Think of your business plan as a matter of blocks, like interrelated pieces. You don’t have to have the whole block structure done before you take any next steps. Start your blocks where you like. Some common blocks are the mantra, the sales forecast, the mission statement , the keys to success, maybe a break-even analysis, or a SWOT, or how about the heart of your plan, as in the whole discussion of who needs your product or service and why and what it is? A sales forecast is a block, and so is an employee or personnel plan, as in laying out month by month how many people will be working in your company, and how much each of them will be paid.
The key here is that you don’t get bogged down on having a finished business plan before you do anything else. You’re planning as you go. You’ve heard the stories of people who spent months developing their plan, but never get started. So instead of that, think of the blocks. Choose where you want to start. Get going.
I hope at this point I’ve made it clear that you don’t necessarily need to have a standard, traditional, formal business plan. Until you really need to show a plan to some outsider who needs, wants, or expects the full formal plan, you can just use your plan-as-you-go plan to reap the benefits and avoid the hassle of the document.
However, there are business reasons that force you to produce the traditional plan document. We call these business plan events. The more common business plan events are related to seeking loans or investments. Ironically, the bank loan manager, angel investor, or venture capitalist may not read your plan, but most of them want to know you have one, which means they want it to appear in their inbox or on their desk.
Approaching a business plan event without being ready to produce a traditional business plan is something like approaching a publisher without having an outline and sample chapter. You’ll look dumb if you don’t have it. So have it.
The good news is that you already have the core of your plan ready, so you’re a long way down the path from start to done. You have only to dress it up to make it a formal business plan. You know what you want to do, and why, so from here you spin it out from your core into the proper words. You already have the numbers, right? And you know your strategy, too, as well as your dates, and deadlines, responsibility assignments, and metrics.
As your company grows, your planning grows. As you grow, if you add people to your team, then you want to bring them into the process, and make sure you’re on the same page. You bring in skills.
The business gets more complex as it grows. Cash flow gets more sophisticated. You start to manage the money and administration differently.
Or you have a business plan event. You want or need to present a complete formal business plan, or the elevator speech, or the pitch presentation, or summary memo.
That’s what this section is about. Grow it and dress it as needed.
Planning should become management and better business, long-term progress towards goals, prioritizing, and focus; but you have to do it. It’s up to you to make your planning work. It’s not really about the plan, per se; it’s about the discipline to use the plan to run the business.
A good business planning process grows organically; it evolves as your business evolves. With monthly review schedules and performance tracking, your planning, unlike the classic plan document, stays alive and present – on top of your mind where you consider it regularly.
For that to work, you have to keep assumptions at the forefront. You have to develop accountability by setting goals, usually with metrics, and then following up on performance with people.
Keep the plan visible, to all team members, using the review meetings if nothing else. Ideally, key points, numbers, metrics, and assumptions are somewhere that team members can see them.