Best Made Business Plans Flex and Evolve
The old aphorism fail to plan, plan to fail is true in all walks of life. It is particularly true for business plans if you wish to survive and thrive long term.
Plans provide structure and enable action towards common goals. By identifying key performance indicators, they permit measurement towards those aims and through understanding what the kpi’s show, enable adjustments in time, resource or scope.
The best business plans combine longer term strategic aims with the tactical plans to enable those aims to be achieved. The former might be 1 to 3 or 5 years in timescale; the latter anything from an hour to a year.
Just having a plan does not mean it will succeed. In politics at the moment, it seems that each day brings a new plan. The election demanded 3 months ago but not wanted on the Monday, now is the aim on Tuesday.
To work effectively a plan must be trusted by those executing it and the target audience receiving it. A feint manoeuvre works because those executing know it’s a false attack to draw attention, but pursue it rigorously so those receiving also believe it to be real. Without that believability all that happens is the competition is alerted that there will be an attack elsewhere.
Brevity not Baffling
The best operational business plans are short. Business plans to gain funding are typically big detailed volumes to prove that all risks have been considered and minimised in ways acceptable to funders. Volumes sit on shelves; short plans are read and remembered.
In the 90’s one very successful conglomerate believed that all business plans shouldn’t be longer than a year. If the business was not in a better position in a year’s time, it didn’t deserve to survive. This however is too short term for most businesses to create a stable business able to withstand multiple shocks.
While a strategic plan may have 5-year objectives, its focus should be on what needs to happen in the next 2. In an increasingly complex world, no-one can accurately predict what will change over the next 5 years. A business plan is therefore about the strategic choices that need to be made now and laid out in definitive way without multiple sub-clauses. If your aim is to be number 1 by market share in 5 years’ time say it. Then act on making it top 10 this year.
A clear business plan enables an organisation to flex and still hold true to the direction of travel. If you fail to make the top 10, but have achieved the turnover and profit aims expected, is that really failure? Particularly if in doing so you have established strong bases for future expansion. What should evolve is the next six months of the rolling tactical plan to ensure that the opportunities are optimised and the foreseeable threats reduced, to enable the planned growth to continue.