How does a business move from survival mode to sustainable, thriving success? It happens by design, not by accident. It takes planning, goal setting, measurement and tracking, analysis and value alignment- all the good stuff! In other words, it takes a business plan.
I know business plans get a bit of a bad rap. ‘They’re boring,’ I’ve heard on more than one occasion. ‘They’re just a piece of paper I had to knock together for the bank that one time,’ is something I’ve also heard. This is such a limited perspective- of course, a business plan is an essential tool for people who need to assess the feasibility of their business, or to attract investors or to work with the bank in a borrowing capacity, but it’s so much more than that. My clients and the people I mentor know that an active, real-time business plan is a roadmap from where they are now in their business to where they want to go. Some do my Survive to Thrive program with no intention of ever showing their plan to anyone external to their business; rather they create it for a core purpose of ensuring their business and their goals for it are aligned to their values.
A business plan is an excellent way to actually determine how our business is performing objectively, rather than subjectively. You see, before we can get to ‘there’ we need to know where ‘here’ is. Often people reach out to me because they know in their gut that they’re struggling. They’re either experiencing the signs of burn out, their profit and loss statement is a clear indictment of how they’re travelling or they’re having staff retention issues. The act of creating a business plan removes all ambiguity, leaving a crystal clear, birds-eye and a down in the trenches perspective of a business.
A business plan can be anything from a 1 page snapshot, to a 50 page document that details every element of a business.
It’s usually five sections/chapters that cover off:
Industry research about the environment in which the business operates including competitors
Numbers and Profit and Loss data including forecasts
Marketing and networking
Future goals and plans
These are the bare bones of a business plan- some businesses only need to cover off these five categories while others need many more depending on the purpose of their plan and how they intend to make it a living, active part of their business.
There are so many things I love about business planning, not least of which it takes people from an approach of winging it or ‘suck it and see’ to one that is strategic and considered. My business plans also have SWOTs at their core- Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. A deep dive into the SWOTS overall and against a business’ individual functions is a way to set directions, address shortfalls and leverage opportunities. What I find really interesting is the people who come along to my programs are both newbies to business and want to start on the right foot as well as people who’ve been in business for a while but have never invested the time into the depth of research that a business plan requires. I find it’s these second group that have so many a-ha moments as they assess what they’ve created (the good, the bad and the terrifying) with cold, hard data against their goals, plans, vision and dreams for their business. Some find that their business somehow has evolved to be in misalignment to their values, and they love that opportunity to course correct. More than a handful have told me that the act of planning has allowed them to fall in love with their business and their work all over again!
On goal setting- this formulates a core component of my plans. These are the milestones or sign posts that take you from struggling to thriving. They’re a way to track and measure while staying on course to reaching the potential of your business and take advantage of the opportunities that present. They’re forward-facing and based on accomplishment and ROI- will this particular goal be instrumental in growing my business?
More than anything, a business plan is a dynamic product. It’s not a set and forget piece of work. It’s something that informs every planning session and is reviewed at least annually. For many of my clients we review it at our monthly mentoring sessions, others do it as part of their quarterly planning. Bottom line- a business plan is essential to growing your business strategically and sustainably. Shall we chat about how I can be of support? Give me a buzz!