Another myth about business plans
We’re revisiting the subject of business plans this week, and will start off by giving you one of those priceless nuggets of information that the single most downloaded and read factsheet by subscribers to all of our various information services is – A Guide to Writing a Business Plan.
Which is quite remarkable when you consider the fact that the majority of new or currently trading small businesses don’t have a formal business plan written or in play at all.
And they probably never will, other than the loose and informal one that’s located in their heads or scattered around various notebook scribblings, e-mails, and other scraps of paper.
But maybe it’s not so remarkable when you consider that just about every single business adviser/mentor/coach in the UK, many of whom happen to be our customers, will be suggesting to their prospective business start up and owner-manager clients that they need to produce a written business plan before they start trading, or before they embark on a new business project.
So what is this week’s discussion point, and lessons for you to consider?
The point is that having a business plan is not the be-all and end-all for anyone setting up, running, or aspiring to grow a small enterprise. Or at least, its not about having a single written document that tells the complete story (for small business owner read clairvoyant) about how you will plant your little business acorn and how it will grow into an impressive, profit-generating forest of money trees in the first 12 months of trading.
The real point being made is that in the real world of start ups and entrepreneurship it’s not actually having ‘a plan’ that’s important, but having a number of distinct ‘plans’ for your business, and lots of them.
You need a plan for just about every critical aspect of your business, and you should certainly have these written down, no matter how short and sweet they are. And they should be capable of being read and understood by everyone involved with each relevant activity of your enterprise. They should include:
- an advertising plan
- a financial management plan
- a sales plan
- a purchasing plan
- a recruitment plan
- an e-commerce plan
- a social media plan
- a PR plan
- a legal compliance plan
- a direct mail plan
- a succession plan
- a disaster plan
- an exit plan, and so on.
That may sound like an awful lot of plans, but of course you will not normally have or need to be working on more than one or two of these plans at any one time.
In fact you can break down and manage your plans relatively easily according to the stage you have reached with your new venture, focusing on the particular priorities that relate to your unique business situation.
To begin with, make a list of the most important aspects of your business that you need or would like to address, and for each one start off by jotting down, on a single side of paper, a summary of what you would like to achieve and how you propose to achieve it.
If you need to write more, or do more research, you can do this for each aspect of your business as you find the time.
Then, and if you really have the need, such as in the case of requiring a prospectus to present to a bank or other funder to raise finance, you will be much better placed to quickly pull together a single master business plan for exactly that purpose.
But concentrate on your real priorities first.
Plan in small chunks, and get the detail right so you’ve got some immediate targets and objectives to get yourself working on. The sensible approach for the vast majority of new owner-managers is to aim to keep your business moving forward in small, but from your point of view, significant steps.
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