BY ANDI GRAY
Dilemma: I’m finding it difficult to translate the ideas in my head to actionable items on paper. I hear many of my industry peers say that they, too, have plans for their businesses, but they’re theoretical—all in their heads, not written or detailed anywhere. Do you have any suggestions on why that is and what we can do about it?
Thoughts of the Day: If you don’t have a written business plan, you’re not alone; however, statistics show that you do get better results when you do have a plan to follow. Follow some simple tips to get started.
If you don’t have a written business plan, you’re not alone. Most surveys of privately held businesses indicate that 60-90 percent of business owners lack a formal, detailed business plan in writing. Those business owners who are reluctant to draw up a physical plan cite many reasons why, including:
• Who knows what the future may hold?
• We might not be right.
• A plan would make us less nimble.
• We might not like what we see.
• I’m too busy.
• I don’t know how to write a useful plan.
• Plans are for startups: We’re up and running and know what we’re doing.
Having a plan gets improved results
If those significant obstacles stand in the way for so many, why bother swimming against the tide by focusing on creating a plan? Simple answer: Companies with plans achieve more while getting ahead of those that don't.
Laying out what’s expected and the logical ways of getting there gives your brain a chance to work on the details. Having written plans also makes it easier for people to follow your lead, spot problems, make necessary changes, and contribute productive solutions. And who wouldn’t want to stave off trouble instead of facing real-life negative consequences?
It’s frustrating saying that you plan to accomplish things and then not getting there. And most business owners already experience more than their fair share of frustration, so why pile on more? Instead, use a written plan to stay on point and to examine what’s working—and what’s not. Written plans can also become a challenge for everyone to step up and strive to accomplish more. When it comes time to sell the business, demonstrating success with written goals makes the business more saleable. Buyers want predictability. Show that, year after year, the company makes plans, successfully follows through, and adjusts as needed to stay on track: This often makes the business significantly more attractive to quality buyers.
Follow some simple “How To’s” to get started
Ready to try your hand at planning? Take notes on what you’d like the business to achieve, but be honest and realistic. Jumping from $1 million of revenue to $100 million is probably too big a leap to make at once, but you can tackle it in smaller, more manageable chunks—start by laying the groundwork to double in size at first, for example.
Recruit other people in the company to help you with the planning process. Assign someone the task of taking and writing up notes to circulate. Work in drafts. Encourage debate. Select goals. Write out milestones and action steps to walk the company through the whole process, starting with where you are today and ending at where you want to be.
Ask everyone to agree to support the written plan, even if it wasn’t their original idea. Give out assignments and due dates. Check regularly on progress, shifting around resources to help areas that seem stuck or behind. Check on future actions and dates to see what might get thrown off. Periodically weed through and let go of things that no longer seem applicable.
Still lost on how to get your plan on paper? Hire outside help to facilitate the process. Look for someone with a great planning process, a proven track record of helping companies like yours build and implement plans, and success stories about companies that are significantly farther along after planning than they were before they started. [CD0618]
Andi Gray is the founder of the Business Consulting Firm Strategy Leaders. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.