Develop Your Business, Not Just Your Business Plan

I’m still long-term frustrated with how many people lose the potential steering and management benefits of business planning because they focus on the plan as document instead of the planning as management. With that in mind, and in honor of Global Entrepreneurship Week 2009, I did a webinar Nov. 19 on the theme in the title of this post. Here is the recording:

If for any reason you don’t see the video here, you can also click here to go directly to the source, a playlist on YouTube.

There’s an important point I’m trying to make. Don’t dismiss business planning as part of your business life just because you don’t want (or have) to do a formal business plan document. Most of us running businesses don’t have to do a formal document. We do, however, want to do our business as well as we can.

It doesn’t have to be the big formal plan you avoid because it sounds hard. Keep it simple, just big enough to manage and steer your business. Write it down so you can track progress and make course corrections. But maybe you never print it; just leave it on your computer.

Here are five main components:

1. Define success

Be realistic. And recognize that success is different for different people. Is it about getting financed, growing big, becoming rich? Or is it doing what you like to do, while making enough to get by? Independence? Wealth? It’s not nearly as simple and uniform as sales growth, profits, and cash flow. Start with that.

2. Focus

You can’t do everything. You can’t please everybody. Focus on your keys to success, and your core competence. Focus on a well defined target market, and know who isn’t in your market, and why not. Strategy is a lot about what you’re not doing.

3. Understand the steps

Break it down into the steps you’ll need to take. What has to happen? How do you get to that success? What will it take. Define some key points, milestones.

4. Put it into specifics

Think about metrics and measurement so you can track progress. Lots of numbers and dates. Task assignments, responsibilities.

5. Follow up and manage

Track your plan. Set regular review points, look at plan vs. actual results, and make course corrections.

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