Start with a Plan

Posted on Feb 2, 2012

As we get into the routine of the new year, many business owners are focused on planning for the year ahead. But let’s be honest – writing a business plan is not always that exciting!

Sometimes it can turn into another piece of time consuming admin or you mightn’t know where to start or what to include.

There’s no doubt that a good business plan can define the direction of your business and help you achieve your goals. However, to be effective, a business plan must be a simple and actively used document that’s updated regularly. And it doesn’t need to be difficult to put together!

Here are some tips for writing a business plan:

1.  Make it a constantly evolving document – the market doesn’t stay static and nor should your business plan. Check it regularly and update as needed.

2.  Keep it short – don’t fill it with lots of data – it should simply summarise your plans for the year ahead and how you’re going to get there – a couple of pages can easily achieve this!

3.  Back it up with data – to arrive at your business plan you will need to refer to historical and current business data. However, there’s no need to store this in your business plan – just record where you can find it for future analysis.

4.  Analyse your business and the market – A SWOT analysis (ie: strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities) is often used in business planning and it’s a very good tool. It identifies the areas you can leverage off to your advantage and where you need to minimise risk. Whilst these items might seem straight forward, sometimes just writing them down can alert you to new possibilities and ensure you don’t miss anything.

5.  Get out of the office – you need to have a clear head, away from distractions so that you can gain a fresh perspective and plan. Use business planning as an excuse to take a break – that way you are also more likely to enjoy it! Personally I like to work on my business plan in a coffee shop.

6.  Reward Yourself – consider how you will reward yourself, your staff and your family for achieving your goals – it helps get everyone excited about your business plan!

7.  Enlist help – if you are still struggling to sit down and do your plan ask someone you trust to be your “business planning buddy”.

Finally, remember that a business plan is only effective if you use it. A large document sitting on a shelf, no matter how well researched and compiled, isn’t going to help you achieve your goals. Try not to over-think it – just start with some notes on paper and your business plan will soon evolve. Happy Planning!