Sally Hennah’s on a mission to make business planning faster and easier for SME owners and her online tool is the means to that end.
Ask Sally Hennah what excites her most in life, and her answer will be to see businesses succeed. Her goal is to help expedite “a decline in the abysmal number of businesses that fail”.
Hennah’s created the ultimate weapon – a smartphone-friendly Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) planning tool called Business Sorter.
Global statistics reveal 70 to 80 percent of small business owners have no plan, yet most people know planning is the best place to start in order to turn a business around.
Planning is Hennah’s passion. With a background in insolvency and 15 years running her own business growth consultancy, she’s helped clients tackle prioritising, delegating, risk management and ‘bigger picture’ thinking – all of which reinforced her view that sound planning leads to greater stability and profitability.
That’s backed up by UK research* which shows that businesses that plan are 30 percent more profitable.
So it was almost inevitable that Hennah would one day convert all that experience into an online planning tool.
The genesis for Business Sorter was a comment made on radio by a business commentator about Kiwi business owners’ lack of motivation, apart from ‘the bach, boat and BMW’.
“I felt outraged,” Hennah recalls. “Some people do make lifestyle choices but this person was missing the point. Global statistics for many years show almost no change in how businesses fail and succeed.
“Growing a small business, anywhere in the world, is incredibly difficult,” she says, citing the risk of losing the family home, pressure on relationships, fear of failure, and a lack of experience, skills or funds as some of the reasons why businesses stagnate.
Hennah reflected on why some of her clients had prospered. Planning and implementing their plan was an important part of being able to deal with surprises and the challenges of running a business.
“I wanted to work with more clients on planning. However, the time, cost, and a general dislike of planning meant it wasn’t realistic.
“I wondered if it would be possible to take a traditional process and turn it into something that was easy and fast to use.”
Turns out there was. Business Sorter is a planning and educational platform based on Hennah’s original paper version and includes advice resources she has developed over a number of years. It can be accessed at businesssorter.com.
Hennah describes the solution, which utilises e-cards, as easy-to-use and practical. In her words: “grunty but ridiculously simple”.
“It’s a helper that doesn’t cost a fortune and you can carry it with you, so checking in is much easier.
“And using the planning software with your advisor or accountant sitting next to you takes it to a whole new level.”
“It makes it very easy to manage people. When you’ve broken all the tasks down and everything’s allocated, there’s no confusion or forgetting what needs to be done.”
Feedback has been hugely positive. Lisa Ford, GM, Business Mentors New Zealand describes Business Sorter as an enabler that helps business owners manage their focus and work on priorities. “A great tool to inspire them to be better and document progress, as well as a motivational tool to build management accountability.”
No more excuses
Hennah’s heard all the excuses from business owners on why they fail to formulate and implement a business plan. “Preparing a SWOT analysis and thinking about the big picture is often ignored in preference for writing a to-do list of urgent things – which isn’t really planning.
“People have a bias to focus of the areas they understand and tackle things they know they can do, rather than things that will make the biggest difference,” she says, adding that with Business Sorter, a proper business plan that normally requires a week’s work, or three days with a facilitator, takes less than two hours.
Hennah says Business Sorter is now live on Xero. And although it was developed with an international market in mind, they’ve been surprised at how quickly they’ve gained overseas clients.
There is no comparable product globally, she adds. “It’s exciting to be out there helping make it easier for businesses to be sustainable and successful.”
In all the years Hennah’s been observing business she’s not seen a change in the failure rate. Business Sorter might just be the catalyst for changing that.
*Cranfield University School of Management and Warwick Business School, 2010.