Sad but true! People fail to write business plans because they simply do not understand what they do. If they don't understand it, they cannot articulate it, right? And if they cannot articulate it clearly and simply, how can they 'follow' it, let alone expect anyone else to! A business plan does not have to be a big unwieldy piece of literary engineering (bullshit!), its only a document setting out the business journey, it’s future objectives and strategies for achieving them. Simple. If you can get it on a page (#PlanOnAPage) so much the better. The Government note that: A business plan is a written document that describes your business. It covers objectives, strategies, sales, marketing and financial forecasts. And that's sort of true. But it lacks energy. A plan needs energy or it wont fly.
Three key words when thinking about your business plan:
Here's three words that might help you to fly. WHAT. HOW. WHY. Think about the business and ask yourself some tough questions around it to challenge your thinking. What - what is it you do, sell or make? What will you do to sell more, what's the plan, what are you willing to do to succeed, what is the market, what are the hurdles to delivering the plan etc?
How - how will you do it, how will you monitor and measure. How will you finance it? How will you engage with your staff, suppliers and customers. How will you behave as leader to nurture and deliver the (ambition) plan?
Why - why are we in business, why are we here, why do we matter, why will people do business with us, why do I need to deliver the plan, why will staff work here, why will they give their all..... why, why, why....
How does having a business plan help:
In essence a business plan helps you to:
Clarify your business idea
Spot potential problems
Set out your goals
Measure your progress
It can also help you persuade suppliers and clients to do business with you. Most people only write a business plan they want to secure investment or a loan from a bank, and then never look at the plan again!
Cut the 'crap' out of the plan:
I have just read a short intro Plan for a business that wants £8m investment, and its a pile of crap! Its full of acronyms, tech jargon and cliches that makes me think that these people don't understand their business, or don't want others to understand it. Either way, how the heck can they possibly expect staff to understand it and get behind it. I know some will tell me that an Investor Doc is not a Plan, sure, but in that doc I want to see the 'plan' and be able to understand the journey, the what, the why, the how etc.
I believe a business plan, in the main, should be a short guide to business, that everyone can understand and get involved in. Business is a team game, so get everyone in the business playing the right game in the right way with a good business plan. If you want to know the risks or hurdles to delivering the plan, remember to ask you staff, they will know stuff you cannot know. There is a huge waste of resource, talent, creativity and innovation in business that lays dormant in staff because management are too stupid, lazy or scared to ask.
Excuses, excuses. Why people fail to write plans:
So why don't people write plans....?. Here's a list of excuses I hear: We are too busy, We are agile and a plan will restrain us, We don't need one as we don't need investment, We don't need to write it down as we all know what we are doing....
I think people fear writing plans. Perhaps because they do not understand how to? They dont understand their business? They lack confidence and belief in self and the business? They fear failure. They wont share in case others reject the plan. If you write a plan, you hold yourself accountable, you put it out their and that can be scary.
Plans do not have to restrict entrepreneurial spirit or stop you being agile. Moreover they may free you up to be more agile and creative in the right space and direction, and help others to follow you, support the plan and bring it off the page and into existence, in addition by sharing it, bright creative staff my see opportunities that haven't spotted and add even more value to the business.
Would you buy a plot of land and build a house without plans or planning consent:
Would you build a house without planning permission or a building plan? No? Then why try and build a business without a plan? Would you go on Dragons Den TV show with out a Plan and expect the investors to stump up cash? No?? then why invest your time and money that has no plan? Why would staff invest their career in business without a plan?
Once you have the plan, you need to execute it, take actin, and here's where the WHY comes in. You must know your WHY above all else in my view. Whats the Purpose, why will I keep at it, drive it, love it, commit to it..... why will my staff support me and the plan, why will they commit and give heir all.... why will customers choose me, us, our brand, our service over the thousands of others .... Why will succeed together?
Write the Plan. Share the Plan. Engage staff in the Plan. Ask staff how to improve the Plan. Bring your Plan to life, don't lock it in a drawer.
Don't just write a plan, bring the plan to life:
I cant write a Plan for you. If I did, it would be my plan. I can help you through the process and importantly create your Why and Purpose, and deliver the plan by engaging your greatest assets, people!
The Process we use is called EXACT. It will help you to Envision the future; eXtract all the information from the business; look at where to pay Attention in order to reduce potential hurdles and drive performance; help you identify training and development needs, coaching, up-skilling etc; and finally to Transform the business.
Don't just write a Plan, bring it to life and elevate it through better thinking and behaviours in the business. Lets get ambitious and do it!