A woman sits at a table using an electronic tablet. She is flanked by another woman sitting on the left and a man standing and looking down at what she's doing on the right. The woman in the middle is wearing glasses, a button-up shirt, and a yellow cardigan; she is smiling as she uses a digital pen on the screen of the tablet. The woman sitting on the left is wearing a gray striped apron over a white button-up shirt; she has her elbow braced on the back of the other woman's chair as she leans slightly forward to look at the screen of the tablet. The man is wearing glasses and a black chef's uniform; he has his arms crossed. The room in the background is a restaurant with light gray brick walls and black metal lights hanging from the ceiling. Two neon signs, shaped like a pizza slice and a wine glass, are mounted on the back wall.
Before you test or implement any changes, make sure you communicate them to stakeholders and other involved parties. — Getty Images/hobo_018

Every entrepreneur reaches a point where it becomes necessary to change their business plan. Maybe you aren’t seeing the growth you expected, or maybe a significant industry disruption made it necessary. Here are five steps you can take to adapt your business plan and continue moving your small business forward.

Recognize when it’s time to pivot

The first step is simply recognizing when it’s time to make a business pivot. One of the biggest signs you need to pivot is when things stop working in your business. If you’re not getting the results you expected, this is a sign you may need to do something different.

But you don’t have to wait until things are falling apart to adjust your business plan. By paying attention to changing customer behaviors and preferences, you may be able to stay on top of emerging market trends.

The thought of switching directions before you need to can be scary, but it ensures you have momentum on your side. Acting early means you have the resources available to take advantage of new opportunities before it’s too late.

[Read more: 8 Signs It's Time to Update Your Business Plan]

Identify needed changes

Next, you need to determine what aspects of your business plan need to change. Do you need to modify your current products or offer an entirely new product or service? Do you need to change your target market or adjust your marketing strategy?

Before you make any significant changes, start by defining your goals and what you hope to achieve. Spend time researching what your customers want and what your competitors are doing. From there, you can identify the necessary changes that need to be made.

[Read more: How This Organic Skin Care Product Business Navigated Supply Chain Challenges]

Communicate these changes to stakeholders

Once you understand what you’re trying to achieve, you need to share these changes with your stakeholders. Being open and transparent increases the likelihood that you’ll gain their support.

You don’t have to wait until things are falling apart to adjust your business plan.

Segment your audience based on their roles and involvement in your business. Explain why these changes are necessary, the potential benefits and drawbacks, and any action that’s needed from your stakeholders.

Be ready to address any concerns and objections they have. However, this isn’t a one-time conversation, and you should be prepared to involve your stakeholders throughout the entire process.

Regularly ask for feedback from your stakeholders and be prepared to act on their feedback. And be honest about any mistakes that occur during the process — being transparent about the good and the bad will increase their faith in your leadership.

[Read more: How to Communicate a Product Discontinuation to Customers]

Implement and test these changes

When you’re making changes in your business, it’s a good idea to start small and test the waters first. For example, if you’re making changes to your product, start with a small test group of customers first. This will help you gauge your customers’ reactions and determine whether you should implement these changes on a larger scale.

Through this process, you should continue to monitor your business metrics and make adjustments as needed. Expect that things won’t go as planned and that there will be bumps in the road. Minor setbacks don’t have to derail your plans if you stay flexible.

Stay flexible and willing to adapt

The business landscape is constantly shifting, so it’s important to stay flexible and willing to change your business plan along with it. Companies that are always ready to adapt to changing market conditions will remain competitive.

You should thoroughly review your business plan at least once annually, but you may want to update your financial projections quarterly. The bottom line is that your business plan will never be finished, so you should always be ready to make changes.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Applications are open for the CO—100! Now is your chance to join an exclusive group of outstanding small businesses. Share your story with us — apply today.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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