Do your Business Plans end up as SPOTS – The Fate of Most Business Plans?
Its business planning season again! While you were opening your Crimbo presents you were probably thinking of what you wanted to achieve in the coming year. You weren’t allowed to have your laptop open, so you wrote little notes to yourself on your phone so you didn’t forget them. And by now (or maybe in the next few weeks) you’ll grab a template off the internet (even though none of them are quite what you want) and build a brilliant business plan. And then you’ll use The Plan to drive your business and inform your key decisions and develop core strength.
Regrettably, no you probably won’t.
Sobering statistics are against you. A recent study showed that over 97% of Business Plans were never referred to again after completion. Tragic when one thinks of the hours that went into populating the crappy template, and banging away on a calculator (because you can’t trust Excel, can you!) to arrive at a set of numbers which in your heart of hearts you KNOW are totally unrealistic.
And SPOTS? Oh, that stands for Strategic Plans On Top Shelves…
Fail to Plan… Plan to Fail.
You’ve heard that old saying before I’m sure. Well here’s a new version “Plan and Fail Anyway!” Yup. It’s true. Look, people know they need business plans. That’s why Business Plan templates are the most searched for business item on Google. Nearly 360,000 searches per month.
But what happens? Why do so many of them never get used, once they’re written?
Simple, really. The Business Plan is not connected to the day to day running of the business. What do I mean?
Weird Tip Number 1. Make sure you embed business plan dates into your business life.
Example: You enter the due dates for components of the plan in your Outlook calendar… or phone… or whatever. And then you take the actions by, or on, that day! Then every month you and your team (or the cat if you don’t have a team) review overall progress against objectives and timelines, adjusting both as required.
The best business I ever worked for was transformed from a sleepy company in New Zealand into an international leader by a well-known figure from the advertising world, using the business planning process he had learned in the drinks business. (We shall call him Bob, for that, is not his name). It was a brutal awakening, but in less than 6 months the entire organisation had detailed plans and we were completely transforming the business.
And Bob would turn up unannounced to the various monthly divisional meetings which were embedded in the plan. And if the ENTIRE meeting wasn’t about the plan, results, red flags, and how it was to be adjusted to account for the unexpected, then it was somewhat uncomfortable for those at fault! We all learned very quickly.
So, make sure you embed your business plan achievement dates into your daily business life and your calendar.
Weird Tip No 2: Make sure your plan has measurable objectives.
Even croquet, that most diabolical and vicious lawn game played by genteel people, has objectives and a scoring system. And my point? An amazingly large number of business plans are long on “Omona” (as in “Omona sell lots more widgets next year to a whole bunch of new customers”) and VERY short on the detail. Which is why they are utterly useless!
I was in a meeting at company X where someone stood up and said to Bob “We need you to help with getting this very difficult change made because we’ve been trying for 2 years without success”. Bob said “Break it down. What EXACTLY do you want to achieve and by when? Now, what EXACTLY do you want me to do and by when?”
After a bit of anatomy scratching a very clear objective with performance measures was tabled for the first time in two years. A week later we all met again, and Bob said “My part is 100% done. Now I expect you to achieve your objectives in the same way. Make them specific and measurable… so I can compliment you when you’ve done a good job.” You could have heard the sweat beads forming!
Effective Business Plans– The Secret
So, there you have it. Build measurable objectives into your business plan, build review dates into your diary, and allocate some of the jobs to someone else, because you can’t do EVERYTHING yourself!! And join the 3% of wildly successful businesses who have learnt how to plan, take action, measure results, and celebrate their riotous success!
As Bob demonstrated all those years ago, once you measure it, you can move it. Because what gets measured, gets moved.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a business plan, or a study plan, or a plan for interstellar travel, it ain’t going nowhere without:
- Building an ACTION plan and building the milestones into your diary,
- Taking the actions,
- Measuring performance,
- Regularly reviewing that performance and progress against the overall objectives,
- Identifying red flags, and
- Developing potential workarounds.
We call it POTTIFOM: Plan On The Table In Front Of Me. But we are a little weird.