As any good business leader knows, planning for the future is a necessary step to help ensure the company heads in the right direction and reaches success along the way. Now more than ever before, this practice is a necessary step to even ensure its survival.
Part of forward-thinking is reasoning through different paths your company could take and visualizing what outcomes would come from those directions. Being able to draw up a mental picture of this future can enable a leader to make the right choices without spending unnecessary time or money going in the wrong direction.
To plan effectively, the best place to start is by creating a plan, a type of financial model, to make predictions on your business’s results over a specific period. This strategic thinking is what the industry refers to as scenario planning, as Forbes defines “alternate futures in which today’s decisions may play out.”
By planning through your scenarios and stress-testing them, you should ultimately end with a clear direction that is best for your business to take. Below, we will walk you through how to scenario plan and then how to effectively stress test your scenarios.
How To Start Scenario Planning
To effectively navigate the scenario planning process, you must first create a cash flow forecast to support your business. With your numbers in place, you will be better able to make accurate predictions to take your company in the right direction. We suggest starting here or here to learn more about this process.
Once you have a better understanding of your business financials, then you can dive into the three types of models for scenario planning explained below.
Here Are 3 Models For Scenario Planning
- Original plan – This should be the most straightforward scenario to create, and it utilizes your strategic business plan and budget for the year. The original plan scenario is a jumping-off point for the two scenario types below.
- Probable case – Given the information you currently have, you should have an expectation for your business’s future. Your expectations could be positive or negative, depending on how you are fairing the current economic climate. Companies with more seasonality should refer to the quarters in the past to draw up a better picture.
- Worst-case – As the company leader, you know your business better than anyone else. If revenues were to decline and unexpected expenses were to arise, how would those happenings affect your company? The worst-case scenario takes all of the “bad things” that could happen into account, so there are no surprises. Forecasting in this way allows you to take action now so your business can survive later.
Once you have developed each of these scenarios, the next step in the process is to stress-test them to ensure you know what will or won’t work for your company.
If you are looking to first dive deeper into each of the individual scenarios, you can read the blog linked below.
5 Questions To Stress Test Your Scenarios
Knowledge is power, and with your scenarios mapped out, you can feel more confident as to the direction your business is headed. However, what happens when the unexpected happens? When what you planned for and accounted for may no longer be valid options?
By stress-testing with a few proven fundamentals, you can discover any shortcomings or weak points in your business strategy to ensure it is executed to the best possible ability no matter the pulse of the economic climate.
Ask yourself and other company leaders involved in this process the following questions:
1. Who Is Your Ideal Customer?
Knowing your primary customer will allow you to allocate resources the right way without being sidetracked. Earmarking funds to multiple types of customers or clients will result in underperformance and less than ideal service. Your ideal customer may change over time, which is ok, but recognize that it may take restructuring to make this happen. For now, focus on one customer and ensure your scenarios cater to them.
2. Who Do Your Core Values Speak To?
Every company is different, and their core values may speak to clients, employees, or investors. Knowing who your values speak to will be necessary when making one business decision over another and having clear company messaging and direction.
3. Are You Tracking Key Performance Indicators?
Not only is it essential to track KPIs, but knowing which KPIs to follow is also critical. Creating a company scorecard is helpful so long as there are specific variables you are reviewing consistently. We recommend tracking six key performance indicators which you can read more about here. Remember, tracking too many variables will drive out innovation, so go with a less is more mentality here.
4. Are Employees Willing To Help One Another?
To effectively build an organization like a well-oiled machine, all the parts need to work well together. In business, this means that while your employees will have individual goals, they must be willing to help one another to drive strategy, collaboration, and communication, all while working toward reaching company goals.
5. What Unknowns Keep You Awake At Night?
Being scared or worried about the unknown is nothing new—as every business leader experiences these feelings. Take a tip from other failed business strategies, as those leaders made assumptions about the future and were wrong. The business strategy you are working so hard to create will not be a blanket strategy you can use for the lifetime of your business. To be successful, you must continually monitor the uncertainties that you are accounting for in your scenarios.
Try and stress-test your scenarios annually to address changes and ensure you are successful in any economic climate. Depending on the industry your business is in, you may need to adjust this timeline more frequently.
Remember, scenario planning alone will not help you find an effective strategy for your business. Strategically thinking through and testing your plan to see where the weaknesses and strengths lie will be vital to come to the right decision. Even after all this planning, remember that life can still throw some unexpected curveballs (COVID-19 anyone?), and adjusting to those unforeseen circumstances will be necessary.
While this may feel like a lot of information, this is just a starting point. If, at any point in the process, you or your team feel overwhelmed with financial reporting, business strategy, defining your KPIs, or need some guidance when facing the difficult business decisions that lie ahead – please reach out to our team of experts.
The Signature Analytics promise is to help with all of these areas and go beyond the numbers to improve your business performance and assist you in achieving your goals.
Contact our team of experts for business and financial analysis and any other questions you may have during this challenging time.