Every business needs to innovate, to stay relevant to their customers and stay ahead of their competition. But successful innovation requires thorough planning and careful implementation. Financial planning is a key part of this.
Lets face it; it’s easier to come up with new ideas to grow your business than it is to implement them. Change is always necessary, but needs to be carefully planned to avoid destabilising the successful business that you’ve taken time to build.
A key part of the planning is what I think of as “Sequence and Cadence”. You could say that they’re the same thing, but bear with me – the difference is subtle.
For successful innovation you must plan to allocate enough time and resources to new projects to allow them to reach their logical conclusion (the cadence) but also balance the timing of competing projects so that they don’t drain your core business of the resources it needs to continue (sequence). A collection of half finished plans could be worse than no innovation at all!
When you set out on something new; a product development, a new marketing campaign, etc, you have to commit sufficient staffing/ management/ capital/ investment/ time to give it a fair chance of succeeding. Even the most promising ideas struggle to reach their full potential if they’re starved of the necessary budget or attention. Each project is inherently different, so there’ can’t be a generic “one new development per quarter” approach.
In budgeting, and business planning in general, it’s vital that you recognise this and reflect it in the numbers. It’s also worth thinking about a “what if” analysis: what if progress has been slower than expected but you’ve come this far and giving up now would waste all the hard work – you just need a few more months (we’ve all been there…). When do you draw the line and move on to new opportunities?
Sequence is about the bigger picture. It’s when there are multiple projects in progress but a limited amount of investment (time or money) to go around. If you spread your resources too thinly you could end up doing catastrophic damage to the whole business even if individual projects are growing nicely.
A resilient business model has to be grounded on profits and cash from established products and markets. New lines may promise great rewards, but the investment of time and resources that they require will take up cash and add to spending while they are establishing a niche.
This is especially true when the new sales involve customer credit. They can deliver new sales, but the cash doesn’t arrive in your bank account to pay for new marketing efforts until a month or two later.
Keeping an eye on the timing of expected spend and income from new projects is the sort of planning that is much easier with detailed budgets and cashflow plans. Information on how good that glittering opportunity actually is, in comparison to what you’ve already got, and highlighting where the pressure points may be gives you the chance to model how you could work out strategies to keep business running smoothly.
You can find out more about how I help businesses manage their finances here.