Effectively forecasting for business planning

11 November 2020

In the current environment, business planning has become an increasingly important component of helping business owners look forward to set a course of action that has purpose.

Successful business owners will plan, revisit the plan and change the plan in response to changing market conditions. And in times of uncertainty, they will run alternative scenarios to help build a picture of where their business might be heading.

Forecasting is a financial tool that can assist business owners to formulate their plans by providing valuable insights into profitability, financial stabiltiy and the future cash position of their business. The information gleaned from robust forecasts can help business owners make decisions and faciliate sound financial management that improves business outcomes.

Robust financial forecasting can help improve how a business manages:

  • Its assessment of expansion, diversifcation or improvement strategies.
  • Staffing, including when to recruit, roll out training programmes or use contractors during busy periods.
  • Cash flow by identifying when cash is constrained and what the future funding requirements will be. This proactive approach instills confidence with funding providers as it is evident that the business owner is actively managing the finances of their business.
  • Its utilisation of resources.
  • Co-operation and co-ordination between departments.
  • Marketing campaigns that are aligned with production schedules.
  • Its compliance with tax obligations.

There are two critical steps to a robust forecast. First, you need to build the foundation of your forecast through a thorough analysis of past and present data. Second, you should conduct a scenario analysis.

To build your foundation, estimate your future revenue streams and expenditure based on past and present data. Your revenue analysis should consider:

  • Past trends including traditional busy and slow periods/seasonality.
  • Factors that influenced historical highs and lows.
  • The composition of your client base giving consideration to what their problems and needs may be.
  • Your terms of trade (i.e. how and when you are paid).
  • Your position in the market and your market share compared to competitors.
  • The industry outlook.
  • Economic conditions.

A review of your outgoings should consider:

  • Fixed versus variable costs (variable costs will increase in relation to sales).
  • Marketing campaigns.
  • Staff requirements.
  • Upcoming capital requirements (e.g. new Plant & Equipment).
  • Production planning.
  • Supply chain logistics (e.g. shipping requirements or bulk inventory purchase requirements).
  • Compliance costs.
  • Current debt structure.

Once the base data is developed you can use this to test ideas and run scenarios. Common types of scenarios to analyse include:

• The impact to the business from a decline in revenue (e.g. a 10% drop in sales).

• Expansion into a new service line and assessment of working capital needs.

• Debt structuring options from a cost and servicing perspective.

• Planning capital expenditure.

Forecasting forces you to continually assess the present and future and when it’s done well, it can help improve your business’ ability to mitigate risk and take advantage of opportunites. To discuss how forecasting could help your business, get in touch with the Findex Business advisory team.

Findex NZ Limited, trading as Findex

While all reasonable care is taken in the preparation of the material in this communication, to the extent allowed by legislation Findex accept no liability whatsoever for reliance on it. All opinions, conclusions, forecasts or recommendations are reasonably held at the time of compilation but are subject to change without notice. Findex assumes no obligation to update this material after it has been issued. You should seek professional advice before acting on any material.

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