By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International 4-12-2010
Takeaways: A business plan must describe your passion. It must also address future changes that may alter your business direction and how you will adapt to those changes. Involve your leadership team and key stakeholders in the planning process.
Every business needs a plan. We suggest starting with a 3-to-5 year strategic plan and building your annual business plan(s) under that. However, if you’re looking for additional capital or seeking investors, most investors expect to see a 3-year business plan. In his book, E-Myth Mastery, Michael Gerber describes “The Business Plan That Always Works”.
He suggests, starting with a “heart-felt” planning process, with what’s important to you, the business owner. Whatever you’re creating has to be something you feel passionately about. Document that in your plan, otherwise, if there is no passion, it’s just another plan that probably won’t be used. You’ll have to use educated guesswork in your plan because it’s hard to predict the future. But with the right research into areas that may impact your company’s direction, you can have a fairly good idea of the changes that may be ahead.
One key component is to build change into the business plan. Your plan is not a rigid document that once completed, sits on a shelf somewhere. Look at it as a framework for your business growth. Put all the elements in a 3-ring binder that can be updated on a regular basis. Once you’ve written your plan, set a time to review it with your executive team (if you have one) or by yourself or with a business adviser, on a monthly or at least a quarterly basis. This will keep it current. If opportunities arise that aren’t in the plan, add them to the plan and pursue them…if they make sense for the business and will help get you to your future goal.
If you have staff, include them in the process. It’s important that everyone has ownership of their piece of the plan. That generates buy-in and commitment when you implement the plan going forward.
Benchmarks for producing your plan
Create A Mental Picture Of Your Business Plan’s Impact
What would it feel like to have your plan work? Picture it in your mind. Better yet, gather images that reflect this “dream” and put them on paper to create a visual map of your future.
Outline Your Business Plan
This becomes the table of contents for you plan to help you organize the elements.
Prepare Your Business Plan Binder
Assemble everything in a three-ring binder with tabs for each section. This allows you to change the plan as you go along.
Gather Materials You Already Have
If you’ve been in business awhile, you should have a fair amount of documentation (financials, marketing and customer data, product information, etc.). Decide if each piece is complete as is, or needs to be revised, and put it in this section.
Identify What You Need To Produce
Also include who needs to provide them and where to get the materials.
Conduct Planning Meeting
Gather your executive team (or if you’re a small business, all your staff) and enroll them in the process. Paint the picture of what you’re trying to create, and ask for their help and support. Listen to what they say. End the meeting with a clear understanding of who will do what by when.
Prepare, Review, and Revise Materials
This is the tactical part of the plan. Review each piece of information your team provides to ensure it’s relevant and that each piece works together with the other pieces to achieve the future vision. If they need further analysis or revision, send the materials back to the teams or individuals for revision and review them again.
Produce a “Final” Plan
Put it all together and give your plan a polished, easy-to-read appearance. Reduce it down to a two-sided, one-page document that each person can have handy as a reminder of what the business is trying to accomplish.
Create a Change Mechanism
Set follow-up meetings on everyone’s calendar to review the plan and make necessary changes as you go along. This is critical to ensuring that you are able to adapt to change as it occurs and keep your business on course.