Why Shorter is Better in Business Planning

As first seen in the Coffs Coast Advocate.

When you close your eyes and envision a good business plan, do you see a lot of pages, big words and complicated numbers? Do you figure that the more pages and the fancier the words, the better the plan? Do you tell yourself that a business plan is for bigger businesses with the time and resources to create a weighty document?

It’s time to rethink business planning.

A good plan is short

Conventional wisdom, and quite a few bank managers, would have us believe that a good business plan requires at least 30 pages filled with bar graphs and pivot tables. Wrong!

The primary purpose of your business plan is to help you run your business. To do this you need to scape away all the fluffy words and pretty pictures and get to the heart of where you want to go and what you are going to do to get there.

The shorter your plan, the greater the clarity, the more helpful it becomes in charting a path forward.

A good plan focuses on only a few goals

The secret to good planning is focus. It’s easy to come up with a laundry list of great ideas and initiatives. That’s a daydream, not a plan. To turn your wish list into a genuine action plan you must identify the ideas and initiatives that are most likely to take your business in the direction you want to go.

We recommend that you identify no more than 3 or 4 key goals and then create a detailed action plan for each of these goals.

A good plan can be changed

At the end of the day, your business plan is built on your very best guess. No matter how good you are at forecasting sales and anticipating the economy and the competition, sometimes you are going to get it wrong. Over time you are going to learn and your business will evolve and change.

Your business plan needs to be dynamic. If your plan is the size of a telephone book you will never get around to changing. This means either you are stuck clinging to a plan that is no longer suitable or your business veers off into unplanned, uncharted waters.

But what about the bank?

The bank is going to want those pretty pictures and big words, I hear you say.

In fact, a short, focused plan is great for potential investors, banks included. It enables them to quickly understand the business idea and lets them know that you are clear about your business direction.

It’s true that when you are applying for a bank loan or a government grant, you may be expected to use a specific (and longer) format for your business plan. Think of this as an application. If you have a clear, concise plan you won’t find it difficult to fill in the forms.

MJA Business Solutions is offering one lucky Coffs Coast business owner some help in getting their business plan together, with a chance to win 3 sessions with a business coach. Go to www.mjabusiness.com.au/business-planner to enter.

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