Do you have a business plan? If so, do you use it?
I have seen some fabulous business plans, professionally put together and covering every aspect of the business in glorious laser-print color. There are graphs and pie charts and spreadsheets and spiral binding, forecasts and break-evens and plans galore! There is also a lot of dust -- from the plan sitting untouched on the shelf.
Some of these plans were put together so that the business owner had something to show the bank when applying for finance -- and that's the only time it was used. They started their business and it grew and things were great for a while. But did they refer to their plan? Rarely, if ever. And now they're hiring me.
So that brings me to my next question. Do you really need a business plan? My response to that is: You do if you want to stay in business. Why? Because having a plan, that you refer to and follow, can make your business journey run more smoothly. It can remove some of the risk, give you a clear idea of what you have to do and keep you on track towards your business goals.
I can hear some of you groaning and sighing over this. I know what you're thinking, here are some of the responses I've had to business planning from my clients:
1.) I don't have time to write a 40-page business plan. You don't need a 40-page business plan, what you need to start with can take less than 30 minutes.
2.) I don't need a plan, it's all in my head. Sure it is, and that's great, but how much other stuff is in your head, too? How many hats do you wear in your business and how much of that plan "in your head" are you putting into practice daily?
3.) I have one and I never look at it. Why not? Usually because it has no meaning for you; all those graphs and numbers are fine and they most certainly have their place, but really, you need to see a clear outline of what you want, what you need to do to get it and how to go about doing that.
My first business plan was one page in a notebook. At the top of the page it said, "3 new clients every month" then there was a list of the headings for my "6 easy steps" then there were a few lines devoted to "marketing" -- it said things like "speaking engagements" and "approach local businesses" and a few other vague ideas. That was it. Not exactly a gigantic business vision and definitely not a business plan by many peoples' standards, but for me, at that time, it was huge.