How to design a business plan you’ll actually USE!
If you’ve been in business long, chances are that you’ve had (or heard of) the experience of writing a Business Plan, only to have it filed in the bottom of a drawer never to see the light of day again.
I know I have.
But, you became an Entrepreneur because you have dreams right?
And as they say…
“A dream written down with a date becomes a goal.
A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan.
A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.”
― Greg Reid
So, it seems necessary then, that if you want to make your dreams come true, you need to create yourself a kick-a** way to keep your action on-track.
But, where to start if you’ve never created a plan or successful system that you’ve been able to stick to (or has created results for you)?
Understand what you need from the plan
There are a bunch of different types of Plan types out there.
- Traditional Business Plans
- Strategic Plans
- Pitch Decks (for pitching to investors)
- Promotion Plans
- Financial Plans (or forecasts)
- An Entrepreneur’s Action Plan (hint, make sure you read until this part!)
and I’m sure there are many others.
But what do YOU need from a plan, to help you achieve YOUR goals right now?
This is the most important question to ask before launching into creating a plan that doesn’t hit the mark (and will end up collecting dust).
What is the problem you are trying to achieve by having this plan?
For MOST people, it’s having a plan to help them achieve their goals (In which case I recommend an Action Plan which is the one I’ll cover last for you today).
But, let’s take a really brief look at the main types of plans, which might help you answer which type of plan (or plans) is right for you…
TRADITIONAL BUSINESS PLAN
- A traditional Business Plan consists of seven key components:
Design and development plan
Operations and management plan
Now, I don’t want to rag on traditional Business Plans, because they have their place – but personally, none of that terminology INSPIRES me as an entrepreneur.
(Most) People don’t find them very fun to create or use.
And it doesn’t sound like something that I’m necessarily going to plan my week around to set me up for ongoing success.
My experience of documents like these is that people write them and file them.
There’s definitely a place for them – e.g. they’re useful for going to the bank with. Or presenting to a board/leadership team for decision making.
But I haven’t met many businesses that successfully use these to shape the day to day goings on of their business – which is the part of the business we LIVE IN every day.
I believe the missing component in most of them is that they don’t go into detail of the systems you’re going to need to implement and monitor the plan day to day.
So, unless you actually need a formal plan like that to take to the bank, I don’t find them the best place to start for most busy entrepreneurs that I work with.
While a Business Plan tends to be aimed at making a business case for whether you have a business or not, discussing the business model, and financials, a Strategic Plan answers the question – where is our business going in the future?
I find that they often set the ‘tone’ and ‘direction’ for the business by asking what is our mission, our vision, our values? They are a nice to have document, but I still find that they are not usually working documents that get referred to as regularly as would be beneficial.
These are usually Plans that are presented as PowerPoint or Google Slide presentations and aimed at getting investment. If you’re wanting to get investment for your business, these will become a necessary document to create.
It’s unlikely that you’ll need one unless that’s the case for you though.
There are thousands of good templates available online if you Google “free Pitch Decks,” and you can even see the decks used by many rising stars such as Air BnB etc.
Promotion Plans are one that you should become very familiar with. In my opinion, every business needs a current Promotion Plan that they are working to drive their revenue. I’m going to cover Promotion Plans in a lot more detail in a few weeks time because I feel like they’re a second stage plan. So I won’t go into much detail here. Just make sure you subscribe so that get told when the two posts I’ve got coming up on how to do Promotion Planning go live.
These are something you also definitely should have in some form. A Financial Plan/Forecast is crucial for your business.
They play a few roles:
- Helping you know how much revenue the business needs
- Tracking the expenses
- If they’re set up right, they should be designed to help you work out your future cash flow and see when you might run into any problems (so that you can take proactive action).
If you don’t have a Financial Plan then I would recommend you speak to your accountant about the best way to do that for your business.
There are also some great DIY tools out there like Float App which work with your existing accounting systems to set you up with a Forecast within a few minutes.
ENTREPRENEURS ACTION PLANS
So, I’ve saved this one until last because it’s my favourite starting point for the majority of Entrepreneurs I come across and I want to go into more detail.
I find that the 3 Plans that MOST Entrepreneurs will need are:
- An Action Plan
- A Promotion Plan
- A Financial Forecast
But that everything stems from the Overall Action Plan.
So, let’s talk Action Plans… What’s the difference between this and all of the others?
To me, (and to my clients), an Action Plan is not just a document that you design once per year or two and file, but a SYSTEM designed to INSPIRE you and keep you ACCOUNTABLE daily, so that if you take the actions you worked out you need to, at the end of the time frame, you will have achieved success in your goals by default.
Wouldn’t it be GREAT if we were ALL achieving success by default?!
Many of the same fundamentals exist in the other types of plans, but I find that their terminology is a little different, and ultimately, an Action Plan is designed, well, for helping you take ACTION towards achieving that thing that made you become an Entrepreneur in the first place…
But here’s the thing – even though creating an Action Plan towards achieving your goals, is (in my opinion) one of the most valuable things you can do for your business (if not THE most valuable), not many of us are taught how to design and implement them properly.
With all my BOSS Testing recently I’ve discovered that this is a real need 9/10 of us (at least) have.
So, if you’re one of those 9 out of 10 people, I’d love to help you.
This week I’m going to cover setting the foundation for creating a plan you’ll actually use,
then next week I’ll cover the 7 things that every Action Plan needs to have.
By the end of this two-week series, my intention is that you have enough understanding of the components that you can go forth and begin working on your own kick-a** Action Plan.
Then I’ll cover the second stage plan – Creating a Promotion Plan to support you in achieving your bigger Action Plan.
Setting the foundation
Before you even get to the setting up your Action plan part, there is some groundwork I recommend you cover (or revisit) first so that the tone is set for your action plan.
This prework is designed to get you clear, focused and INSPIRED.
It defines your goals that you’ll go forth and build your Action System around.
I’m of the opinion that it’s worth taking the time on getting this foundation right. If you don’t feel clear, excited and a little nervous about the goals you’ve set, then chances are you need to go back and do a bit more work on them.
To set up your foundation, I invite you to ask yourself 4 questions:
What is your WHY?
E.g- why are you even doing this? Your why sits above everything else and shouldn’t be taken for granted. If you aren’t clear on your why, or you don’t have a strong enough why, then when times get tough it will be easy to quit taking action and throw the towel in on your plan. So, set yourself up for success and really dig down into WHY you’re doing it?
WHAT are you even offering?
E.g. What solution are you offering to your clients/customers? What is your irresistible offer to your customers that will set you apart from everyone else? If you’re not clear on what you offer and what makes you different from everyone else, then your customers won’t be either. Other vital WHAT questions include; What is the profit you need to earn from this? What are your expenses going to be? That will give you the answer to what will your gross revenue need to be.
WHO are you designing this for and WHO do you need to make it happen?
As part of working out your WHO, you need to explore who your ideal customers are? Then Who is your ideal team to bring this plan to life? Who can you partner with to make this happen? What role do they each play?
HOW will you make it happen?
Now that you know why, what and who, your how can be developed – which is the foundation for your action plan. Your HOW needs to answer; how are you going to take this to market? How does your business model need to be set up? What time frames are you working with? What needs to be created to achieve/make all of your awesome ideas happen?
Now that you know the answer to all of those, you can start to form your Action Plan for achieving it.
Go through the different plan types and consider which plans your business NEEDS right now to help it achieve your business goals.
If you’ve decided that you need an Action Plan then your second ACTION item for the week is to go and answer the foundation questions so that you’re prepared for the work you’ll need to do after next week’s post.
Here are my tips:
- Keep your answers simple but write them all down.
- Use a blank sheet of paper for each of the four parts and just brain dump.
- It’s best if you write rather than type. You can transfer it all to your computer later.
- Setting yourself a time limit of 5 or 10 minutes max per question can really help you become super focused and creative too.
Want a step by step guide to working out your plan?
About the author:
Kat Soper is the Founder and Head Trainer of The Helpful Academy Online Business School.
Kat is passionate about helping start-ups and small businesses succeed and achieve their business goals so that they can achieve the lifestyle they desire (and deserve).