Let’s cut to the chase: we hate traditional business planning. Frankly, it’s a waste of time.
You end up with a 20 page document including your:
- Executive summary
- Company overview
- Products or services
- Market analysis
- Risk assessment
- Marketing and sales plan
- Progress reporting
- Finance strategy
You’re never going to look at that again. Are you?
…and if you do, the milestones you’re looking to hit won’t be hit if the finances don’t come together. One part of the plan falling down can put the rest into disarray.
The alternative is something like the One Page Plan:
This option is quicker and easier to put together, but in our experience it still gets forgotten about and isn’t executed in a deliberate fashion.
It does feel good to put one together, though. It feels like progress in and action. In reality, it’s an excuse for inaction if you don’t drive improvements from the plan.
We do something a little different in our business. It comes down to (a) understanding direction, (b) agreeing a plan, and (c) accountability to that plan.
What we do instead of business planning
Our alternative has three phases:
- Developing our strategy
- Deciding our priorities
- Reviewing and resetting
This keeps things simple, quick, and fluid. We don’t spend days writing 20 page novels which simply gather dust. We don’t spend time debating values or crafting mission statements.
It’s simple — write the plan, agree on the actions, and check back in.
1. Developing our strategy
Most people know these three steps. They simply haven’t put pen to paper and written it down.
For us, this explains why we bother coming to work each day, our values, and what we do best.
Why we come to work is clear. It’s certainly not doing accounts, and it’s not earning money (I know, odd coming from an accountant, but that comes as the byproduct). It’s educating people. The more we educate, the more we can grow our customers. The more they grow, the more people they can employ, and in turn provide more opportunities for more families.
As a business owner, without knowing why I bother to get out of bed, coming to work can become a drag. Day in, day out, more fires to put out – there’s no fun in that.
Once we’ve got that sorted, we turn to articulating our values. These aren’t things like honesty, reliability or answering the phone. They’re all a given. If the value your driving your business towards is honesty then you’ve got problems.
To us, a value isn’t a value unless you can logically argue an alternative perspective. Going back to honesty, you can’t logically argue that you should be dishonest. Instead, a value could be something like ‘our people first’. You could easily argue against that – some might want to put their customers first. We can then use our values to guide decisions. If the question is ‘should we spend time putting together a newsletter’? Yes, because it fits with a value.
Next, we quickly note what we’re good at. By knowing our strengths, we can play to them, and get the right people doing the right thing. I’m know I’m better at big picture than the detail, so I play to that. Conversely, Eugenie is exceptional at the detail, so she takes care of that.
All that takes 2 hours to put together (maximum), and half a third of a piece of paper.
2. Deciding our priorities
We now know what we’re good at, our values, and why we bother getting out of bed. This gives us a good inkling on what the business will grow into over the next five years.
Working backwards, we can identify what we need to achieve each year for the next five years to execute on the strategy (again, high level and very broad). For us, the theme next year is refinement. It’s making sure that everything we do now is robust enough to scale and handle more customers without dropping service levels. This fits with our overall strategy of educating people – refinement will let us educate double the number of customers (over time).
With this theme (refinement) we’re breaking it into specific, actionable steps we can work through. Previously, this has driven us to document internal processes, build clear career guidelines, and rebrand. The high level becomes specific, yet not detailed or a burden to put together.
3. Reviewing and resetting
Take our rebrand as an example. That’s a project which took more work than I ever could have expected. Projects like that often fall by the wayside, and ultimately would have held us back from achieving our business plan. To keep on track, we’ve developed a planning rhythm that we work to.
- Sharing our plan (and actionable steps) with external advisors so they can hold me accountable
- Sharing our plan internally, so we can hold each other accountable
- An annual planning day with the team to ensure we all buy in and all contribute towards executing the plan
- Clear 90-day plans with specific, actionable steps, to push through the plan
- 90-day resets to see if the plan we set at the start of the year is still valid, and adjusting as needed
The 90-day resets involve our external advisors. They keep us in check and kick us appropriately when needed.
Who you share it with is up to you, they just need to have permission and be comfortable to challenge your thinking and progress. Tip – your spouse isn’t usually a good person for this, it’s a sure-fire way to end up in separate bedrooms. Instead, share it with a business advisor who understands growing a business, like your accountant.
Our review and resetting process creates a rhythm which makes sure we follow the plan (and adjust as needed). This prevents our strategy become stale and irrelevant.
The alternative is moving from day to day and fighting the similar fires consistently. Worse, it saves you from writing a 20-page business plan which simply gathers dust.
So, in short:
- Identify why you bother going to work, and your values (not just honesty)
- Create an annual theme, and then identify specific projects which will drive the theme
- Share your plan
- Review and reset
- Share your plan again
So, what’s your plan for the coming twelve months?
If you need a hand to make a start, or need someone to hold you accountable, then get in touch. We’re happy to help guide you through the process.
Otherwise, check out our Business Health Check – take the lessons learned by other businesses and apply them in yours.