If you are thinking of writing your business plan using my simple step-by-step process (which is explained below), there are a number of things you need to do to get ready.
The key to a successful – and actionable – business plan is the preparation.
Before you start doing the work, you need to make a few decisions so that when you do the work, you are focused and you don’t have to take side-steps to decide on what to do or what to leave in and leave out.
This is step 1 of my step-by-step business planning process – “Get Ready!”
In order to increase your chances of successfully writing an implementable business plan, you need to make some key decisions about your planning process so that you are working within a defined context.
Without this preparation, when you enter into your considerations, you will not be focused, and your discussions and decisions will be all over the place!
There are five major issues you should decide.
Why you are preparing the business plan.
Will it be an internal or an external document?
Who will be reading and who will be implementing it?
This allows you to decide how much information you need to include and how to pitch the contents.
The term of the plan.
How far ahead do you want to look and plan?
This decision is linked to the above decision about the purpose of the plan – for example, if the intention is to create a plan to drive what you have to do in detail, you may need a short-term plan, or if what you need is a more distant look ahead so that you can clarify your longer-term ambitions, but then also need to outline some detail for the shorter-term, perhaps you need a medium-term plan.
Once you have decided on the term, for example, 3 years, your discussions, considerations and decisions can be tailored to that term.
In this way, you will not be distracted by some potential 10-year strategy that sounds attractive but is outside of the scope.
Who you should involve in the planning work and discussions.
If you are a sole owner and employ nobody else – well, that might be your answer!
However, you may still wish to involve your spouse or your accountant or other business advisors.
If you do employ staff, you may wish to include senior people with experience and knowledge of the business and your industry.
When and where you will hold the planning meetings.
Believe me, while following a step by step approach may be easy – it still requires work and concentration.
This means that you cannot spend an hour here and there to do this. You do need to set aside a block of time, preferably outside of your workplace in order to avoid interruptions.
How much time you set aside will depend on the term of the plan. As a rough guide, if you work effectively, you can prepare a 12-month plan within a long day.
A medium-term plan may need about 3 one-day sessions, and a long-term plan could take a couple of weeks to complete.
The information you need to put together to inform discussions.
Again, the amount and type of information will depend on the scope.
For example, if you are preparing a long-term strategic plan, you will need to obtain information about industry and market trends, and look at legal and other external developments that may affect you in the long term.
For a 12-month plan, all you might need might be the latest financial information along with current information about customers, product range, pricing, cost, and so on.
Once you have made your preparatory decisions, write them down!
In my experience, I have seen more than a few planning meetings disrupted because the participants have not stuck to the scope of the exercise and been waylaid by discussing matters outside of the scope.
For example, many meetings go awry because discussions about sales over the next year have suddenly been derailed because an “interesting” discussion arises about the new services that “should” be introduced over the next 3 or 4 years.
Writing down your scope is a reminder of what you are there to do.
Once you have done that, go and book your venue and put the date(s) into everyone’s calendar!
You are just starting the process, don’t backslide now! Go and commit to a date and place now.
Oh, and one more thing, when you start the work of planning – don’t get into paralysis by analysis.
Progress is always better than perfection.
Work from the information at hand and from your instincts, and keep moving.
You can always finish the planning process first and then come back later to tweak it.
If you prepare well, you can enter into the step-by-step process with a clear focus on what you want to get out of it.
In your planning meeting, you work on the next four steps.
Step 2 is to decide where you want to go.
This establishes the vision for your business – a clear description of what the business should look like and be like when you have attained the vision.
You should also describe how that vision looks like to your customers, to your staff, in terms of your finances, and in terms of your key business processes.
Doing this helps to establish goals and measurements of success, as well as clarifies the tangible results of attaining your vision.
Step 3 is to understand where you are now.
This requires an honest look at what you can and cannot do at the moment – an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that provides a clear picture of where you are now.
In doing this you need to analyse all the important aspects of your business from sales to administration.
This also establishes the gaps between where you are and where you want to go, and in doing so, you can define some clear goals – the gaps you need to bridge.
Step 4 is to bridge the gaps.
At this stage, you need to think of strategies that will take you from where you are to where you want to go and to achieve your goals.
Preparing strategies this way means that all your designated strategies have the purpose of helping you get to your vision.
Prioritising your strategies into short, medium and long-term strategies then allows you to focus on what comes first. You can then prepare detailed action plans for the year ahead.
Step 5 is to put it all together.
In this step, you document your decisions and plans. In my step-by-step process, you don’t have to rewrite a novel to document all of this – the work you have done to date should be in logical order so that all you need to do is to collate your work in a logical order.
But in this step, you must not forget to schedule implementation processes – that means schedules and responsibilities as well as diarised monitoring and review procedures so that you can keep tabs on the outcomes of your work – and make adjustments as necessary.
Remember, a plan is not set-and-forget. If it’s not working, you need to assess and try something else until you find a way that works.
Planning success lies in the preparation.
So make are that you lay a good foundation for your planning work and make those decisions before you run into the act of planning.
Once you are ready and you want to take those step-by-step actions, you can follow mine!
Don’t try to reinvent the wheel or buy a book to follow – don’t do the research by yourself, let someone who has helped hundreds of businesses prepare actionable business plans help you do it by following the process that works!
Tomorrow I am launching me revamped and upgraded online program called “Your One Day Business Plan” where I take you through each of the steps. I’ll show you how to do it and – here is the difference between mine and any other business planning program – I provide you with real-time recorded audio of a workshop where you complete worksheets as I “talk” you through the work.
I hope to see you there!