On Teaching Business With Business Plans

Remember that old saying about teaching people to fish, instead of giving them a fish? That applies to business planning as well: don’t give a person a business plan, help them do their own instead.

I’m in San Antonio Texas today attending the annual conference of the Association of Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC), where I did a workshop yesterday on using the business plan as a teaching tool. It reminds me how I got into this business planning specialty in the first place. It was because the business planning brings together everything that’s important in a business, from strategy to market to metrics to numbers.

All of which reminds me once again that what works to help people with business planning is to help them develop their own plan, to teach them how, rather than just to do a plan. What you want as an end result is somebody who can use planning process to run the business. It’s not about having a one-time-use document, it’s about planning over the long term, which means regular plan-vs.-actual review, course corrections, and management.

Keep it on the computer. Update it often. And when you need to show it to somebody, that document you print: that’s output, not the plan. It’s an image of what the plan was on the day that you printed it.

And, for teaching entrepreneurship, the business plan is a great way to give a student a full view of what it takes to start and grow a real business.

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