To run an online business, you’ll need to set goals and strive to achieve them. An operational plan helps you lay out all of your tasks needed to reach your objectives. The online market can be profitable for businesses, but success relies on your ability to scale up and grow. There are plenty of reasons to be ambitious about your company, but having a plan makes you more likely to be successful.

This guide discusses what you need in an operational plan for your online business, including:

  • Budget
  • Current position
  • Goals
  • Strategy
  • Measuring progress

Budget

The first section to include in your operational plan is your budget. It is an estimation of money coming into the business and how much you’ll spend. Budgeting allows you to be more aware of your money and only focus your spending on things to create revenue. Set your budget over a specific period – months, quarters or years. 

When you are using a budget, first consider how you can create a surplus – which is when you’re left with more money than expected. That could be a result of more sales than anticipated, for example. Second, think about how to balance your budget – which is meeting all costs. Thirdly, understand how to avoid a deficit, which is when your costs have exceeded your budget. 

A deficit could hurt your ability to continue operating. For example, if your costs go over expectations for the month, you may not have enough for the following month, making you unable to pay a supplier. To be aware of your budget, you can use an accounting tool like Countingup. It’s a current business account with built-in accounting software. The app features cash flow insights, which shares the incoming and outgoing of your business. 

Current position

Another section to include in your operational plan, is your business’s current position. It’s essential to be aware of where you are, before moving forward. One way to look at your current position is through SWOT analysis. This method pinpoints your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Strengths

Even if your business has not been long-running, you can likely see some key strengths. It’s essential to recognise what they are, so you can keep doing what works. For example, suppose you often gather positive customer reviews. In that case, you may decide to encourage more people to fill them out.

Weaknesses

Your weaknesses are just as important as your strengths. You’ll likely have business areas to improve through your objectives. Looking at how you operate overall, decide where you’d benefit from change. For example, if you have been on social media for months but still have a low number of followers, then you may want to rethink the content you put out.

Opportunities

As a business, your current position helps you identify key opportunities to take advantage of in future. For example, you could sell an online service and see the potential of VR to improve what you offer customers.

Threats

Also, look at possibilities that could become threats to your business. Those might be important to consider when deciding on improvement strategies, as you can set up ways to avoid them. For example, say there’s the threat of a competitor selling a similar product. You can patent your next one so competitors would face repercussions for stealing the design.

Goals

The goals of your business can be the primary things your operation is going to achieve for you. This section commits to a vision of where the company is heading in the future. It can include your long-term goals, but it’s just as essential to consider short-term ones. 

Your operational plan can set up short, medium and long-term goals for your business. Having a dedicated aim for the future first, may help break those down into smaller ones. For example, the goal of being the biggest supplier in the UK for hair products is ambitious. Still, without short term goals, you’ll never work towards it.

Short term goals can include giving yourself targets like growing your sales. A medium-term goal could be to offer more products. Then a long term goal can be the overarching idea for the future of your business. Breaking down what you would like to do makes the strategy more manageable.

Strategy

The business strategy to help reach your goals is another important section of your operational plan. This section helps to set up the actions and activities you want to take on. Everything you decide to do can follow your current budget position. Keeping those other sections in mind helps you stay realistic but purposeful.

Your strategy can address how you see the business achieving your goals and which steps to take. For example, to get more customers, your strategy can decide which channels to use for digital marketing. Every decision will be unique to your business and its specific goals. 

Consider the risks you may face. Similar to the threats you currently have, you could see more problems by changing the way you operate. By assessing possibilities, you can better face them. For example, your strategy might include launching an IOS app. But, if Apple changes their system before development ends, last minute changes could put you over budget.

Measuring progress

An operational plan can provide something to look back on and compare your success. To do that, include a section on measuring progress. Choose figures that can be checked quickly and routinely. Another way of measuring progress is by assigning a timescale to achieve each goal. 

For example, you can aim to reach 100 sales a week in three months. After one month, look at how close you are and if anything needs to change. By the third month, if you haven’t reached your goal, come back to your operational plan and find a new strategy.

Operate finances effectively with Countingup

Aside from helping you stick to your budget, by having a Countingup business current account, you can also track the progress of your financial goals. 

Its expense categorisation feature lets you sort costs, which allows you to separate different areas of the business financially. Suppose you want to increase your profit by keeping expenses low. In that case, you can access all of the information and compare the attention you need to give to each section of the business.

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