I recently met with a business owner who wanted to discuss developing a strategic plan for his manufacturing business.
This business owner knew he needed a plan to get to where he wanted to go with his business, but from previous experience he was worried that the plan would be “a thing of beauty, but of little use to his business. When I asked what he meant by this, he turned to what appeared to be a pile of manuals stacked under a table behind his desk. From this pile he extracted a 50mm, 4 ring binder. This was truly a “thing of beauty” – professionally printed front cover with “business name Strategic Business Plan”, section dividers that had been individually printed and a wealth of background research presented in graphical form. What I had trouble finding was the actions that were needed to be taken by the business management. And the date? 2004.
The business owner expressed his concern that having invested in this plan, he found it difficult to communicate it to his key staff and hence could not get them to buy into it.
So, what did he think he needed? “A simple plan that I can share with my staff and get us moving in the same direction.” At last, he saw what a business plan was all about.
All of my experience has been that for a business to thrive and grow, and to ensure that it is protected from uncertainty, it does need a plan; the plan shows that you have thought about the opportunities and threats, about the objectives and the targets, and that there is a system in place for measuring progress so that in the event that there is deviation one is able to take immediate corrective action.
Start by asking where you are now and how you got there? Then ask where do you want to be an when? Now, how do you build the bridge between the 2? What strategic initiatives will you use? Then think about the individual objectives for each area of the business to help you get there (eg sales, marketing, operations, financial etc) and how will you measure these. This can be easily communicated to appropriate staff and used to track progress.
Remember the old adage – “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will do”. A business plan doesn’t need to be complex, it doesn’t need to be a huge publication – it needs to be practical. I have successfully run multi-million $ companies with a 2 page business plan – try it.