For a small business, drawing up a plan need not be a complicated process. What’s more, as you take on your first staff members, and maybe even move into new areas of work, your basic management plan can grow with you; helping your business absorb and manage these exciting milestones. So how do you get started on creating a management plan?
What is a management plan for?
You might already have drawn up a business plan. This describes what your business is all about: who you are, what you intend to do, and your plans for achieving your goals. A management plan is a natural accompaniment to this. It sets out how your organisation will operate, the methods you will use to undertake the activities your business is involved in, as well as clearly setting out how each of your team members fit into the business as a whole.
If you’re currently operating entirely alone and you know your business inside out, you might be questioning the usefulness of such a plan at this stage. In fact, it can be just as valuable to a startup as it is for the likes of Sainsbury's. By documenting, in detail, the activities your business is routinely engaged in and what’s required to keep it going, it becomes a lot easier to keep track of everything. In this way — and so long as you keep it up to date — a management plan can be a useful early warning system, allowing you to see if your commitments are getting too much; in which case it might be the right time to take stock of your workload and/or take on extra staff.
A solid business plan is essential for getting investors on board and/or for securing finance. A management plan can be useful here as well: it shows outsiders that you take the running of your business seriously and that you have what it takes to stay in control.
Determining what needs to be managed
A small business management plan should describe each of the routine tasks that need to be done to keep the organisation running efficiently. For this, it’s important to consider each area of your business systematically to ensure nothing is missed out. As an example, for an up-and-coming online shop, this could include customer service, dispatching orders, buying and managing stock, marketing, website administration, and dealing with tax and business accounts.
For each of these areas, the management plan will detail what is needed to cover them effectively. For customer service, this might involve responding to calls and emails, checking your social media pages for queries, processing payment and responding to complaints (among other things).
This element of your plan can be very useful for spotting areas where improvements could be made. As an example, once you see on paper everything that’s involved in keeping track of your stock since you extended your range of products, you might conclude that now’s the right time to invest in dedicated stock management software.
Defining each team member’s responsibilities
Another key element of the management plan involves asking who is responsible for what tasks. When you’re on your own, the answer to this is easy: you’re responsible for the lot. But let’s say that even before you started your plan, you were thinking of taking on an employee. With the help of your plan, it becomes easier to identify precisely what areas you need an extra pair of hands with. You can also think carefully about your own capabilities and consider how someone with a different skillset might be a good fit for your needs.
Your management plan helps you to define a distinct role for your new starter. So instead of advertising for a “general assistant”, you might conclude that your business needs someone with specific web admin skills who also has some experience of online marketing. You can then advertise for this specific skillset: you’re more likely to find the best fit, and that individual will have a clear picture of what to expect from the job.
Your plan also defines the ‘hierarchy’ of your organisation: i.e. who is answerable to whom. Even in a small team, it’s important to think about how much independence to give each member, and this will depend to a large extent on the level of experience of the staff member in question.
A management plan is a ‘living’ document: it changes as your team expands and you move into new areas of work, and it sets out the relationship between those team members and their role within the business itself. Get it right, and the end result should be a more efficient and harmonious working environment. For lots more tips on getting your business off to the best possible start, head on over to our help centre.