How to Write Your Business Plan, 2019 Style
By Tim Berry,
Are you thinking about starting a business in 2019? This is a good time to go over the essentials of how to write, review, and manage your business plan. Like so much else in business, the business plan has evolved with technology and changing business standards.
I have dealt with business planning as a main focus since the 1980s. It’s still my main focus, but what works, and best practices, are always changing. This post is about the latest in business planning, not the standard or traditional.
SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Most healthy businesses work towards collections of goals. A good business plan revolves around SMART goals.
I want to emphasize specific and measurable in this context. We business owners often imagine goals like “great customer service” or “being the best of breed.” Those generalities are not specific, not measurable, and not very useful. Actual management takes tracking, comparing results to expectations, and dealing with actions and causes. All of which should be part of a business plan and the process of frequent review and revision.
Also, attainable. I dealt with business plans as an expensive consultant first, for a couple of decades; and then as business owner for another couple of decades. I have seen first-hand that unrealistic goals don’t actually work for getting things done. They reduce incentive. In my experience, people identity with goals they can reach.
Planning, Not Just a Plan
As you do your business plan, think not of the old-fashioned formal plan but rather the planning, a process of setting goals and tracking progress. It’s not just a single plan, but rather an ongoing process that starts with a first lean business plan and keeps that lean plan refreshed and up to date using regular tracking, plan review, and revision.
This frame of mind makes the business plan easier to do because it’s always more like a latest draft than a finished product. Don’t postpone life or business for planning. Always be planning. Start with a simple plan that just covers your main goals or what you focus on first. Don’t sweat making it perfect. Just get it started. There is no such thing as a perfect business plan, and the closest anybody comes is a plan that helps you manage by laying out goals, tracking results, and highlighting the progress and problems along the way.
Whatever your initial plan, make sure you revisit every month. Review progress, analyze results, and make course corrections.
Do Only What You’ll Use
The web, blogs, business books, and business courses are full of recommended business plan outlines and recommended contents. The SBA site hosting this post has several. Common recommendations include summary, company description, product or service, management team, exit strategy, marketing, financing and so forth.
What I recommend is that you develop your own plan contents based on what you are actually going to use, track, and follow through with to optimize your business. For example:
In addition, it’s important to avoid doing the traditional parts of a business plan that you won’t use. If you aren’t doing a plan to describe your business to outsiders such as bankers or investors, then don’t bother to describe in text what you already know. Leave out descriptions like management team or exit strategy and just keep the specific trackable attainable goals that drive those concepts.
A Practical Summary
In brief, here’s how to put this in practice, for your business, during the National Do A Business Plan month of December: