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8 Pieces of “Best Advice” on Business Plans

I have often worked with clients and said something to which they have responded “that’s the best piece of advice about my business plan I have ever heard!”

Now, being of the modest kind (really!) I’ve never thought of what I give as “best advice” but rather things I have learned through experience over many years of making mistakes and learning from mistakes.

However, there are some things that seem to get a reaction every time so I thought I’d put down the 8 pieces of “advice” about business plans that seem to be well-received.

  1. Have one! This seems obvious, and I’ll be cheesy and say “businesses don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.” Cheesy as it is, it’s true. The statistics of businesses that fail show that well over 80% of them did not have a business plan. Having a business plan sets out your targets and a clear set of actions to get there – without one you are just reacting.
  2. Use it! How often have I seen well-prepared plans left in a drawer or a shelf? You should view your business plan as a living document and refer to it regularly. I believe you should even start monthly management or team meetings by pulling it out and reviewing where you are in relation to it and what you should do in the forthcoming month to carry on implementation. Also review the key learnings at the end of the month and update and strengthen the document, and above all else, be accountable to it.
  3. Don’t be scared of big goals – good goals set challenges and stretch your performance. Big hairy audacious goals identify what is important and leave the many smaller distractions behind for dead.
  4. Be realistic. At first glance this seems the opposite of advice number 3. However be realistic is not the same as being conservative. When you plan ahead and set big goals, set them with common sense and reality as a basis. An achievable big hairy audacious goal is a stretch and motivational. An unrealistic goal simply demotivates people.
  5. Write concisely. The plan should be understandable and actionable. Leave out the big justifications and the sales-speak. You want a reader to understand what you want done. Don’t try to sell the idea, but instead use the plan to validate it.
  6. Use it as a roadmap but be flexible. Looking at a roadmap you can see where you are going and how you can get there, but if road conditions change or the traffic piles up, be ready to change your route or take a longer time to get there. Your business plan is only a tool, don’t let it constrict your actions.
  7. Build into the plan assistance from others. Recognise that big goals mean you probably can’t do everything yourself. Recognise the appropriate use of advisors, mentors, outsourcing and your team.
  8. This one is for the Not-for-Profits out there – running an NFP is just like running a business. Running it with an aim to use the profits to aid others is not the same as running it to lose money. Plan accordingly, use business operational principles.

So, there you go, my best pieces of advice about business plans.

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