How do absolute business fundamentals relate to planning fundamentals? I really believe that's a critical question. Business planning has to relate to the real business principles.
I can think of five key business fundamentals that should underlie good business planning:
- It's about results. It's not planning for the sake of truth or beauty. It's not planning for the sake of the document, or formatting. It is about what you need to improve, manage, and plan your business.
- Form follows function. What's included in a business plan isn't necessarily anything more than what you need to understand and manage your business strategy (the heart) and work out what's supposed to happen when, and how much it costs, how much it brings in, and who's in charge of it (the flesh and bones). It might never get off of your computer. Or, if you need a so-called business plan, or a summary memo, or presentation, or elevator speech, then that is output from the plan on your computer. It's not the plan, it is output from the plan.
- Metrics and tracking equal accountability. Plans should be concrete and specific. How will you know, after time goes on, whether or not you are implementing your plan? That's a matter of things you can measure, and having the discipline to measure them, and track them. And the result, when it's done right, is accountability.
- Planning assumes change. You don't plan the next year so you know what to do regardless of what happens. No, instead of that, you plan the next year so you know what the plan was as you track results, and changing assumptions, and then manage that plan.
- Planning isn't accounting. Accounting starts today and goes backwards into time, in ever increasing detail. Planning starts today and goes forward into time, in ever increasing aggregation. The tables look the same, but the concepts are very different. Furthermore, while accounting is about profits, planning is about cash flow.
That idea became last Monday's webinar called Back to Fundamentals, which I gave as a free contribution to Global Entrepreneurship Week, and which Palo Alto Software is now rolling out on the Web in four 10-12 minute segments, one per day, plus a final one for questions and answers.
Before I tell you where to click to view those recordings, I should warn you that you have to input an email address, or the click doesn't work. Having said that, you can click here to get to the page and then you add your email address and click the "watch the video" button to view it.