Have you ever envied someone who seemed to be completely composed, together and organized? While you are racing to the next meeting, looking for that misplaced post-it, cell phone battery draining, do you sometimes wish you could work in a calmer, more deliberate way? If the answer is yes, then you need a plan. If you have a plan, then you need to follow it.
I don't know of a business expert who does not endorse good planning; it is a widely accepted best practice. And yet, nearly half of all small business don't have a current business plan.
A business plan can make the difference in getting a bank loan. It can provide needed credibility and better communication with employees, investors, customers and venders. It provides direction and purpose to steer a business through changing circumstances. Most importantly, businesses that follow a written business plan are three times more likely to achieve their financial goals compared to those that don't. So, take the time and do the plan.
Let me provide some planning best practices. It's not difficult. What follows are six recommendations for writing your 2012 business plan:
- Do it when the business is closed: You cannot be focused or inspired if you are engulfed in the tedious roar of daily activity. Optimally, you should go offsite and have a mini-retreat. The key players in the company should be included and all of the required business information gathered in advance. Prepare and think.
- Link everything: Your values should drive the mission. The mission must be linked to long term and intermediate goals. Intermediate goals must be linked to short term projects. Short term projects must be linked to the daily TODO list. Your plan must keep you on track so that what you are doing today impacts your long term purpose.
- Do the math: A non-negotiable element of a business plan is financial. The plan should contain revenue and cash flow projections and a strategy to manage debt and operating costs. Your banker and CPA should be consulted before the plan is completed and provided a copy afterward.
- Create a value proposition: Who are you selling to? Why are they going to buy from you? What is compelling about your company over the competition? How does your product/service add value in excess of its price? These questions require real consideration and need to be articulated in the plan.
- Nothing happens until something is sold: You may be the greatest gift to your marketplace, but if you aren't selling, prospecting, developing new customers, the game is over. If your salespeople can't get out as much as they should, the plan needs to include a solution. Let's say it again - nothing happens until something is sold.
- Pin the plan to your shirt: It matters not how much things change or how busy you are, the business plan must be a continually used playbook. Check progress against goals. Hold yourself accountable. If you get off track, either change your tactics or revisit your goals - you won't know which if you don't use the plan.
Yes, all of this will take time and energy and thought. But it is the navigation system for success. It is the only way to make sure you are busy doing the right activities and not just busy.