It has always amazed me how many business people don’t have a business plan. As Benjamin Franklin said, “fail to plan and you plan to fail”.
Of the hundreds of businesses we help each year at Business Changing, a whopping 90% come to us without a written business plan. Instead, they’re simply winging it with a vague long-term strategic plan in their head. Or worse than winging it, they’re just focusing on the short-term noises in their business – fighting fires and figuring out how they can improve their current month through immediate (and sometimes desperate) tactics to grow sales at less-than-ideal margins.
Without thinking longer term and putting a plan in place, you will never reach the heights your company (and yourself) could get to. Do you ever wonder where you could be right now if you had taken the time to think on your business rather than just reacting day to day?
Imagine where your business would be if you’d taken that vague plan in the back of your mind and solidified it, writing it down as a proper plan with strategic steps to achieve it!
Many people seem to think a business plan is just for start-ups, but it’s vital to keep planning for your business as you get more established. As your business scales up there are so many moving parts and more people involved – it’s more important than ever to make sure everyone in your team knows what the end goal is and the plan to achieve it.
I often hear “My industry is changing so fast that a business plan will not work for me” or “I’m too busy” or “I wrote a business plan six years ago because the bank needed it – it’s 39 pages long and it’s buried in a bottom drawer”. I think those initial plans for the bank are what scares most business people off doing another one – the sheer scope of them and not knowing what is meant to go into a business plan or where to even start with writing one.
Here’s the good news: a business plan should not be 39 pages long and it should not just be a whole set of financial forecasts (which are likely made up on some wishy-washy assumptions with limited thinking).
Putting a business plan together and thinking strategically does not need to be an angst-ridden exercise or a cloud of mystery. There are some skilled people out there who can help you if you have no clue.
The beautiful thing about creating a business plan is that you get the key people in your business together and you ponder how the future looks and what you need to do to get to that desired future state. In essence, that’s the simplest definition of business strategy: what do you need to do big-picture wise (strategically) to get from A to B, with your team agreeing on the business strategies to get there.
Competitors are a major reason why you need to do strategic planning. The strategies you identify via planning will give you a step up against your competitors so that you maintain and gain market share. What more could you wish for?
Sharing is Caring
Once you have an overall company business plan, share the key parts with your greater team. Don’t underestimate how helpful this is in building team engagement – it’s human nature to want to know where the company you work for is going and how you are going to get there. Sharing the plan with your team tells them they are a vital part of the plan, which really helps in getting them on-board with implementing the strategies.
I suggest each divisional head in your business also has their own business plan which ties into the overall company plan. As the owner or boss of the business, this gives you something else to benchmark the performance of your key people against.
Keep it Alive
Once you have the plan, you need to keep it alive. Don’t relegate it to the bottom drawer. Refer to it, progress it, update it. It’s likely that most
of the business strategies you identify are the right ones but if one of them is clearly not working, change the strategy!
Just make sure you’re thorough in your thinking to move from a pre-existing strategy to a new one.
Report to your team each quarter (at least) on how you are tracking with delivering the business plan. Make it at least a monthly standing agenda item in your regular management meeting. Have it somewhere where it’s easy for you to refer to it – such as your office wall. The more you look at your business plan, the more likely you’ll become better and better at doing the right things in your business that will make all the difference to you hitting your long-term aims.
Start With a Planning Session
We feel incredibly lucky to have helped over 300 companies create their own business plan over the past year through our Business Planning & Strategy Workshops. We have a tried-and-true way to get a business plan down to a concise few pages and people enjoy the process and discussion in creating it.
A good business planning session should bring you great clarity. The long-term benefits include accountability (for you and your team), an engaged team who know where they’re heading and what to do to get there, a more laser-like focus, and a good grounding for any future decisions (i.e. does this sit with our business plans?).
Do you have a business plan? If you’re one of the ten percent of business owners that do, well done! Just be sure it’s a well-thought-out business plan that will ensure you are more successful in the business long term.
If you don’t have one, what will you do? How about you make 2019 the year that you finally created a business plan to ensure that your business is way more successful in the future than the current trajectory you have?
The other good news! Georgia Employers’ Association has expert business professionals that can assist you with putting together a strategic and goal-oriented business plan. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.