Do you have a Business Plan? Congratulations, but you are in a small minority. And if you have a plan, is it integral to your business, and instrumental to its growth? If the answer to this question is yes, then you need to read no further. However, most business owners who actually go to the trouble to write a business plan have left it languishing on their bottom shelf, gathering dust! This is the dirty little secret of business consultants.
Most business consultants are only interested in selling their time or their ‘Business Plan in a Box’ but knows that for a business plan to be useful, it has to be part of a Business Management System. But this is a much harder proposition for the consultant to sell, particularly to small business owners who are just looking for a quick fix. So most consultants just sell a quick fix solution- a business plan that they know will, within months, end up on the bottom shelf. Once owners have prepared their “fill in the blanks” plan, they expect it to transform their business overnight just by its mere existence. And because this does not happen, they never look at it again.
Business Plans do work, but you have to make them work. It is not a one-off exercise. If you buy a ‘Business Plan in a Box’, you need to understand that you are responsible for maintaining the plan. You also need to satisfy yourself that the product you buy is not just a fill in the blanks product. These plans always end up on the bottom shelf. They don’t show you how to do your strategic analysis (which is never a fill in the blanks exercise- no matter what someone tells you).
Business Planning is a real soul searching exercise for the business owner. You have to be brutally honest with yourself. Even if you prepare your plan yourself (without a coach), get someone else involved to keep you honest! Looking at examples of what others have done can help, but your business will have different strengths and weaknesses and will operate in a different marketplace. And lastly, make sure any off-the-shelf product you choose will show you how to implement your plan into your business.
When you use a consultant, insist that they show you how the plan should be implemented into your business process. And have the consultant give you at least one review of your performance against your plan six months after the plan has been delivered. While this will cost you extra, this will ensure that your plan does not end up on the bottom shelf- because you know you will be held to account!
Business Planning is not an easy process. It takes time and commitment. You don’t just do it once. This is not what business owners want to hear, and what most consultants won’t tell you, because it might cost them a sale. But the rewards from a well implemented business plan are worth many times your investment.