The Practice of Planning is one of the Six Business Success Factors that successful businesses do well.
The reason that it is such an important ingredient in business success is two-fold.
First, good planning means that the successful business is prepared for anything. The habit of planning for everything allows the business owner to answer questions in everyday tasks such as:
- “What do I really want to achieve?”
- “What steps do I need to take?”
- “What resources do I need and when?”
Second, the fact that you have laid out a clear path to follow, whether in growing your business or in something small and detailed such as hiring a staff member, means that you remove the every-day stress of not knowing what you are doing from time to time.
Knowing what you should do and when you should do it in your daily actions removes stress because you can plan your day and know at every turn what comes next.
The most important part of planning is, of course, preparing your Business Plan.
Many small businesses don’t bother to prepare a Business Plan.
To many, it is an academic waste of time – or so they think.
Here is what happens to your business if you do not have a Business Plan:
- You open your business to the first flush of being busy, attracting old customers from your past employment and curious new customers – then you plateau, and you wonder “what next?”
- You can’t make up your mind and agonise between two major decisions – which is better for your business, and which will give you what you hope your business will give you?
- You don’t know what “success” is, so each day you work hard rather than work to a purpose, and 10 years from now, here you are still.
- Even if you were passionate about what you wanted, there seem to be many ways to get there so you try them all and none are totally successful.
- You discover the business is doing the same things over and over again without improvement.
Here’s what happens to you if you do not have a Business Plan:
- Day after day, you feel unsatisfied because you’re not going anywhere.
- You work very hard but can’t seem to find “success.”
- You find yourself wondering what to do next.
- You feel unfulfilled.
So, if you want a life full of purpose, you need to set yourself a long-term target and a set of goals that motivate you and define what you should be doing.
A business plan removes stress and leads to success.
How it does that partly lies in the process of writing your own Business Plan.
While your Business Plan sets out your purpose and the vision of what your business should look like in the future – setting your desired end-game – the process of defining this also motivates you and will set up milestones so that you can “see how you’re going” from time to time.
While your Business Plan sets goals and strategies to get to your vision, the process of doing so reveals what’s not right yet and what needs to be fixed, giving you clear steps to continue improving and growing.
But, let’s get straight into it.
How do you, not knowing about Business Planning, write your own Business Plan?
There are just 5 steps to take.
Step 1 is to Get Ready.
Before you start deliberating and thinking about what you want to do and how you should do it, you need to be clear about the parameters of your Business Plan.
You need to make some decisions so that you don’t go off-track during planning:-
- What is the Plan for? Is it for an external audience to get funding? If so, you may need to expand on the history of the business, describe your products, and provide the skills and experiences of you and your employees. Is it for an internal audience – to help you drive and manage the business direction? Then, you can focus on your intentions and less on what you already know like the back of your hand.
- What is the term of the Plan? How long do you want to look ahead? The further ahead you plan, the less certain you can be of the future situation and so your strategies and actions need to be “helicopter-view” and not detailed. The closer you look, the more detailed you can be about what is likely to happen and what you should do.
- Who should you involve? Will you think about your Plan on your own, or will you involve key staff or perhaps even your spouse? Who can contribute to the process? Who do you need to be aware of the thinking behind what is to emerge so they can play their part during implementation? Who do you need to obtain buy-in from?
- Where and when will you hold discussions? It is important to set aside a dedicated amount of time so that you can focus on the planning so my advice is to do it outside of your normal place of work. Once you decide on a venue and dates, you need to book and invite the people you want to invite. As a guide, the planning process can take a couple of days of discussion, and then perhaps a day or two of writing up the discussions into goals and strategies. I have developed a system where you can hold the planning discussions in one (busy) day.
- What information do you need to have ready? This will depend on your type of plan. An overview style strategic plan may need less detailed information. A shorter-term tactical plan may need more information, including the latest costs and revenues, information about customers and suppliers, employee details, and so on. Be guided by what you want to discuss.
Step 2 is to ask yourself: “Where do you want to go?”
A Plan should always start with the desired outcome. You are planning steps to get to a point, so define that future point as clearly as possible.
Start with declaring your Purpose in owning your business. This is what drives you.
Some examples might be “to create a better future for me and my family”, or “to help my customers achieve their own goals”, or “to fund an interesting life and lifestyle.”
If you think your Purpose is to make lots of money – ask yourself what you want to do with that money – that’s the real purpose.
Then, describe a picture of what the business will look like “when you’ve got there.” This is your Vision.
Describe a typical day in this ideal business – what you do there, who works there and what are they like as workers? Who are your customers and why do they keep coming back to buy? What works well in the business and why? What does it give you, both financially and non-financially?
Your Vision is the target you are planning to get towards and is your ultimate goal so that you can ask yourself during the journey – “Am I getting nearer? Which decision, what project or new initiative will get me closer?”
Step 3 is to understand exactly where you are now.
The best way to do this is to examine what are your strengths and weaknesses at the moment. Be honest with yourself because this step indicates the areas for improvement. Examine the opportunities from outside and the threats that may come your way.
This examination of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats is called the SWOT Analysis.
You can do a SWOT Analysis on the business as a whole, as well as one on each of the component parts of your business – your employees, your products, your marketing processes, your internal processes, your finances, your customers and your suppliers.
As you conduct your SWOT Analysis, it should become clear to you that there is a gap between where you want to go, and your ability to get there, based on your current situation.
You can start to list the things you need to do to bridge the gaps, starting with the most important.
Step 4 is to bridge the gap.
Now that you have identified the gap between where you want to go and where you are now, you can write goals about what you want to achieve in terms of bridging the gaps, and strategies to attain those goals.
Say you envisioned skilled staff who could help your customers without your intervention, but you identified that you were the only one who really knew the product.
So the goal to close that gap might be to “Provide customers with staff who know the product and can help them with all their needs by the end of the year.”
The strategy to attain that goal might be “To provide training to staff about all the technical details of the product within the next 8 months.”
You should categorise your goals and strategies into long-term, medium-term, and short-term goals and strategies. This will help you prioritise them and focus action planning on the important short-term strategies.
Then, having prioritised them you can prepare detailed step-by-step action plans for the immediate, short-term (within 12 months) strategies.
These Action Plans should describe the goal and strategy, then list all the detailed steps you need to take, include who is responsible, what the envisaged outcome of each step should be, and when it needs to be completed. These details provide clear accountability measures and guidance about what must be done.
Step 5 is to implement and add accountability procedures.
The simplest accountability measure is to decide on how the implementation should be monitored and results gathered, and when these should be reviewed and adjusted – that is, implement monitoring and evaluation processes.
Schedule formal dates when the results will be discussed.
A plan is only as good as the execution. If things change that change the result, you need to adjust the execution – don’t keep doing the same thing over and over even if it isn’t working!
Business Planning Checklist
I have written a free Business Planning Guide that describes these steps in detail and provides a Business Planning Checklist you can use to prepare your own Business Plan following these 5 steps.
You can download it for free by going to members.teikoh.com/plan-checklist
Why don’t you get it and get ready to start your journey from stress to success?