Is a Business Plan The Secret To Success?

Originally published on the Generations FCU Blog

Should you have a carefully crafted business plan or not? According to William Hsu, co-founder at MuckerLab business plans are a waste of time. He has a point – as a start-up or small business, it isn’t necessary to spend weeks creating a plan that just sits on the shelf. I would argue that having a plan is better than not having one. The key is to treat your strategy and business plan as a “living” document and to have strategy sessions more often than at the end of the year, when you’re thinking about what to do for the upcoming year.

Here are a few tips to help you get your business into a practice of planning:

How to think about strategy – Think about strategy in small amounts or ideas rather than cramming it all into this “once a year” activity. Establishing time on a quarterly basis or every other month to review your ideas and thoughts about new services, new tactics or getting a leg up on the competition is good practice. You’ll start to naturally ideate more, go back to your list frequently to see what you can execute and brainstorm more with your team. Involve your team – don’t do this in a silo. You’re a small business and you need to leverage all of your resources. Get your staff involved.

A business plan or not? – I like having an outline or just a one-pager that communicates your vision. It’s not necessary to craft a long, formal business plan especially if you’re a start-up or small business with limited resources. Think about your long-term vision, where do you want to be in say, the next 5 years and what are the key areas you can tackle in the upcoming year? By doing this, you’ll have a document that you can share with employees, potential partners and more importantly you’ll be able to check yourself on what you were able to execute.

How to think about the competition – You always want to keep close tabs on what your competition is doing. Every consultant will tell you that a SWOT analysis is crucial to creating strategy. SWOT analysis are definitely worth the time but typically are too comprehensive for smaller businesses. Keep tabs on the competition and make it part of your routine. You probably won’t have time to document, so just hold a meeting every other month and assign competitors to your staff. They can report to the team what’s new and what you should be concerned about.

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