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Answer - no. Like many things in business the output is less important than what happens to you as a result of going through the process.
Business planning is a tool to help you build and steer your business.
What matters is the thinking that goes into creating the plan.
There are lots of templates for the actual written document but I'd say simply capture on paper what makes sense to you and what is most useful to you going forward.
The document itself is useful only in that it's a snapshot of the current situation, what you believe at the current time and why. And does therefore have a role to play when it comes to reviewing performance and results at a later date.
Did what you plan to happen actually happen? Did your assumptions hold true? Has your market or the environment changed? Has your business changed?
Trying to think back, even a few months, to when you set a specific goal and remember the basis on which you set it is pretty tricky and a sure way to start an argument among colleagues or trigger uncertainty in yourself.
In my experience many people seek the plan itself the output like they would seek the Holy Grail. They say things like "We need a business plan can you help us produce one?"
They usually say it when things feel a bit out of control or they hit a sticky patch.
So, what they really want is the experience of going through (or being guided through) a planning process and the insights and clarity that such an experience brings.
If you're currently thinking about business planning either starting from scratch or overhauling your current approach, here are my 6 top tips.
- Avoid over complicating it and adopt a really simple planning process for example see Tim Berry's videos here or check out his latest book The Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan.
- Work with someone who can help you test out your thinking. When you can explain your plan to them in about 10 minutes and they understand what you are up to, then you are off to a good start. Their questions and feedback will be invaluable.
- If you can find a business coach who offers the type of support I do, then obviously I'd say engage them if your budget allows. It'll bring you expertise and save you precious time. And remember you're looking for someone to guide and support you. Avoid anyone who offers to write your plan for you because that is missing the point. A rehashed boilerplate plan written by someone else is of no use. You want the experience of working through a planning process with someone who knows how to get the best out of you!
- Otherwise, or as well as, consider teaming up on 'buddy' basis with another business person who you trust and work through the process together, taking turns at 'coaching' each other.
- Write up only what is useful to you it's your plan and it should be written for you (unless you are doing this for external funding).
- Keep the planning process going by monitoring your results and reviewing and fine tuning things regularly.
What you are aiming for here is to adopt a way of working that helps you manage your business successfully on a day-to-day basis over the long term.
Let me know how it goes!
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