of the full planning period budget, giving in detail the revenues and associated costs for each year.

While the points of value above are a mix of both business and marketing plans, they can act as a foundation. The utilization of the referenced steps will enable you to move up the ladder of personal understanding of your business development action steps. Without a connect-the-dots plan, you may have difficulty getting started at all.

Business Plan Basics

There must be a good fit among all factors of your planning stages. A good plan pulls together the right entrepreneurial team, the right opportunity, the right resources and the right financing structure, all in the right context.

There will always be uncertainties and ambiguities; the unanticipated is bound to happen. But by addressing these interdependent factors, you can be sure that you have made an attempt to deal with the important issues.

The abbreviated business plan outline is a sectioned format that is customary to most capital lending institutions. As such, the following key points format is suggested—the basis of which can be surmised by the combo program referenced above.

Even the most basic of business plans should still include the following:

  • Cover Page: company name, logo, tagline, contact information, copy number, date prepared and disclaimer if needed.
  • Table of Contents: Listing of the key sections of the business plan and where they can be found in the document.
  • Executive Summary: One- to three-page overview of the significant points from each section, intended to motivate the reader to continue.
  • Industry, Target Customer and Competitor Analysis: Key characteristics of the industry segment, your potential customers, and the niche where you plan to compete.
  • Company Description: Company objectives, the nature of the business, its primary product or service, its current status (startup, buyout or expansion) and history (if applicable) and the legal form of the company.
  • Product or Service Plan: Explanation of why people will buy the product or service, based on its unique features.
  • Marketing Plan: Marketing strategy, including the methods of identifying and attracting customers, selling approach, type of sales force, distribution channels, types of sales promotions and advertising, and credit and pricing policies.
  • Operations and Development Plan: Operating or manufacturing methods, facilities, quality-control methods, procedures to control inventory and operations, sources of supply and purchasing procedures, as applicable.
  • Management Team: Description of the management team, outside investors and or directors and plans for recruiting and training employees.
  • Critical Risks: Any known risks inherent in the venture.
  • Offering: How much capital the entrepreneur needs and how the money will be used.
  • Financial Plan: Historical financial statements for the last three to five years or as available; and pro forma financial statements for three to five years, including income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements and cash budgets.
  • Appendix of Supporting Documents: Various supplementary materials and attachments to expand the reader’s understanding of the plan.

Successful planning is the cornerstone of developing a strong, durable and robust aftermarket company. Overcoming an organizational culture that acts as a barrier to effective marketing and business planning is essential if performance is to be optimized and long-term goals are to be achieved.

Given the high number of variables that influence business performance; it is necessary for business owners and their management to have an effective means of making the situation manageable. Thorough and detailed analysis of how to meet future customer needs provides a sophisticated and reliable method of building long-term success.

Business and marketing planning go hand-in-hand and can enable your company to enhance its vision and become a reality.