Business plans are the real-world equivalent of studying for a history exam-they require global edge, research and intensive thought.
Like studying, business plans often require several hours of preparation to yield good results. Many area business owners wouldn’t dream of starting a business without a formal plan. You don’t know where you’re going unless you have a plan to get there. How do you get on the road, and what direction do you go? You have to have a plan to keep you on that road.
The process of planning allows the founding team to really think through what it is they’re undertaking. You’re anticipating who the competitors might be, understanding who the target customers will be, what their needs are, what constitutes value for the customers and all those sorts of things.
A business plan is used to promote a company to both prospective employees and prospective financial backers, allowing them to see why they should invest-be it their careers or their capital-in the business, but even the most careful planning cannot account for everything.
The economy fluctuates and consumer preferences change. The expectations in a business plan often vary from the realities of the business, and owners must learn to adapt. All in all, our plan has been very close to what we had originally intended; there have just been opportunities that have arisen over the years that we’ve taken advantage of.
Specifically, our Longitudes experts advise that supply chain executives can drive profitability ahead if they closely align their supply chain strategies to five universal business plan challenges.
- Growing by reaching new markets
- Improving customer service
- Differentiating from competitors
- Improving cash position
- And enhancing productivity
Longitudes experts also point out that a key way to ensure better customer service is to deliver complete supply chain visibility. Visibility, of course, allows companies, customers and supply chain partners to look up and down the supply chain, to see exactly where an order is, where it’s headed and why. No one can afford the risk of black holes of information anymore.
On the other hand, a company can greatly enhance customer service by providing richer, more up-to-date information about shipments in progress.
Imagine a service that would give high-volume shippers detailed visibility into the status of multiple shipments. They can share this information electronically with their customers who can feed it into their own systems like inventory and accounts payable. Visibility tools like this can help companies provide instant answers to customer questions and to do a better job of troubleshooting if something goes wrong.
If there’s a single word that sums up the direction of business innovation and supply chain midway through the first decade of the 21st century, it might well be collaboration. Many enterprising individuals already use Web and other information sharing technologies to work in unprecedented, collaborative ways with a variety of experts, in a variety of fields in a variety of places on the planet.
China has become a manufacturing Mecca , India is becoming an information technology and financial services hub, Taiwan is a technology design and marketing center, Ireland has morphed into a software development hotbed, and Japan and the United States continue to lead in customer-centric design. What do these trends toward specialization and collaboration mean to the supply and demand chain executive?
It’s increasingly taking us into a world of synchronized commerce, a world where the flows of goods, information and funds can be combined and choreographed to create value. In such a world, according to the supply chain leaders who’ve participated in the Longitudes conferences, supply chain pros can seize their own new opportunities to innovate by creating agile supply chains that are closely matched to the business plan. Already, many high-impacts, flexible supply chains cross a number of national borders to match the best suppliers with individual orders. It’s no longer about taking advantage of economies of scale, but more about taking advantage of economies of expertise.