It’s very important that a business plan is your plan, not something you think will impress the bank manager. It needs to be action oriented, and used as a way of clarifying what you want to achieve, as well as delegating some of these things to those around you.
The basics of a business plan are as follows:
• Where are you now?
• Where do you want to get to?
• How are you going to get there?
There is nothing new in this. It’s as old as the hills. We like simplicity, which is often the cleverest route of all.
The Content of the Plan
We have adopted the “Four Pillars” model to provide a structure to any plan. Allocate a page to each of the sections: Finance, Sales, Marketing, Operations & Resources, and divide them into thirds so that each page has the three headings, where you are now, where you want to get to and how you are going to get there.
Now set to and start putting your thoughts down. Involve your team in it – certainly your direct reports.
Spend some time on your vision. It needs to be inspiring; but make it personal to you. Drawing rather than writing your vision can help to clarify it. Get each person to draw their vision and then share it with the team
Once you’ve been through the various “pillars”, try and prioritise the actions into: Now, Next and Later.
Give each action an owner and a timescale. Be realistic, you probably already have a busy business to run.
Use a monthly or quarterly meeting to review progress.
Develop a financial model last and then review the actions in the light of the plan. Try to develop the financial model along the lines of key drivers.
Specific things that you can do to the business to make things happen – not simply “we’re going to increase sales by x%”.
Writing Up The Plan
Write the plan using the pages that you have already prepared. It will enable you to review it in 6 or 12 months time. If you need to present the plan to someone, prepare a presentation first. This again will help to crystallise your thoughts and you will start to see things from an outsider’s point of view. Only when you have got everything else done, should you finally write the executive summary.
Even then, you will see changes you want to make or things that do not make sense.
The executive summary may be the only thing that gets read. Keep it to no more then two pages and cover the chapter headings in the body of the plan. As new ideas occur, put them into the plan and develop them.
Sharing the Plan
It is important to share your plan with as many people as possible – suppliers, customers, staff, any other stakeholders. It may be that they need different presentations. If people know where you are trying to get to, they are more likely to help you than hinder you.