Business Planning 2.0: The power is in the process, not the plan

Here’s a typical conversation with an entrepreneur:

“I’ve got a great idea for a business so I better write a business plan.”

“Why do you want a business plan?”

“I need money.”

Too many entrepreneurs think of the business plan solely as the means to a short-term end. Crank one out, raise some dough, get on with it.

However, this approach is tactical, transactional, short-sighted. Yes, the plan may raise money but it does little else.

The real value lies in the business planning process itself, not the plan. Properly done, the process encourages you to think deeply about all aspects of your idea including your customers, your competition, your resources, and what you need to do in order to become — and stay — successful.

So don’t just bash out a document for the bank. Use your planning process to add long-term value to your business.

Here are eight points to power your business planning process:

1. Don’t rely on a business plan template. These short-cuts prevent you from carefully considering your specific circumstances.

2. Think strategically. This means asking three questions:

  • What makes (or will make) your business unique in the eyes of your customers?
  • How will you defend that uniqueness from your competitors?
  • How will you use that uniqueness to make money?

3. Create a single over-arching strategic goal for the next six or twelve months that helps your team work together towards a common goal.

4. Carefully select the projects you’ll need to achieve your strategic goal.

5. Set clear objectives for each project including the results and deadlines you expect to meet. These keep you and your team focused on what’s important.

6. Ensure that each person knows their role, how they contribute to the goal, and how their contribution will be evaluated.

7. Meet regularly to monitor progress and make the inevitable adjustments.

8. Set a date up front for the next planning process.

Remember: the power is in the process, not the plan.