Writing A Business Plan – Case Studies
As you know, I offer an online automated workshop called “Your One Day Business Plan“.
I have designed this online workshop specifically for small business owners who are short of time but want to get the benefits of preparing their own business plan.
Small business owners stressed about their time and having to fit in all they have to do, don’t want to spend weeks following an online training course and then having to try to apply their learning without guidance. The best way to get to a productive business plan is to focus in on the important aspects that give you a clear vision for your business, and understanding of where you are now so that you can identify the gaps, and the strategies to bridge those gaps, as well as detailed action-plans to concentrate and focus on over the next year. Doing this step by step allows you to move straight into implementation, and an accountability system keeps you on track.
My program is designed to be completed in one day – sure, a tough, hard-working day, but eminently do-able because it’s been timed in real-time. It is also designed to keep introductory “lessons” short, just to introduce the exercise and why you do it, then going straight into an audio workshop session where you are prompted with leading questions to complete the worksheets provided. The worksheets then get organised into the business plan itself.
I am currently reviewing this program and I sought the help of a couple of members. Their experiences are a great help to me as case studies and I thought I’d share them here.
The first case study is Jeff, who operates a mechanic’s garage in a suburb in Perth, Western Australia.
Jeff has been a member of my programs for a while, having joined my original SMART Marketing program to prepare his marketing plan. When I reached out to him he said that he decided to buy Your One Day Business Plan because it occurred to him that while his use of SMART Marketing was successful, he did not put his marketing and sales growth efforts in the context of the business he wanted to build. After reading some of my blog posts and watching some of my videos on the Teik Oh Dot Com YouTube channel he realised that he needed to map out what he wanted to achieve and how to get there, and his marketing plan could be put to even better use as part of the overall journey.
I asked Jeff to describe his business.
He owns an independent garage situated on a major arterial road running from the City of Perth to the seaside suburbs. His premises are leased and had been an old petrol station converted into a mechanical garage many years ago by a previous business. He took over about 5 years ago, having originally worked as the Head Mechanic of a Toyota franchise. He employs his wife part-time as an administrative assistant who helps him run the reception and keep the books as well as do other administrative duties. He also employs a Head Mechanic who followed him from the previous Toyota franchise. Since opening, he has also hired another mechanic and two apprentices.
The majority of his customers are people who live in the immediate area, but there are a few from suburbs further away who saw his signage as they commuted along the main road. Most of his customers found his location and opening hours (7 AM to 6 PM) convenient, and they liked his message that he didn’t just provide servicing and repairs, what he really provided was peace-of-mind. All his customers’ cars left the garage with a sticker on the back window that said: “Peace of mind for you and your vehicle.”
The program starts with an introduction that explains how to prepare and how you should work through the modules, followed by 11 timed modules. I asked Jeff to take me through his work in the program.
He found the introduction to be valuable. In it, he learned how he should prepare, what to get ready, and that he needed to work through the modules with pace. The idea – and he got it – was to work from the gut without going into paralysis by analysis. However, he also noted that despite it being designed to be completed in a day, the modules stood alone and if he wanted to he could spread them out over several days. He decided to spread them out. His thinking was that he worked long days, 5 days a week, and he didn’t look forward to spending a long day over the weekend. He also realised that he would like to include his wife and his Head Mechanic in the planning, which was also possible in the format of the program, but he couldn’t ask them to add an extra full day on a weekend to their workload.
So, on understanding how the program worked, he decided that he would break the program up into 3-4 hour blocks over three days. He would take the half days off, with his wife, and then, after completing each day, he would involve his Head Mechanic by consulting with him the day after, about what he had done and found out, and getting his input.
After following the instructions on how to prepare, he and his wife took one Tuesday off and completed the first three modules being “Your Vision”, “What Does It Mean Day To Day?” and “Goals and Objectives”. These formed the first phase of business planning, which is deciding where you want to go.
Jeff already had a clear idea of his vision. He started his business because he felt that in his previous employment, he was unable to provide the one-on-one attention that he felt customers craved for. As part of a big company, it was all about throughput and efficiency. Not a bad thing of course, but in that franchise, it was motivated by profit. He felt that he should give customers an efficient service, motivated by caring for the customer, and through that care, leading to profit.
However, when he started to define his vision in the workshop, using the analysis of what his vision meant in the customers’ perspective, in the perspective of his employees (and himself), in the perspective of his finances, and in the perspective of his business systems, he realised that there were valuable lessons from diving in deep. For example, he developed his view (from the SMART Marketing product analysis) that what his customers really wanted was peace-of-mind into a more complete picture of the services they craved for. To them, he realised, peace-of-mind meant more than a lecture on what he had done to keep their car reliable. It also meant that the “look” of his premises had to encourage confidence, his mechanics needed to look “the business”. Peace-of-mind also meant a one-stop-shop, so he should develop a partnership with a towing company that his customers could call on, and offer minor ancillary services like supply of tyres and batteries in-store.
Jeff found that in developing the four perspectives of his vision, he got clues as to what his goals should be in order to end up with the business he could be proud of.
A couple of days later, he and his wife took another half day off and completed modules 4 to 7, being “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT)”, “SWOT of Customers, Products and Marketing”, “SWOT of Operations and Production” and “Strategies.” These formed the next phase (Understanding where you are now) as well as the start of the third phase of Bridging The Gap.
Jeff worked through his current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, first for the business in general, and then focusing on the customers and then on the back-room parts. He said that he and his wife found that working quickly under the timed audio guidance helped him not to linger on “what-if” scenarios but kept him focused on identifying issues and quickly moving on. In the back of his mind, he felt that it kept him sane that he wasn’t spending too much of his time on analysis and could get on with it. Yet, he did find the analysis very helpful. He hadn’t realised until then that the business had got to a stage where his wife working part-time was a weakness. It meant that on occasions, he or his Head Mechanic had to come off the pits to deal with queries and phone calls, taking time off their efficiency. Since his vision definition included a scenario where customers were looked after efficiently and the work was done quickly under quality control, this part of the vision was being blocked without a full-time receptionist. However, while they were busy, he wasn’t sure they could afford the extra salary of a full-time receptionist.
When he got to “Strategies” he noted that they needed a strategy to graduate to a full-time receptionist, but in the transition, they could identify the pattern of busy days and make sure his wife worked those days.
In working through the SWOT Analysis, Jeff found the distinction between the internal strengths and weaknesses and the external threats and opportunities helpful. He could understand what was under his control and what was not, but nevertheless still had to be monitored and if possible, actions put into place “just in case.” It also helped him because he made the decision that he would prioritise strategies that affected the internal strengths and weaknesses over those things outside of his control because of his overall lack of time. He wanted to do things that had a bigger bang for buck up-front.
When he wrote his strategies under the guidance of the recorded workshop prompts, he was able to connect the description of what he wanted to build in his business, to the gaps he found in his SWOT Analysis and came up with nearly 15 strategies. At first, this worried him but then found that the workshop program actually got him to prioritise these because it helped him identify short-term strategies from his goals, as well as short-term milestones in his longer-term goals and strategies.
A couple of days later, he and his wife took another half day off and worked on modules 8 to 11 (“Action Plans”, “Budgets”, “Putting It All Together” and “Implementing Your Plan”).
Jeff said that he found the Action Planning module invaluable.
He had been concerned that having written and chosen prioritised strategies, that these would get lost in time as he got busy day-to-day. The Action Plans allowed him to break his strategies down into step-by-step actions. While he did not have time during that session, he felt that they gave him enough information to spend a couple of hours one day to lay them out side by side so that he could ensure that the work across all the strategies was carried out in a coordinated manner and without overloading anyone who had to do the work. That was the other thing that he found useful – that the format of the Action Plans allowed him to delegate some of the actions to others, but it also provided measurements and timelines so that they knew what they had to achieve in doing the work. He really felt that unlike his previous “to-do” lists, this was organised and not overwhelming.
Jeff realised that he needed help budgeting the effects of his plans as he freely admitted he was not a numbers man, so he scheduled a meeting with his accountant after completing the module on budgeting. At least, he knew what to ask for after that module!
Jeff also found the efficiency of “Putting It All Together” very helpful because he just used all the worksheets he had been completing during the program without having to re-write or transcribe anything. The module showed him how to put the worksheets into an order that meant easy reference as the year went on. And finally, Jeff really found the “Implementing Your Plan” module unique. Having written his plan, he wasn’t left alone to implement it – the module gave him clear instructions on at least 6 things he could do to implement the plan successfully, including embedding accountability systems into the process.
Overall, Jeff found the program intense, but within his capabilities. In particular, he liked how the program focused on the three phases of identifying where he wanted to go, understanding where he was now, and bridging the gap. The focus on important aspects only, and on implementation, meant that he found that the time spent was rewarding and immediately actionable.
Criticism? He did find that the background music I used in the workshop audios was a bit repetitive and he found himself humming it during the day!
OK, maybe I’ll have a look at that!
The next case study is on Jane.
Now, this is a fictitious name because “Jane” currently works in a sports massage studio but would like to start her own studio. Jane wanted to write her business plan to get her organised in her business startup. While she was happy for me to share her case study, she didn’t want her name made public in case her employer read this blog. For the same reason, I can’t describe her current situation but she did allow me to say that most of her therapy patients were young women between 25 and 35 who were active in sports and exercise. She wanted to target this cohort in her own business.
As she only works part-time, she decided to complete Your One Day Business Plan in one day.
She did, however, watch the Welcome and Introduction videos the day before, so she was able to download information and get ready. She had not enrolled in any online programs before so she wasn’t sure of what would happen, but she said that the Introduction gave her enough information to take away the anxiety of the unknown.
On the day, she started at 8 AM on module 1.
Jane found the vision exercise quite difficult because, in her own words, she “hadn’t thought of her business as a vision, I just wanted to earn a living doing what I loved to do.” However, she found the instructions and audio workshop led her through the process sufficiently well for her to identify her passion for her profession and she discovered that it came from finding that her patients reacted to her treatment as if it gave them a new lease on life. When they came off the massage table, bleary-eyed and relaxed, they exuded pleasure in their muscles, and that gave her a buzz.
So, she decided that the vision in her business was to own a very small massage studio where she was the only one working there, with enough work, consistently scheduled, to keep her occupied full time, and where her patients all reacted as if the massage had awoken their bodies. This meant that she had to know how best to treat their reported symptoms and that she needed to use different techniques like cupping and dry-needling as well as her training in deep-tissue sports massage. This description encapsulated what her patients liked about her, what her skills needed to be, what her finances would look like (a good full-time salary), and what systems she needed to be good at (scheduling).
By mid-morning, she had completed phase 1: Where Do You Want To Go, and had arrived at a clear vision and her goals and objectives.
Jane said that for most of the morning, as she had never enrolled in any kind of business course, she was concerned if she was “doing things right,” but she decided to keep the faith and keep on working in accordance with the instructions. By the time she had written her goals and objectives, she was feeling slightly more confident. She found that “just doing it” built up her confidence, and the fact that the guidance walked her through each step, she was able to feel comfortable in her conclusions on the worksheets.
She took a tea-break and then entered into module 4.
Jane found the SWOT exercises more fun because she said that she could let loose and just brainstorm different ideas. At times, she did get mixed up between the internal strengths and weaknesses, and the external opportunities and threats. However, she didn’t find this a problem because she thought that what she was told to do with her lists meant that her decisions about what the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats meant to her business was more important than getting the categories right.
What impressed her during this exercise was that the initial brainstorm released so many things on her SWOT lists, yet, the process then funnelled these down into critical items so that only the important things were left.
Having spent more time on the SWOT Analysis than the program intended (she paused the audio for a while to keep working on her analysis), she ended up having a late lunch and then started Module 7 on Strategies immediately after. Jane said that for someone who wasn’t schooled in business, the initial fear of words like goals and objectives and strategies worried her. But following the guidance in the workshops, it became a drill so she stopped worrying about the concept of the words and “worked on their intent“. In this way, she found it easier than she expected to relate what she wanted to achieve, with the gaps shown by the SWOT analysis, to her goals, and so write some strategies about what she had to do.
As with Jeff, she found the Action Plan module valuable. As Jane wrote her strategies, she already knew in her head what she had to do – her strategies were, on my review, much more tactical, but they suited her stage of business startup. However, being able to put down the ideas in her head into a formal Action Plan format meant that she was able to identify detailed steps that she hadn’t thought of.
The Action Plans took her a long time because she wanted to be very detailed. In retrospect, Jane said that she should have kept to the time in the instruction and then returned to it a day later to complete the details.
Because of the extra time, Jane was well into the late afternoon by the time she got to the module on Budgets.
Now, as an aside, let me just say that the program does not walk you through a budgeting workshop! That would scare most entrepreneurs off! What the module does is to explain what is involved, and then for those people who are financially skilled or experienced, asks them to complete the budget later. For those who are not, the advice is to contact their accountant. The module includes a 3-minute video explaining why budgets are required, how a budget is prepared, and some advice on how to use your budget. The 6-page download takes you through the practicalities, the process, deciding on the timeframe for your budget, and how to make sure they align to your goals.
When Jane saw the explanatory video in module 9, she was pretty pleased she wasn’t expected to come up with new financial skills then and there!
Jane carried on and completed her modules on Putting It All Together and Implementing Your Plan by 8 PM that day.
Like Jeff, she found the method of using her worksheets and organising them into “chapters” very practical. She also found the 6 steps to successful implementation useful, but as a “beginner” in business she thought that she would need some time to digest everything that she had done, and then return to that module later to see how she could action those 6 steps.
When I asked Jane if a 12 hour day for her was too tough, she first said “yes” but then retracted it and said:
“Actually, no – you know, it was a hard-working day but you did insert suggestions to break, and I did decide to work longer on a couple of areas, so overall, no, I’d have to say that it was a hard-working day rather than “tough’ and the excitement of finding a way to build my business idea was the over-riding factor for me.”
“None! It was exciting!”
So, there you have two different small business owners’ experience of how they prepared their business plan using a guided approach. Both found the process do-able and enjoyable.
I am launching the first session in 2020 of Your One Day Business Plan in a couple of weeks. A business plan can get your small business organised, it will set a single cohesive direction for you and establish day-to-day action plans so that you always know what to do next.
If you are interested in preparing your own business plan, keep an eye out for my announcement of the cart opening, or you can subscribe to my 4-part free video training on what a business plan can do for you and how to write your own here.
If you don’t want to miss the opening, click on this link and get my weekly posts sent directly to your inbox – see you there!
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