If you google “purpose of a business plan” you will get a myriad of answers covering everything from strategy to investment and all things in between.
I’m going to throw my thoughts into the pot but hopefully cover it all off with one word – Improvement.
If your business plan is effective enough it will cover the strategy to move it forward and the evidence to attract investment anyway, but by thinking about it from the angle of improvement you see the finer detail, the step you need to take in order to get it to the vision you want it to be.
You can always tweak a business plan for a particular audience so if investment is your way forward – bulk up the finance section, if you need it to guide your team towards the same end goal – add the specifics they need.
Primarily this is YOUR tool to move YOUR business forward.
This guide is about achieving the foundation blocks and first and foremost – you don’t need to write War and Peace. This has to work for you so if you prefer to write bullet points then do just that, if you need to see the detail, that’s fine too. You need to be comfortable interacting with this document on a regular basis so write it in a way that you will be happy to read and re-read.
Any template that provides headings will get you started. Please don’t use a written plan from somebody else, you won’t buy into it, so you won’t do it.
Staring at a blank piece of paper can be hard. It doesn’t matter where you start, and it doesn’t matter if you can only put one sentence down. Take that step, it will flow eventually, trust in yourself.
You don’t need to complete every section offered to you. In your plan you only need what is helpful to you at that point in time. It is pointless preparing a staffing structure if you are not ready to recruit, it’s a distraction.
Start by mapping out where your business is now and what that looks like in the sections that matter. What do you currently do and what impact it has?
Thinking about the impact is an interesting process because if you can’t think of anything, even a negative impact, then why are you doing it? If it’s a positive impact, then to what degree can you scale up? If it’s negative, what needs to change?
For example: A manufacturing company has assessed their current marketing activity. They have identified that membership to a prototyping quoting platform has brought two new customers on board over the last 12 months but they only use the systems on an ad hoc basis. One of their business goals is to increase their customer base by 25% so some dedicated time to this platform would be a good investment in their time and would help work towards their business goal. They therefore would set a task highlighting this work.
Understanding the impact will begin to sow the seeds for growth and this is how you begin to understand the steps needed to achieve the goals you want to set for the next 12 months.
Once you have assessed what this looks like going forward you now need to think about what you are not doing. This is a bit trickier, you only know what you know, so it can be very useful to bring in external support. This could be a business coach or your accountant, but could also be within any peer-to-peer support groups or networks you have.
A useful trick is to gather information throughout the year. You should, of course, be attending conferences and webinars in order to improve your business (if not why not?), so keep a notebook handy to put in all the useful ideas that you think may be good for your business that you currently do not do. This is now the time to assess that list and add into the mix anything you want to try out.
There is a warning to be had here. Hopefully you are in the habit of testing and measuring (if you are not, you should be) so please don’t try to implement all the ideas at once.
You will now have a long list of all the steps you need to take, each one adding value to a business goal you have set. If you have prioritised your business goals, the actions you take first may be naturally obvious. If not, think about which goals will have the biggest impact. Don’t just think about the positive impact. Sometimes not taking action can have a negative impact that is greater than any positive impact from other actions.
Now work on the tasks you have created. Set aside some dedicated time either on a daily or weekly basis to work only on these tasks.
After a month or so, review the plan. Are the business goals and tasks set still relevant? Do you need to add anything into the mix? Does anything need to be postponed or dropped completely? Make the changes needed then go again.
Repeat this process regularly, monthly, or bi-monthly. By the end of the year, but depending on your level of commitment and activity, your business will have progressed.
If moving your business forward is a priority for you then check out this handy tool that will help support your vision and action plan.