If you’re self-employed—you need a business plan. Whether you’re an independent contractor, solo-preneur, or oversee a five million dollar operation with 50 employees—you know you should have a business plan. You may even have one…you just haven’t looked at it for three years. The question is, why don’t you have a plan or use the one you have?
If you’re not using your plan, it may be too complicated for your immediate needs. There’s a time and place for a complete business plan as outlined here by the Small Business Administration – How to Write a Business Plan. If you’re presenting to investors, seeking funds from financial institutes, or applying to government agencies you’ll need a complete plan, but it might not be what you need to navigate your business day-to-day.
Why Don’t You Use Your Plan?
• There’s little or no flexibility. If your business plan isn’t adaptable to change, if it doesn’t respond to opportunities and threats it may not be what you need to plan your next step.
• It’s not your plan. You hired a consultant or agency to “help” you devise a plan and at the time it sounded good, but the reality is… it’s not your reality.
• Your priorities have changed. A couple of years ago it was what you wanted, but things have changed. Your business has changed, and so have you.
Why Don’t You Have a Plan?
• You’ve convinced yourself you don’t need a business plan—you’re not big enough, or you’re doing fine without it.
• You looked into it, but it was too time consuming and complicated.
• You discussed it with a consultant, but it was too expensive.
You may not need a full blown business plan with an executive summary, organizational chart, market analysis, and company description to give your business direction. Don’t get me wrong, a complete well executed business plan has its place, but it may not be what you need to guide your business day in and day out. For that, you may need a simpler, more direct, and flexible plan.
What’s the Answer?
• What do you want to achieve and how will you measure it? How do you define success? Whether its adding clients, gaining market share, or increasing margins, determine what you want.
• How will you get there? Determine what activities you’ll need to ramp up, repeat, discontinue, or improve.
• Adjust it as needed. Review your business plan at the rate of change in your business. This may sound like overkill, but if your business changes daily—look at your plan daily. For most, a monthly review of the plan will suffice.
• KISS (keep it simple, stupid). This is your daily business guide, not your official send-this-to-the-bank business plan. This plan should take minutes, not hours, to review.
By determining what you want, the activities that will get you there, and consistently reviewing and adjusting, you can develop a business plan that works for you. When’s the last time you looked at your business plan?