This is one of my favorite quotes, especially when it comes to business planning as it highlights the exact issue that comes with a lack of planning. Bottom line – if you fail to plan, it doesn’t matter how much effort, time, blood, sweat and tears you put into your business, it will not move forward.
Writing your business plan is the single most effective way to plan out where you want to go and revisiting and updating that plan at least every 5 years is the best way to accommodate for changes in direction as well as monitoring how you are doing. Remember what gets measured gets done.
Many business owners shy away from writing business plans because:
- They don’t see the value
- They are hard to write
- They don’t know how to lay them out
- They don’t have time
The value of your business plan is harder to see if the plan hasn’t been written constructively or parts have been missed. It’s very important to understand what your competitors are doing for instance, or to identify your customer avatar, this will define what marketing and branding you do going forward. Sometimes the value of writing a business plan is not seen until after its finished and you start building out the areas of your business, other times it can be seen up front.
A good friend of mine and I came up with a new business idea recently and started working through our business plan. We quickly learned early on that the business idea was not viable, that there was not enough demand for the service that would warrant creating a business around it. That clarity was gained through working the business plan.
Hard to Write
Let me be clear about something – writing a good, comprehensive business plan that will assist in guiding you and helping you to scale your business is not an easy task. It is designed to be hard for a reason. Because you need to think, you need to research, you need to be sure about the direction of your business and you need to be committed to the long term success of your business.
If you find putting an in depth business plan together “too hard” how will you manage your business when it becomes “too hard” and believe me, it will. No form of success comes without hard work.
A simple google search will bring up hundreds of business plan templates, some more comprehensive than others that are available for your use. There is no right or wrong template but key features should include:
- Cover Sheet
- Executive summary or Statement of Purpose
- Products and Services
- Market Analysis – including who you are, who your competitors are , who your customers are
- Financial Data – including product/service pricing, anticipated expenses, financing requirements, equipment purchases, forcasting
- Marketing and Sales
- Management and Ownership Structure.
Your first business plan will be the hardest, after that, you are not re-writing the whole thing, but updating it where necessary to accommodate any changes in business direction, addition of products or services, changes to your Mission & Vision statements and goals.
Finding the Time
This is a time consuming process. When I attended the Government funded Self-Employment Program, we were given 6 weeks to write our business plans before our businesses had even started! The reward though is that in the future it will save you time and money.
I am a firm believer that it’s not that you don’t have time, but that you choose to spend your time on other things. As with the hard work piece, you have to decide whether this venture is important enough to spend some time planning it out.
Business Plans vs Business Planning
Understanding the difference between your written Business Plan (living, breathing document) and business planning (strategy) is also important. Regular business planning should be carried out to compliment your business plan. Monthly, Quarterly and Annual increments are all good, the key is to be consistent and to set actionable goals. Use your business plan for guidance for what to work on during your strategy sessions. Document your strategy separately and make sure that it has smart goals with actionable items and due dates to keep you moving forward.
Take time to look at what you have done in the past and reflect on that. If you do annual business planning for instance, what did you do last year? What worked and what didn’t. Incorporate these areas into your new planning moving forward.
If you find the idea of writing your business plan daunting and need someone to hold you accountable, let’s connect and work together on a plan that will get your business on the road to success.