This is a message to all of those business owners and leaders who are wondering whether it’s time to get out your business plan and update it. I’m suggesting you throw it away. Rip it up. (Unless everything is going to plan and your business, its customers, its supplier and the team are following the predictions of the plan just as it was written).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that a business shouldn’t have a business plan. But the traditional ‘Business Plan’ carefully crafted in those early days of excitement – when the ideas were new and maybe the energy was higher – so often sit unloved in a cupboard (or somewhere in the Cloud). It possibly served its purpose to get the first bank loan. It may have included a detailed analysis of what your product or service would do for the world of your customers and partners. But do they behave in that way? And do all of the people in your company act in line with the plan? I’m yet to find one where they do. And that includes the best – as well as the worst-performing firms. That suggests that the Business Plan is not necessarily the best tool for planning a business.

OK. I’ll come clean and admit that I’m actually a big fan of business planning. But only in the sense of doing everything you need to achieve your goals and dreams. I’ll share here some of the planning that successful ambitious business leaders do when they’re serious about business growth.

First – rethink those goals and paint a picture of the future

Take a half day out to think about what the world in and around your business could look like in 2 or 3 years. Don’t just think about it – sketch it out on a large sheet of paper. Include the ideal relationships with customers, suppliers and other partners. Throw in all the elements that go into your value proposition and business model. While you’re looking at that idealised future world, don’t forget the hard financial goals (profit, pricing, turnover, margin per customer or whatever works for your industry).

You can do this yourself or with your management team if you have one. It sometimes helps to have a coach or mentor from outside to facilitate this with probing questions and tools that make it a little easier to express. The Heart of business mentors have taken countless people through this process and seen the energy it pumps into a whole business when the vision is properly articulated.

Then – think about what’s stopping you from having that picture or vision in place right now.

The business owners and managers I work with usually have a wish list of things they would like to be able to control – or at least manage:

·       more time

·       more leads

·       happy staff

·       happy customers

·       the right digital and social marketing presence

·       a more predictable cash flow

·       a more predictable new business pipeline

·       a much clearer value proposition (product or service)

·       a more balanced portfolio of customers and/or geographies

·       and more . . .

Try to work out if getting any of these fixed in the next three months could be the start of a plan to achieve that overall goal. There are often just two or three vital breakthrough items that are worth planning and doing well that can help you to be successful.

And then – get working on the detail . . .

Not just the planning, but the project management of each of the steps you need to do. From identifying what must be done, who will do it and how it will be funded. With some careful planning (and delegation to others) you will be able to find the time get all of these things done and keep focused on that picture you painted of your successful future.

So although you’ve thrown away your business plan, you are refocusing your whole business on that plan for the future.

What about financial risk, control and accountability?

Every business plan has sections on getting the financial pieces in place. And a thriving business should have these processes properly in place. But it is part of the machinery of your business that you set up as you define your business model. A basic version of a traditional financial business plan is worth developing when you need to raise additional funds in service of those goals. But don’t think of it as the plan for your business. That should always be in service of your value proposition to customers.

What you do is at the Heart of Your Business

Over the coming months (and years), join me and members of Heart of business as we focus on some of the specific business challenges you face. We’ll cover issues ranging from finding the time to grow the business through to making the right choices in your digital marketing strategy. We’ll cover the difficult people-related issues you face as you grow. And look at more sophisticated approaches to building up your sales and marketing machine.

We’d also like to hear from you as you grow your business and identify new challenges and pains. Follow the links to contact us and please share this article with your colleagues.

David Harris

Business Mentor

Heart of business