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Is your Business Plan a Shelf Warmer or a Game Changer ?

Posted 13 December 2013

You may have heard it said that Business Plans are a waste of time.  You spend days putting it together, weeks getting it agreed, and it ends up gathering dust on a shelf somewhere – eventually seeing the light of day only when the bank asks you for one to back up a loan application, 5 years afterwards…

Sadly, there’s more than an element of truth about that.  Conservatively, I’d reckon that about 75% of business plans are rarely referred to after the heady first few weeks after they’ve been written.  Is that because the business owners or the plan authors are bad business people ?  Not a bit of it.  It’s much more likely that it’s the way the plans are written which is bad.

What do I mean by that?  How can you judge a business plan to be good or bad ?

Let me use two recent examples to illustrate.  The first was a well-written, well-presented 20+ pages of great commentary on the business opportunity, the market, the product offer, the people involved.

The second was just under 2 pages of bullet points, a couple of tables and a bunch of numbers.

In the first, in among all the words, there was not one single commitment to action that the business owner or their team could carry out.  In the second,  I could count more than 15.  In the first, there was a well set out table showing historical financial figures.  In the second, there was a detailed summary of the key numbers, how they would change over the plan period (3 years) and what actions would be taken which would lead to that result.

Looking into my crystal ball, I can foresee one plan warming that shelf three months down the line.  The other – well, that will be on the wall in the MDs office, it will be broken down into departmental 90 day plans, performance against the plan will be being reviewed every month.

So go ahead – dig out that 2014 Business Plan.  Highlight the commitments to action that you could start enacting tomorrow, and count them.  As a rule of thumb, make sure there are a minimum of 6-8.  If there are not, you have a choice … either revisit it, ‘action’ it up and help it change your future.  Or alternatively make space on that shelf and carry on as you were…

Graeme Crosbie

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