“Most business plans aren’t worth a thing – they’re false security! I’ve never had one!
Broke people who want to be rich seek business plans.”*
I saw this quote on one of the social networks this week and noticed that it generated quite a few hoorahs! After pondering for a little while about whether to respond as the lone dissenting voice, I decided against it. For those who found encouragement from that quote, my comments about the value of business plans would have been counter-productive . So I ended up here instead, trusting that others seeking a more balanced view will appreciate my thoughts on the matter.
Do you really need a business plan?
Flying by the seat of your pants is fine for some people especially very intuitive people. While intuition is useful to have in business, relying solely on it is a very risky strategy. It is a gamble.
I believe that the problem with many business plans isn’t the business plan itself as is implied by the quote but with how you approach the whole process. A business plan is merely a way to document and articulate your vision, to provide guidance and structure so you don’t get lost and overwhelmed. I’ve never known it to provide security per se since it still requires you to execute the plan, but if done properly, it can provide you confidence. Confidence that your idea is sound, your goals achievable and it can help you prepare for potential obstacles which reduces your risk.
The author of this quote is probably quite successful and if you look far and wide enough you will find many successful businesses who didn’t have business plans but I am certain that they will have one thing in common and that is clarity of vision and in that clarity comes knowing the core purpose of your business, its values, who you are trying to reach, what are you offering, what need you are meeting, why your offering is different or better, how you are going to get your message across. So effectively, their intuition has produced their business plan. It just wasn’t documented in a traditional way.
Are business planning templates of any use?
Traditional business plans don’t work for everyone. Unless there is an external imperative, usually banks or investors, there is no need to conform to business plan templates. Templates are guides. If you don’t know where to start, they are there to give you ideas, not to prescribe how you should do one.
One thing to remember about business plans is that they are live documents. That means that they need updating. When you first produce a business plan, you do it with the best knowledge that you have at the time. So if you have better information at a later stage, your business plan should reflect this new or revised information.
“My business plan doesn’t work for me”
Don’t throw away your business plans just yet. If you have one that isn’t working for you, it’s time to revisit it and perhaps get professional guidance with the process. If your business plan doesn’t work for you, there is probably a fundamental problem with it.
An example that comes to my mind is a business that I once came across that had a technically perfect business plan. It had everything that you would expect to see in a business plan and if you were doing a university assignment on business plans, it would probably have received a good score. However, this business plan wasn’t an assignment. It was a real plan for a real business except that it didn’t really reflect the business. It didn’t reflect the unspoken risks the business faced. It avoided all the issues the business owner didn’t want to know about, and so while it was technically perfect, it was also fundamentally flawed.
To say a business plan is useless is akin to a carpenter blaming his tool!
If you’ve never had a business plan, and don’t feel you need one because your business is performing as you expected, then well and good. If however, your business isn’t working out as it should, would it not worth considering that the process of developing a business plan may help steer you in the right direction and uncover some blind spots?
- Business Planning – Clarifying your vision
- Why bother with a business plan?
- Reconnect with your business
- What the SWOT?
* Link to quote source