7 Steps to Save Your Local Newspaper: #6-Newspaper Business Plan

January 10, 2011

If you have been following this series, 7 Steps to Save Your Local Newspaper, then by now your head is probably whirling with information and you might be wondering where to go from here.  This step will assist you in taking what we’ve been discussing, applying it to your organization, and implementing a plan to achieve success in this changing industry.  Whether or not your organization has an existing business plan, it is time to perform an organizational introspection.  Regardless of whether your organization has been in business for years or is just beginning, the mission of the organization must be defined.  If the company has been in business for a long period of time, this provides the perfect opportunity to determine if the current mission, vision, and goals are aligned with the original intent of the company.  Perhaps you noticed that I continue to refer to the company as an organization instead of a “newspaper”.  This is largely due to the fact that it is uncertain whether the future will be a “paper” at all and the new business plan needs to reflect that.   One of my most favorite sayings is a quote from Lewis Carroll, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”  I have modified this a bit in my work, but I like to say “If you don’t know where you are going, how do you know that you got there?”  Organizations mistakenly believe that business plans are for start-up companies.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Big businesses and corporations are subject to extensive planning and reviews constantly.  It is time to dust off the organization’s long term plan, review it, and determine if it is still a viable plan to lead the organization where it wants to go.  If not, build a plan that will achieve the results you’re seeking.  One of my favorite authors on business plans is Tim Berry.  Tim not only wrote my favorite book on business plans, Hurdle the Book on Business Planning, but he also provides many free templates on his website, http://www.bplans.com.  Business plans can be formal or informal, but generally share common elements.  The following components should be defined when building a successful business plan:

  • Define the organization’s mission-The most important component of the business plan is to define the mission.  Why is the organization in business?  What is the objective of the business?  Who are the stakeholders and how do they shape the mission?
    • Define the owners
    • Define the investors
    • Define the customers (advertisers)
    • Define the customers (subscribers)

Additionally, provide an executive summary that describes the organization, the location, and significant historical information.

  • Define the organization’s products or services-What does the organization offer to be exchanged for payment?  Describe all of the products and services that you offer in a way that anyone could take the business plan, read it, and understand what your organization sells.
  • Define the organization’s market-Perform a market analysis to determine your existing as well as potential customers.  Identify all competitors as they relate to the industry and rank each competitor’s share of the business.
  • Define your marketing strategy – How will you sell your products or services?  How will you let your potential customers know you have something of value they might want?  What  is your sales strategy?  What is your sales forecast for the short term, one to three years and how does  it compare to the long term, three to five years?
  • Define your human resources strategy – Who is the management team?  What type of personnel do you need to achieve the mission and goals of the organization?  Examine the current personnel to determine if you currently have the human resources strategy in place to achieve your mission.
  • Define your financial plan– Effective cash management strategies are paramount at every stage of the business.  Identify your current financial position to determine the overall financial health of the organization.  Review your financial plan to determine if it’s consistent with the organization’s mission and revise if necessary.

If all this appears daunting,  I encourage you to read Tim Berry’s book and visit his website.  If you feel you need more information, you could even take an online class on the subject.  One I can personally recommend is Marlboro College Graduate School’s “Entrepreneurship and the New Venture”.   The news industry has undergone significant changes and most certainly will continue to do so.  Having a sound business plan in place that is communicated to all the stakeholders will provide a vehicle to know where you are, where you are going, how you will get there, and most importantly, how you will know when you get there.  In step 7, we will be winding up the series and discussing implementation strategies to achieve the ultimate goal of saving your local newspaper.  Until then…..

Think outside the newsstand,

Joe

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