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Developing a Small Business Action Plan

By Kempton Coady, General Manager and Denis Jakuc, Business Writer and Brand Strategist

You have written a Strategic Business Plan which has served you well in first building your business and guiding your mid- and long-term objectives. But now you are aware that the plan has lost its day-to-day relevance to your business. Your staff has lost some of their excitement and dynamism.

What you need to put together now is an Action Plan for your business. This plan should be updated quarterly to maintain your business progress. There are many reasons to do an Action Plan.

  • New product or service business planning
  • Employee hiring and management
  • Obtaining and working with vendors for needed materials and supplies
  • Ensuring that production takes place as planned
  • Providing customer service and support after the sale
  • Order fulfillment
  • Collections
  • Dealing with a changing business environment

For the purposes of this Expert Summary, we will focus on planning for new products or services. However, the following 11 steps to set your objectives and achieve your goals are similar for all of the reasons mentioned above.

Establish the business objectives and goals

The business leader needs to know where they are planning to take the organization, with clearly defined goals and objectives. For example, they need to define how a new product or service will increase sales and profitability, expand market share, and utilize existing resources.

Describe the new product or service and its unique selling proposition (USP)

Define the new product or service and describe any additional equipment or personnel that may be needed to introduce and support it. Write down the USP for the product or service—the differentiating benefit it delivers to your customers

.

Get everyone who will execute the plan involved from the start

The best people to ask about what steps need to be in the Action Plan are the people who will do them. Brainstorm with everyone involved and write down all the good ideas. Then take the most important ones, study them, and decide which key actions have the most potential for helping the company reach its goals.

Prioritize which actions will be most effective at closing the gap between where you are now and where you want to be. Always keep in mind that the folks on the front lines often have the best insight on what will work day-to-day.

Detail each action on a spreadsheet

Set up a one-page spreadsheet that lists all the actions. These can be:

  • One-off projects, such as hiring someone;
  • Rrecurring actions, such as monthly reviews of costs against estimates;
  • Larger efforts, such as creating an e-commerce site.

Each action should list:

  • Who’s responsible for it;
  • A timeline for executing it;
  • A key performance indicator (KPI) for evaluating its success.

You should also give each initiative a low, medium, or high priority. The spreadsheet format is great for quick reminders and tracking progress.

Note: There are many different online services to help you structure your action planning and execution. Three of the best are in PMI, ProjectManager.com, and Asana. You will find convenient templates to track your Action Plans.

Lay out a timeline

The spreadsheet should have a column for each month of the one-year action plan. If you like, you can also add columns for each quarter of the remaining years of your two- or three-year Strategic Business Plan, to lay out important actions beyond the first year.

Commit resources

Be sure to allocate the necessary human and financial resources to successfully complete the actions you need to take. With your human resources, be clear on who does what, using a RASCI matrix:

  • Responsible — who executes the action
  • Accountable — who oversees it; this could be the head of the team, or the same person as the first person in a smaller company
  • Supporting — who’s the backup
  • Consulted — who should be consulted when executing the action, for example, the sales head for up-to-date info on orders
  • Informed — who should be told about progress or decisions; for example, the head of the activity the action is affecting

Establish tracking and follow-up measures

Specify how you’ll track progress. This could be by milestones—points reached before completion—or by quantifiable measures like revenue, profits, or market share. Decide how you’ll follow up to check that steps have been done. This could be with scheduled reports or regular monthly meetings, with in-depth quarterly reviews.

Create a contingency plan

This outlines the options if the new product or service introduction does not go the way you planned. For example, mild laser technology was recommended to remove acne in the early 2000s, but in the primary teenage market, parents rejected the technology because of the perceived dangers to their children. A contingency plan might have targeted adults who wanted to remove skin blemishes.

Spread the word

Make members of the organization aware of the Action Plan, their roles in implementing it, and its benefits to them and to the business. Taking action involves change, which people tend to resist. So, they need to understand that change is inevitable and necessary for the business to survive and thrive. Reassure them that even if the new product or service is disruptive, the Action Plan is not; changes will be made one step at a time.

Stay flexible

An action plan isn’t something you set and forget. It needs to be responsive to challenges that arise as it’s being implemented, as well as to changes inside the company and in the marketplace. Watch for these challenges and changes and ask for feedback from those implementing the plan.

Revise actions, priorities, and even larger goals if necessary. As the planned year concludes, have the team regroup to work on the next 12-month action plan, building on the lessons learned so far.

Businesses can use this Action Planning Template:

Sample Small Business Action Plan – ViVA Med Spa Burlington, Tattoo Action Plan

The following is a real-world example of a Small Business Action Plan which was utilized to expand a med spa business and achieve the business objectives.

 

Goals and Objectives

1. To define the potential size of the business in the Burlington and contiguous areas

2. To summarize the business, technology, and potential

3. To define the capital and variable expenses associated with starting the tattoo removal business

4. To develop a financial model incorporating ViVA Med Spa Burlington doctors

5. To define the detailed process for treating clients and longer-term results/risks

6. To develop a quality assurance plan to optimize safe outcomes for all patients

7. To develop a plan for promotion of the tattoo service

8. To increase ViVA sales by $50,000 per month and pretax profitability by $30,000 per month.

Business Summary

It’s been estimated that about 25 million people in the United States have at least one tattoo, and with the current popularity of “body art,” over 250,000 women a year are being tattooed. The average age of procuring a tattoo is 18 years, often as a statement of love, anger, sexuality, individuality, or group identity, but these feelings may change with time, leaving the tattoo as a permanent reminder.

Approximately 17-30 percent of tattooed individuals desire removal. Despite their relatively easy acquisition, the removal of tattoos has long been a real problem. Laser removal of tattoos is potentially a more cosmetically acceptable method of removal than surgical excision or dermabrasion.

Tattoo pigments

Tattoos, a form of exogenous pigment, are usually composed of multiple colors and various dyes. In contrast to drugs and cosmetics, tattoo pigments have never been controlled or regulated in any way, and the exact composition of a given pigment is often kept a “trade secret” by the manufacturer. In most cases, neither the tattoo artist nor the tattooed client has any idea of the composition of the tattoo pigment.

Until recently, most coloring agents in tattoo pigment were inorganic heavy metal salts and oxides, like aluminum, titanium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, lead, and mercury. There has been a shift in recent years away from these agents toward organic pigments. These are considered safer and well tolerated by the skin, although allergic reactions can occur.

Tattoo types

There are five types of tattoos: professional, amateur, traumatic, cosmetic, and medicinal. In general, amateur tattoos require fewer treatment sessions than professional multicolored tattoos. Densely pigmented or decorative professional tattoos are composed of a variety of colored pigments and may be particularly difficult to remove, requiring 10-12 treatment sessions in some cases. One hundred percent clearance rate is not always obtained, and, in some cases, tattoos can be resistant to further treatment.

Amateur tattoos are typically less dense and are often compose of carbon-based ink that responds more readily to Q-switched laser treatment. Traumatic tattoos usually have minimal pigment deposited superficially and often clear with a few treatments. Caution should be exercised when treating gunpowder or firework tattoos, because the implanted material has the potential to ignite and cause pox-like scars.

Tattoo removal

There is still much to be learned about removing tattoo pigment, which must be mature six months prior to attempted removal. Exposure to Q-switched lasers produces selective fragmentation of the pigment-containing cells. The pigment particles are reduced in size and a brisk inflammatory response occurs within 24 hours. Two weeks later, the laser-altered tattoo ink particles are found repackaged in the same type of dermal cells.

It is not yet clear how the liberated ink particles are cleared from the skin after laser treatment. For Q-switched laser tattoo treatment to be effective, the absorption peak of the pigment must match the wavelength of the laser energy. Similar colors may contain different pigments, with different responses to a given laser wavelength, and not all pigments absorb the wavelengths of currently available medical lasers.

Three types of lasers are currently used for tattoo removal: Q-switched ruby laser, Q-switched Nd: YAG laser, and Q-switched alexandrite laser. The ruby and alexandrite models are useful for removing black, blue, and green pigment. The YAG is useful for removal of black and blue pigments. A Q-switched Nd: YAG laser model is in the FDA approval stages. This will effectively add red, orange, and yellow colors to the blue/black colors presently removed. Current Q-switched Nd: YAG lasers remove only blue, black, and partial green tattoos.

Q-switched lasers

The fundamental principle behind laser treatment of tattoos is selective destruction of undesired pigment with minimal collateral damage. This destruction is achieved by the delivery of energy. The exposure time must be limited so that the heat generated by the laser-tissue interaction is confined to the target.

Q-switched lasers produce pulses in the nanosecond range. For operators used to millisecond pulse durations, a nanosecond pulse is one million times faster, or shorter, if you will. Q-switched lasers are therefore ideal for the treatment of various pigmented tattoos in a safe, reproducible fashion. Its wavelength is especially useful for treating deeper pigmented tattoos due to its depth of penetration. It is especially safe in darker skin types.

What is Q-switching?

A Q-switch is a physical method to create extremely short pulses of high intensity laser light with peak power. In addition to the normal components of a laser (rod, flashlamp and mirror), this system utilizes a shutter which is composed of a polarizer and a Pockels cell. Together the polarizer and Pockels cell act as the “Q-switch.”

Light is allowed to build within the optical cavity when voltage is applied. Once the voltage is turned off, the light energy is released in one extremely powerful short pulse (nanoseconds). Q-switched lasers and the photons of light released from them have unique characteristics that allow them to be effectively used to treat tattoos. This is due to the mechanism of action whereby photoacoustic waves are generated within the skin, which heats the small tattoo pigment particles. This heating causes cavitation within the cells containing the ink particles or pigment, followed by rupture and eventual removal of debris from the site.

Clinically, this process produces gradual clearing or fading of the tattoos with a series of 4-12 treatments at 6-week intervals. Benign pigmented lesions may clear with 2-3 treatments at 6-week intervals. The precise targeting of pigment particles by the Q-switched lasers reduces the collateral damage and minimizes the risk of scarring or textural changes.

Clients must always be counseled regarding the textural skin changes caused by placement of the tattoo in the first place. Smooth skin should never be an anticipated outcome from tattoo removal. Benign pigmented lesions should have better textural skin outcomes.

 

Adverse effects

Q-switched laser treatments may cause hypopigmentation, or lightening of the skin; however, this usually resolves by itself quickly, probably because of the limited depth of penetration. Hypopigmentation is more likely in those clients with a tendency to hypopigment after superficial skin injuries. Transient hypopigmentation is still common, but, as mentioned above, textural changes following Q-switched laser treatment of tattoos is usually minimal if present at all.

The original placement of the tattoo is more likely to produce scarring, which is not easily visible when the ink is in place. Removal of the ink may make those textural skin changes more visible. Preoperative photographs and close clinical examination are helpful for documentation in these cases.

Residual pigmentation is always a concern, and clients must be forewarned, especially if the tattoo contains reds, oranges, and yellows. Cosmetic tattoos (lipliners, eyeliners) may contain iron oxide and titanium dioxide, which will darken with Q-switched laser treatment. Do not attempt to remove these tattoos unless you are positive that the dye is not one of the above

 

Contraindications

Contraindications are few. The most serious complication to tattoo removal was a reported case of systemic allergic reaction. Fragmenting the ink with a Q-switched laser may potentially trigger a localized allergic reaction at the tattoo site. Localized allergic reactions may occur with almost any color ink.

Systemic allergic reactions are more prevalent in patients exhibiting a localized allergic reaction at the tattoo site. Therefore, if a client exhibits a cutaneous reaction within the tattoo, Q-switched laser treatment should be used with extreme caution.

Action Plan

Tattoo pricing guideline (April 2005)

The following is the pricing used at the ViVA Med Spa King of Prussia site. This pricing may be adapted for the Burlington market conditions and differences in cost structure.

Tattoo pricing is based on the length and width of the tattoo as size affects the treatment time. Your client should measure their tattoo for you to give them the most accurate estimate of price. Pricing will not be finalized until we do an in-office measurement. Please stress to the client that our phone price quote is only an estimate and is subject to change upon arrival.

Multiply the length by the width and this will give you the number of square inches for you to base your pricing.

  • Base Tattoo price: $250 (20 minutes)
  • 2-4 square inches: $375 (20 minutes)
  • 5-7 square inches: $450 (25 minutes)
  • 8-10 square inches: $525 (30 minutes)
  • 11-14 square inches: $600 (40 minutes)
  • 15-16 square inches: $675 (50 minutes)

Women

  • 1 inch arm band: $550 (40 minutes)
  • 2-inch arm band: $675 (50 minutes)

Men

  • 1 inch arm band: $675 (50 minutes)
  • 2-inch arm band: $750 (60 minutes)

Arm bands greater than 2 inches in width will be over $700 for women and $800 for men. If the arm band does not go all the way around the arm, you could price it by square inch and refer to the guidelines above.

Anything over 16 square inches will be above $675 per treatment and will require an in-office price estimate by management. The client should be scheduled for at least a one-hour appointment.

 

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This Expert Summary is © InnovatorsLINK. For republishing, please contact dlangeveld@innovatorslink.com.

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