Why have a Business Plan?
The dreaded business plan
... do you even need one?
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
No doubt you’ve heard it before, but two centuries later, Benjamin Franklin is still right and there are plenty of companies in recent times that have proved the point.
This hugely successful video-rental chain survived the change from VHS to DVD, but its response to a rental decline (due to decreased box office traffic) and the arrival of Netflix, was poorly planned. Upping the value of each transaction by offering sweets and toys, and charging huge late fees was no match for the convenience and cost-effectiveness offered by Netflix and streaming services.
Once a pioneering technology company, Yahoo got left behind when it tried to charge for email and file sharing services when Google offered them for free. In 2008, the company even turned down a $45 billion buyout offer from Microsoft; meanwhile its market value has slipped to a miserable $19 billion.
Kodak invented the first digital camera and, at its peak, was one of the world’s most valuable brands. Where is it now? Essentially, the company orchestrated its own demise by holding back the technology it developed for fear of hurting its existing lucrative film business.
Whether you look forward to tackling your business plan with eagerness and anticipation or, if you are like the majority of us who approach it gingerly with a mix of trepidation and anxiety, the bottom line is – it’s essential if you want your business to succeed. So you may as well buckle down and do it. Here are some tips to getting it done and even enjoying the process!
Don’t make it a bigger beast than it needs to be
If you plan to “write your business plan by a certain date,” the perceived weight of this task can be overwhelming. Instead, think of it in terms of a process rather than an outcome. For example, “I will complete this particular section of my business plan by Friday each week.” You don’t have to do it in a day.
Any writer worth their weight in reams will tell you the best way to write something is to start. It doesn’t matter whether it’s perfect or not, just the process of putting words on paper (or screen, these days) will get your creative juices flowing. And don’t be afraid to use “to be confirmed.” This handy little phrase will help you keep moving and there are no points lost for coming back to something at a later date.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
A business plan is not meant to stand motionless and hollow like a Mohammed Ali wax figure. It should behave more like the man himself – ducking and diving, reacting and driving. So don’t fuss over one sentence or one bullet point. Markets change, technology changes, consumers change, competition changes and so too should your business plan.
Pimp your business plan
A business plan doesn’t need to be called a business plan. It could be called mind-mapping, soul-searching or even star-gazing. It really doesn’t matter; it’s the content that counts. And don’t forget to make it pretty. You’ll enjoy revisiting and referencing it more if it looks good.
Then spell-check - it's one of the greatest inventions of the modern age.
Finally, share it with key staff, review it regularly and implement. A plan is no good unless it's used.
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