Business Planning!

Woo Hoo! Time For Business Planning!

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…..”

Ah yes…..the annual business planning cycle is upon us.

The time of the year to huddle all of your business colleagues in a room to hash out the key initiatives for the upcoming year. The time to throw everything up on the wall and try to get everything done in the first quarter. “This will be the year that all plans will be met” is the battle cry! Every vision, idea and strategy gets bantered about – shouts of “there are no bad ideas!” fill the air. The room is electric with visionaries exchanging ideas on how their idea solves all issues, yet year after year, it seems that plans never actually come to fruition.

Why is that? The intent was there; the energy was present; and ideas were flowing. That’s the easy part – coming up with the ideas. The success of your planning doesn’t rest on the ideas, but rather, implementing those ideas. It’s true, companies need to foster innovation in their business planning, but more importantly, they need to create a business environment that enables team members to execute these ideas with an “on-time, on-budget” mindset. That is where the work begins.

I have been putting together business plans for over 25 years and it is clear to me that the strength of its core rests solely on being able to execute the plan. Each year I approach business planning as an opportunity, rather than a burden. I would rather invest the time up front in mapping out the upcoming year, than leaving it to chance to dictate my strategy. While this may force me to think strategically as well as tactically, preparing a detailed business plan in advance enables me to identify the challenges in advance of actually facing them.

So, why is business planning so crucial? In a word, it provides “clarity”. Investing time to develop a plan provides precise clarification of the company vision to both employees and customers. In addition, it provides a mechanism to gauge the results of the business and provides the foundation for future growth plans. In the long haul, it enhances the company valuation through fiscal responsibility, which provides the story of opportunity to any future investor or employee. In short, the benefits of planning allow the company to articulate a common vision to align resources and make an efficient use of investment dollars. A company that is perceived to be a “well-oiled machine” is attractive on many fronts – both externally with investors and internally with employees through job satisfaction and increased tenure.

Strategic Planning & Goals: The first step is to identify the key company goals which will be the over-arching direction of the plan. These goals should be focused on three areas: financial, growth initiatives and alignment to the company’s vision/mission. This provides the overall direction of the company by establishing high-level goals that will be achieved by tactical initiatives. The overall plan should be 1 to 3 years with measurement mileposts monthly, quarterly and annually. While the plan is put in place at the onset of the year, it should be constantly re-forecast with actual results throughout the year.

Developing Planning Modules: Compartmentalizing your plan by developing planning modules or “chunks” allows you to attack the plan in parts, yet still maintain a cohesive plan. I have found that developing an annual plan made up of quarterly targets – thus becoming a rolling quarterly forecast financial model – allows for a cohesive structure along with the nimbleness to react to market conditions. At the end of each quarter, a true-up process to align results to annual targets needs to be re-forecast and adjustments made.

Develop Non-Capital Initiatives: Each project initiative should have a corresponding project plan that monitors whether it will be completed on-time and on-budget. The importance of the detailed project plan is to accomplish the following: a) identify all the steps to be completed; b) establish a realistic timeline for each step; c) identify and allocate the necessary resources for accomplishing the initiative; d) ensure that the initiative has been vetted for departmental inter-dependencies and potential conflicts; and e) ensure that the initiative is in alignment with the overall strategic plan.

Create A Capital Plan: Next, I would develop a capital plan identifying dollars to be spent on the business to increase its overall value. While all capital dollars may not entirely be discretionary – i.e., investing dollars for anticipated return from growth – it is necessary to determine how capital dollars will be allocated whether for discretionary purposes or general maintenance. Projects that require capital are critical for the company growth and must be managed to their desired return, avoiding shortfalls in ROI or issues involving “capital creep”. If you haven’t already, setting up a capital committee to review expenditures in advance of the

Writing an Effective Business Plan

Writing an Effective Business Plan – What to Do and What Not to Do

Business plans are vitally important documents, both for raising investment and for generating common understanding about proposals for the future. Most of these plans take weeks to produce, and many are written with the help of corporate finance advisors and other professionals. We have the pain and privilege of being a paid reviewer of plans, and the frightening reality of our experience is that most of them sit somewhere in the range of poor to terrible. However, most of the problems can be fixed with some simple disciplines.

In this article, we list the most common errors we see, and some recommendations for writing a more effective plan.

Common errors

The plan is too long

No one will invest straight off the back of a plan. If they are intrigued by it, they will want to meet you and find out more. The plan needs to be sensible, but if they invest, they are investing in you. They will be backing your ability to achieve the plan or, more likely, something just as good when life inevitably turns out differently. So your objective is simply to say enough that the reader can decide that they either want to meet you or that they are not interested, and no one’s time is wasted as a result.

Whoever your target reader may be, they need to read the plan in one sitting and retain what they read. This means you have 10-20 pages to get your plan across. You cannot possibly detail every idea, initiative and piece of evidence in a ten-page document. So your challenge for the plan is to summarise the important points, just enough to whet a reader’s appetite and either entice them to want to meet you or decide quickly that it’s not for them.

The plan is overtly optimistic, ignoring the risks and negatives

Plan writers naturally try to put their idea across as positively and attractively as possible. This is natural, and it is important to be positive and put across your passion; but most plans end up as blatantly optimistic sales documents, with little thought to risks and downsides. Unfortunately, this propensity increases with the use of poorly qualified advisers.

Readers want to see their concerns being pre-empted and addressed rigorously in the plan, not dismissed or ignored. Your plan is an opportunity for you to put yourself across as a passionate but practical business person, and build your credibility before meeting potential investors. If the plan dwells only on the upside, you come across as unrealistic.

It looks like a filled-in template

Some sections of plans really are necessary most of the time. It’s rare that you don’t need a section discussing the relevant market trends, the distinctive differences of your service or the projected financials. However, crow-barring in a SWOT analysis or a Porter’s Five Forces puts you in serious danger of looking like an amateur business plan writer, rather than a smart professional with a convincing investment proposal. If a section adds to the reader’s understanding in a neat, focused manner, then go ahead with it, but blind application of template business tools will make your plan much worse.

It contains too many broad generalisations

Most plans focus on a specific opportunity in a specific market, but descriptions of the market and the opportunity are often so generalised as to be meaningless. If your plan is for home pet-sitting in London, showing how many millions of cats are bought every year in the UK is almost irrelevant.

Describe your service, your market and the reasons people will buy as precisely as possible. You will need to make assumptions, but as long as you state what they are and why they are credible or conservative, then you have a context that is meaningful to all involved.

It is written in language that impairs the readers’ judgment of the business

It is amazing how many people have a writing style that detracts from the quality of their thinking and business ideas. A business plan is a serious document that needs snappy, simple writing to get the point across: one idea per paragraph, one point per sentence. No sales-speak, no rhetorical questions, no use of complex technical language. Furthermore, too much business-speak is common in many plans but gives an impression of vague thinking and lack of real world practicality, it can be annoying and a turn-off for the reader. Language may not improve the appeal of your business but it allows the reader to clearly understand your thinking without distractions.

OK, that’s what not to do. Now we cover the key aspects of an effective plan.

Writing an effective plan

Be clear about who and what the plan is for

You need to

Creating a Business Plan

Creating a Business Plan

Often business owners create a business plan because someone (perhaps a lender or an investor) ask for one. The better reason to create a business plan is to chart a course for your business and to be able to ask a very important question. There will be more about the question later in this article.

The term “business plan” in my experience often refers to an operational plan – how the business intends to meet the goals set forth in a strategic (long-term) plan. On the other hand, “business plan” could clearly include both kinds of planning (strategic and operational). It is important to think about both. It will enrich you to create a business plan, but how do you create a business plan?

The owners of a business, reflecting upon their own values and goals, should communicate and plan, setting forth a written strategic plan to be followed by the business. This plan should include issues relating to ownership transition and leadership or executive succession. The executives or managers of the business (who may also be all or in part owners) should create an operating plan to accomplish the goals of the strategic plan. Generally, the strategic plan is reviewed and revised annually, but I have seen it done successfully on a quarterly basis. The operating plan will be impacted by any change in the strategic plan and should be immediately revised accordingly. Aside from that, other dynamic factors concerning effective operation of the business may force changes in the operating plan on a more frequent basis.

The best place to start is at the end – the end of the planning cycle. I recommend something five years or less. Envision the business you could sell to a third party (non-owner) for the highest reasonable amount. (Understand that at this point of sale a selling owner cannot be an integral part of the business to obtain the highest possible value for the business.) Then work backwards. What would the business be doing the fourth year to get to the apex in the fifth year, the third year to the fourth, and so forth? If the market will not support the five year plan, something needs to be changed. Therefore, the market analysis becomes the reality check for the projected business status at the end of the planning cycle. The beginning question should be: “How can I develop a business I can sell for top dollar in five years?” In five years you do not have to sell, but you will develop a better business if you have that goal.

There are a number of ways to construct plans from questionnaires and software; there is nothing wrong with adding structure and detail in that way. Do the marketing and conceptual work first to know if you can go where you want. After you have established this perspective, the details can fall into place. This is not to say that the details are unimportant – they can make you or break you – but they must be within a frame that is realistic and defined.

The purpose of doing a business plan is that it gives you the ability to ask a very important question: “Why didn’t things go as in the business plan?” Answering that question is a valuable business analysis tool. Of course, the plan is the prerequisite to having the analysis tool.

Business Plan

The Importance of a Business Plan for a Small Business

If you’re one of the many people thinking about starting a small business, having a business plan is one of the first things you should have on your list of things to do. It doesn’t matter if you’re starting a small business from home or away, having a plan for your business is considered a blue print for a successful small business. What is a business plan and why do you need one?

A Business Plan
A business plan is simply a plan of what your goals are for the business, and how you plan to go about accomplishing them. Some people refer to it as a vision for your business. I like to refer to it as a blue print or a road map to accomplishing your goals.

Your plan should be spelled out in clear and defining terms and be kept simple. It should be a written document and used as a tool in managing the business.

A plan should include but is not limited to the following:

1. A statement of your business purpose
2. A description of your company
3. The goals of your company
4. The structure of the company (sole-proprietorship, partnership or corporation)
5. The product or service that you are selling
6. A market analysis of your product or service
7. Resources spent (time and money)
8. A financial plan to include financial statements
9. Information about the managing principals in the company
10. How you plan to manage and operate the company

The Importance of a Business Plan
The success of a business starts with a business plan. The plan defines your business as to what it is and how you plan to achieve the goals of the business. It presents a clear picture of your business in terms of goals and objectives.

The plan reflects how you plan to operate your business. How you plan to market your product or services. It provides a financial picture of the company.

If you are looking for money to fund your business, you’re going to need a plan for your business. When you go to borrow money, lenders and investors are going to want to see written documentation in a business plan of your financial situation. Why do they want to see this information? Lenders and investors want to see this information because they are the ones taking the risk in lending your business money.

Once you have a plan in place, it’s important that you follow it. If you’re achieving your goals you should stick with the plan. If you are not achieving your goals then you will have go back, analyze your plan to find out what is working, what is not working and why it is not working.

A plan is not etched in stone. It is subject to change. As time goes on, things change in this world and businesses like everyone else are subject to change. A good plan will reflect changes that a company has to make to keep it competitive and successful.

Where can you find samples of a business plan for a small business? If you go into any of the search engines such as Google or Bing and type in “samples of a business plans for a small business” you will find websites with this information.

This is why it is important that a small business should have a business plan. If you look at those small businesses that are successful, you will find that most of them all started with and have a plan for their business.

Business Planning

The Three Main Elements Of Business Planning

Every day, millions of businesses spring up, both online and offline. These businesses run the gamut of categories, from spas to sneaker stores, accounting firms and accessory websites. Business planning is the first step in creating a secure future for your company.

Creating a Plan For Your Business

Writing a plan is the first stage of business planning. As the name suggests, a business plan is a roadmap for the direction of your company. While many owners fail to write such a plan, it is an essential step in the growth of your company. It helps you to forecast and problems that may develop in the course of business. Think of it as a contingency plan. If you are planning to apply for commercial real estate or bank loans, you will need to demonstrate proper planning for your business.

A business plan contains several main elements. First, it lays out the mission and the goal of the business. The plan will spell out whether your company is in business to serve a greater good or simply to fulfill an unmet need. Determine whether your business will serve other businesses or supply products to consumers. These are all important elements that should be included.

It does not have to be long or overly complicated. It simply has to have the elements required to put your goals into action. Developing a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) will help you to identify problems before they start. Craft your own or hire a business writer to create a dynamic plan that will guide your operations. An effective plan is one of the most important elements over overall business forecasting.

Creating a Marketing Plan

Similar to a business plan, the marketing plan spells out how you will market to new customers and retain current ones. The marketing plan should identify your target customers and develop a strategy to reach them effectively. Your marketing plan usually includes market research that gives you a profile of the ideal customer. As with your other plan, it is important to identify any strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that may affect your company’s operations.

Your marketing efforts do not have to be expensive. In many cases, companies that don’t have marketing plans spend more than is necessary to reach their customers. With a plan that will spell out the ways you will market your company, you will save money and energy on your business marketing efforts. Creating an effective marketing plan is one of the most crucial elements of planning for your business.

Succession Planning

Unless you plan to run your business for your entire life, you will need a plan of succession. If you are the only person who can run and operate your company, it is doomed to fail when you can no longer run it. Create a plan that will spell out what steps will be taken to either sell your company or hand it over to another manager. Develop a system that allows your business to be run without you. An operations manual that details the key components of running your company is the first step in succession planning. Consult an attorney about the legal aspects of either selling or transferring ownership of your company.

Planning is an important element of any successful company. By adequately planning for the direction of your business, you will enjoy business profit and success.