If you own a small business that is growing, but you are feeling frustrated that you seem to be doing a lot of hard work for very slow progress, you should look at preparing your business plan so that you can logically work out what your priorities are, and then implement them.
In fact, statistics show that small businesses that fail either do not have a business plan or have an ineffective one that they don’t implement. Businesses don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan!
However, small business owners have been caught up in a lot of myths about business planning. The consulting industry has told small business owners that it is hard to write a business plan and you need to hire them to write one for you. Others have been caught up believing that it takes a lot of time or it costs a lot of money. Booksellers and online “trainers’ or “coaches” would have you believe that all you have to do is buy their templates and fill in the blanks. Some people have been told by “friends” that they didn’t find their business plan useful – because they didn’t follow them once written. Yet other small business owners do not even know what a business plan can do for them, so they don’t look any further.
I think it’s time to bust some myths and find out the truth about business plans and understand the 8 secrets about writing business plans for a small business AND read to the end to see how you can download your FREE business planning checklist.
First of all, an actionable business plan removes stress and converts hard work to results. Which small business owner wouldn’t want that?
Having a business plan means that you work on what matters rather than any idea that’s the flavour of the week. Your business plan should – if it is the case – identify that you are spending too much time working on the mechanics in your business and not enough working on the strategically important things you need to get done. In the busy day of a small business owner, it is so easy to get “caught up”. Understanding when you do this will allow you to create strategies to change this, and to recognise it and refocus every time you are sucked in. A business plan lays out your priorities, and strategies to get to them.
Part of the feeling of stress, overwhelm and frustration comes from not knowing what to do next. Having your path of what to do next laid out in front of you removes those negative outcomes.
This means that having a business plan gets rid of the frustration you feel at the end of the day, after working hard, and not feeling that you have grown your business.
The second secret is that a business plan should define exactly where you want to go.
In any business planning process, you should be asked to write down your vision as the ultimate goal. But a good business planning process takes the vision and defines it in detail so that you know exactly what your “successful” business looks like and does.
A good vision definition process will ask what your customers look like, why they buy from you and how they benefit from your business. This sets up what you need to do in order to satisfy these demands. A good process will also do the same in regard to your employees – thus defining their required skills, experience, and work systems. This then means you can set up goals for recruitment, training and behavioural targets. A well-defined vision statement also sets up exactly what your finances will look like “when you are successful” so that you can establish financial goals; and it will define what key business systems you need to excel at in order to deliver all the above, thus setting up internal goals about what you do best.
Defining exactly where you want to go is important because it creates focus on what you do to get to your ultimate goal: if it helps you achieve the definition of your vision, you do it; if it does not then it’s probably only a distraction.
While many people might be tempted to say “that’s all woo-woo stuff and let’s burn some incense“, it has been proven that psychologically, if we have a clear idea in our minds about what we strive for, the chances are greater that we will achieve it. This is because having your goal “front-of-mind” means that you work toward it. To make this less woo-woo and hippy, good business plans split the defined vision and resulting goals into shorter milestones, so that you know what the steps are to get to the ultimate long-term vision. This allows you to measure your performance, see how you are doing, and make adjustments if you are off-track.
The third secret is that just working out your defined vision lets you set long-term, medium-term, and short-term goals.
This increases your chance of success for two reasons. Firstly, there are realistic achievable goals and they don’t all seem so far away as to be unrealistic. Secondly, they allow you to plan accordingly so that actions are properly timed to recognise priorities and what must be done first, rather than a grab-bag of to-do items that get in each others’ way. Prioritisation allows you to focus on one thing at a time and you can manage projects accordingly.
The key to this secret, however, is that in defining the different long, medium, and short-term goals, you understand the relationship between them and what must be done first. This allows you to set priorities and decisions, with priorities, become a whole lot easier.
The fourth secret of business planning is that a business plan sets up a single strategic and cohesive direction for your business to grow. Having this single cohesive direction removes other distracting options. As “good” ideas are suggested by friends or business colleagues, you can appraise them against your strategic direction. Does it fit into where you are going? Is it a better way to get to where you want to go?
A single cohesive direction means that it is easier to remain organised and there is more focus during your day to day management of the business. It also means that when you formulate strategies to get to where you want to go, all their outcomes are aligned toward the ultimate goal; and not pulling in different directions.
Not to say this is restrictive. Your strategic direction shows you the best way to get to what you want. Even if something external changes, your vision and therefore the ultimate goal will still not change – all you have to then ask is, “as a result of the new external factor, do I need to amend the detail of my direction? If a better path around a problem arises, you can still make adjustments while remaining focused on the ultimate goal.
The fifth secret of writing business plans is that an actionable business plan builds in detailed action plans.
A good, organised, prioritised and cohesive business plan provides you with the information you need to write detailed step-by-step actions to achieve the various short-term strategies. These can be provided with specific timelines and defined outcomes, that are synchronised with each other so that you don’t find yourself working on competing priorities. Once you detail these strategies into action plans, providing priorities by the day, there’s less need to make daily decisions. At any time, you know what you have to do next, and you can still be flexible on the day by adjusting detail to meet changing circumstances, without changing the outcome.
The sixth secret is that while it may seem like a complex, consultant-led process, the process of writing a business plan can be broken down into easy to follow steps, particularly if you are guided through the process. You don’t need a consultant if you can find a process that uses your knowledge of your business and asks you all the leading questions each step of the way, allowing you to come to your own conclusions. A set of templates may seem like a good idea, but filling in the blanks without knowing what questions to ask can lead you in the wrong conclusion, or at the least, a conclusion that is ineffective. Watching an online training session can give you a lot of information but when it comes to applying that information, you still need guidance.
You need to find an easy to follow business plan process that sets out the steps you have to take, explains what the process is in each step, and then guides you by walking you through workshop conditions, asking you leading questions to get you thinking about critical matters.
The seventh secret is that it doesn’t need to take a lot of your time.
Of course, you should invest your time in the planning process. The value you get from your business plan will depend on the value you put into it. However, you don’t have to write a novel, and explain every detail of your history and structure, especially if the plan is intended to be an internal business plan with the objective of being used by you to guide your growth. You need to follow a process that focuses on the key steps, decide on priority matters, and then sends your focus directly into implementation. Knowing what to leave out is as important as knowing what to include.
To do this, you need to follow an efficient guide in the preparation of your business plan.
Finally, the eighth secret about writing business plans is that the best ones are actionable, and they are actionable because they focus on implementation. You can do this by reinforcing two techniques.
The first is that you should review your plans using the S.M.A.R.T acronym. Is what you have written specific (so you know exactly what to do), measurable (so you can see how far you have progressed), achievable (so that you are not spinning your wheels), result-oriented (focusing on what you should achieve, not in the process of getting to it), and time-based (meaning that you have set realistic deadlines).
The second technique is to end your business plan with some accountability systems – include scheduled monitoring and evaluation action-plans and build implementation checklists into your work timetable. This is how you make a plan that would otherwise just sit on your shelf, actionable.
If you own a small business, and you have heard a lot about business planning, find out more.
These 8 secrets about writing business plans bust some myths about business planning. The real secret you need to know is that your competitors who are organised don’t want you to know about the benefits of writing your own business plan, and those of your competitors who are not organised – 80% of them – are also struggling without a business plan and wish fervently that you will not discover the benefits of writing your own business plan. Having your own business plan will steal a strong advantage over all of them.
Use the checklist to tick off each step in the business planning process and make sure you are organised, focused, and a cut above your competitors….and stress-free.
Don’t forget, if you want to receive more of these valuable tools and resources about how to grow your small business into the successful business you can be proud of, register your name and email address at teikoh.com or by following this link. See you there!