Small Biz Advice: Changing Your Business Plan



Dear Holly,

I started working on my business plan about a year before I launched my retail business in September. I’m a few months in now and already find myself going in a completely different direction than I had anticipated in my plan. What I mean by that is that I thought I was going to have a big brick and mortar store, but now my e commerce site is so successful, I’m second guessing the brick and mortar all together.

Was it a waste of time to write my business plan? Should I throw the whole thing out and start over? I’m not sure how it applies now that I’ve changed direction.

Scratch That Plan

Dear Scratch That,

Congratulations, you’ve pivoted!! Most first-time business owners make a major pivot in the first year of their business. What I mean by that is that they start out with one direction in mind, but are attuned to their customers’ demands and adjust accordingly. Hence, the pivot!

The most successful businesses are a marriage between your vision and the customers’ needs. So maybe you started with the vision for brick and mortar, but quickly learned that your specific customer base prefers the convenience of shopping online. It’s vital to be aware of what the customer needs. Just because you have a vision, it doesn’t mean everyone will be receptive to that. It’s all about understanding how to use your vision and passion to fill the need of your customers.

However, you’re also only two months in. And though your e-commerce shop is going well, no one knows if you’ll want to expand to brick and mortar in the next year. I think it’s still too early to call and say that you won’t open a brick and mortar store altogether. See how the next six months to a year play out. Remember, retail businesses are often their busiest this time of year. Give yourself some time to gather a more honest picture before you nix your original plan all together.

In the meantime, you can go back and update your plan based on the path you’re currently following. Remember, your business plan isn’t all or nothing; it must constantly evolve. The core of your business hasn’t changed—your mission and values—you just need to make sure that the strategies you set for growth, for marketing, and for operations all relate to the evolved vision.

So, start with your goals. I would be most concerned with making sure your one-year goals are still relevant since there’s no brick and mortar store. Make sure you’ve set goals relevant to the e-commerce only operation so that you know what you’re working towards.

Once you’ve gone back and done that, update the marketing and operations strategies to make sure that they work towards achieving those goals.

Most importantly, don’t toss the original plan. You never know how this first year will play out and whether or not you’ll pivot back to the original plan in the coming months.
Good luck!

Holly Howard runs Ask Holly How, a small business consulting company based out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn that works with a wide variety of businesses from restaurants to retail to art studios and pretty much everything in between. Her clients report increased income and profit, decreased expenses and a significantly better quality of life. Holly heads up the Small Business Book Club at McNally Jackson Books.

Want valuable insight into how to grow your business? Holly hosts free 30 minute strategy sessions at The Yard in Williamsburg. Email her to set up a time or to ask a question for the next Ask Holly How.

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