Business Planning Is a Must

How many of you have prepared formal business and/or strategic plans? Possibly, you have prepared business plans when you were seeking financing for their start-up, growth, or an acquisition. Some of you may have developed a business plan as a road map to follow, and measure their results against it. But generally, surveys indicate that, unless it is done to acquire financing, business plans are not done.

Business plans are generally prepared for a three-to-five year period. The scope will define the start-up, expansion, or acquisition costs. Specific markets, products, marketing plans and organization for the company will be outlined. An implementation process will be outlined with dates and assigned responsibilities (milestones). Sales projections are absolutely necessary, and will be the basis for the financial forecast which will include balance sheet and cash flow forecasts as well as the profit and loss forecast. Those financing the company will want to see how they are going to get paid back; investors will want to see what their return will be.

Your city/state economic development departments, SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), the banks, and various resources on the web can give you formats that you can use to develop your business plan. While business plan development can be done internally, I generally recommend using outside help. They will ask the tougher questions and will do a much more through job of market analysis because they have no “insider” bias.

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Business Consultant Business Plan: Leave the Holes

Today we are going to talk about your business consultant business plan and I am going to challenge you to leave the hole. Let me explain what I mean. As consultants we do a lot of thinking. Our job is to think on behalf of our clients, but when it comes to our own business we think too much. Whether you are creating your first business plan or fifth generation new growth plan, I am going to challenge you to leave the hole. Don’t try to think through all the iterations before you actually roll the plan out. Don’t try to come up with every contingency, every plan A, B, C, D, E, F and G. Do your best to come up with sharp thinking, trust your thinking, and then roll the plan.

Old Mindset: Holes are bad and you must fill them. The old mindset that most of us have is that holes are bad and you must fix them. There is a fear that comes along with holes. We don’t want anybody to assume we haven’t thought our plan all the way through; we don’t want the public embarrassment. However, one thing about holes is that holes don’t make mistakes. If you allow your fear of failure to drive you, you will rush to create a new process to solve for a problem that may not exist at all. That rushed process can create plenty of mistakes. But if you have the courage to leave the hole then no new problems will arise. You can manage the situation with more patience and savvy.

Also, consider that a hole is a legitimate data point. Customer complaints are data. Lost revenue is data. Low employee morale is data. Even if you get a zero as the specific output, that is a data point as well. The holes you find are prompts to ask great questions. Think about how the work is supposed to be done. If you realize a hole, this is an opportunity to brainstorm around how the hole got there and solve for the root cause.

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5 Key Ways To Implement Your Business Plan!

More often than not business owners talk about business plans in elusive terms, leaving one to wonder if they will ever write one at all. How often have you heard – “I wrote one then put it on the shelf,” “Our plan is out of date – it’s useless,” “It’s too long – no one will read it,” or my favorite – “I’ll pay a consultant to write one!”

Too often the focus has been on writing your plan. I am suggesting a better focus – implementing your plan. Implement it by asking 5 key questions. So, let’s review the 5 key questions, apply them to your business, and discuss next steps.

This process is not new. Some years ago Jim Horan founded The One Page Business Plan Company expressly to help business owners define and implement their plan. He simplified the process by identifying the standard elements of a business plan with 5 simple, universal questions.

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