A business without a Business Plan

achieves everything in it!

Yet, why do they have so little impact?

We all know the mantra: If you want to have a successful business, you need to have a Business Plan.

A truer word has n’er been spoken, yet does that mean that a business with a “Plan” will by default be successful?

All cows eat grass. This animal eats grass…

ergo it must be a cow!

No, obviously not. Most business plans don’t have much of an impact on the success of the business because nobody in the business feels the “Plan” has anything to do with “what gets them out of bed in the morning”. It is just one of those things that you “ought” to have, all the books say so!

You probably have a “Plan”. It might be based on a “Business Plan Template” you found. You filled in the blanks and fiddled with it a bit. It makes the bank happy. It looks great, it feels good in your hands, and when you finished it, you felt that warm and fuzzy feeling we often mistake for business achievement in the absence of more solid evidence. But when was the last time you even looked at the thing?

First things first

Let’s start at the beginning: Why is it again that we even need a “Business Plan”?

The purpose of creating and having a business plan is twofold:

  • To spell out exactly where the business is headed and how it will get there.
  • To have a fixed set of criteria to “test” every decision in the business against.

If your Business Plan meets both of those criteria, wholly, you can be sure it won’t be kept in the bottom of a drawer. It will sit on top of your desk; it will be dog-eared, and smudged; it will have coffee stains, scribbles and doodles all over it. You will look at it every day and so will everyone else who has anything to do with it.

Business Plans that live

So how do you create a “Plan” that will be so alive?

There are 6 key criteria that a Business Plan must meet for it to truly add to the success of the business:

  1. It must be a “live” document and be kept “live” by the people directly affected by it, today.
  2. It must have been created by the people directly affected by it, at the time of its creation.
  3. It must be created in ways and in terms that are meaningful to the people who have created it and who maintain it.
  4. It must be based on the “Guiding Principles” of the business.
  5. The “Guiding Principles” in turn must flow from the “Mission” or “Purpose” of the business.
  6. Finally the “Purpose” of the business must be a clear expression of the “Values” and “Aims” of the people who ARE the business.

As you can see, this means that before you even start to think about putting a “Business Plan” together, you need to focus inwardly, individually or as a team. You need to get very clear about what “gets you out of bed in the morning”, what the purpose of being in business is at all and how you decide what to occupy yourself with in this business.

Personal Values

A good way to start this process is to do an exercise to determine what your top personal values are. There are a lot of tools available to help you with that process. One of them, a personal values checklist is available on this site on the downloads page. Once you are really clear about your personal values, the values that you want your life to be about, right now, it is time to think about the “Purpose” of your business, and how that purpose or mission connects with your personal values.

Research all over the world clearly shows that a business “Purpose”, “Mission” or “Vision” that is solidly grounded on your own personal values is an absolute indicator of the success of your business. So: WHAT are you in Business for? What is THAT all about? It may be about money, but often it is about so much more than money: What will you get from having a successful business? What will that give you? How will you know that your business is successful, and what difference will that make to you? Or your family? Or your customers?

Guiding Principles

Then it is time for step 3. This is where the actual creation of a purposeful and impactful Business Plan starts. The “Guiding Principles” of your business are the principles that every decision and every action in the business is guided by. It will be the litmus test for everything you do.

If a decision you, or someone else in your business, wants to make conflicts with the “Guiding Principles” there are only two options:

  1. Don’t make the decision
  2. Amend the Guiding Principles

There is no alternative. Putting a set of Guiding principles in place will be one of the most powerful things you will ever do for your business, and once you have them in place they will form page 1 of your Business Plan.

Here are some random samples of “Guiding Principles” I helped clients design in the last year:

  • Our behaviours are: Open, Trusting, Professional and Safe
  • All our processes add value
  • We leave the environment better than we found it
  • We deliver more than expected
  • We deliver when we say we do.
  • Shareholder value is increased every year
  • All our employees will have a stake in the business
  • There is life outside the business for our people
  • We own our competitive advantages
  • We are a positive force in the communities we are a part of.

In future articles I will write about the next steps in the process to create Business Plans that make a difference.

Further reading:
  • “It is not the Big that eat the Small, it is the Fast that eat the Slow” by Jason Jennings and Laurence Haughton
  • “The E-Myth revisited” and “E-Myth mastery” by Michael Gerber
  • “The one-minute-manager series” By Ken Blanchard et al.
  • “First Break all the rules “ by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
  • “The Fish series” by Stephen C Lundin et al
  • “Maverick, the success story behind the worlds most unusual workplace” By Ricardo Semmler
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