“Build a business plan” is arguably the single most prevalent piece of advice given to budding entrepreneurs. Most business plans I review however argue against Dwight D. Eisenhower who said “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
Most of the plans I read are check-the-box exercises. Their authors view the process as one more line on their task lists. Their mindset is, “just get it done. I have important things to do! Check that line off the task list, put the plan on a shelf, and move on to more valuable concerns.”
Or the plans demonstrate that their author bought a bill of goods that having a business plan is essential to obtain financing. Do you recognize this ad?
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It is commonly accepted advice that businesses should create business plans.
Why is the advice to create a business plan so prevalent? It is so prevalent because the overwhelming majority of highly effective and successful organizations have realized their effectiveness through the recurring development, modification, and adaptation of business plans. Scholars and students of successful organizations recognize the correlation and are quick to conclude that these plans are core to success.
The problem begins when well meaning counselors and advisers hold the plan up as the indispensable component and allow the planning to be considered a useless part. This then sets the goal on a completed plan, at the expense of the planning process.
Get it all with no effort
Come over here, the hawker cries. “I can give you a complete business plan for the low fee of $200, and all you have to do is answer a few simple questions.”
Get it all with no effort; that is the mantra. Alas, a business plan on your shelf, regardless of how fancy it is typeset and bound, is not a success catching talisman. P T Barnum said “There is a sucker born every minute.” I don’t suppose that these hawkers are purposefully preying on unwitting dreamers. I do suppose however that naive budding entrepreneurs too easily accept the advice that the bound plan is the magically endued talisman. They hear, from respectable advisers, that having a business plan will prove that they are legit enough to draw investors.
The plan is the byproduct
It is the act of planning, the researching, the reviewing, the consulting, and the conversing that equips the planner to succeed. Do not short change yourself, or your organization. When the hawker comes at you with an easy template run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit.
What is a budding entrepreneur to do? As a skilled craftsman or woman, few have been trained to build a business plan.
Seek counselling and advice; this is absolutely the right move. Look however for an adviser who wants to learn what you do, how you sell, and where you conduct commerce. Most important, look for an adviser who insists on learning the why and the what. Why do you want a business plan, and what do you intend to do with it.
Question anyone who would promise you a one day, or other quick solution. At Eagles’ Wings we counsel our clients to spend time on the plan. You don’t measure the quality of a fine wine by how hard you press the grapes. Similarly, you shouldn’t measure a business plan’s grade by the intensity of effort. In both cases, look to the fermentation and aging process to produce the value.
Take another look at Winston Churchill’s famous statement:
“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
Churchill recognized that pulling a battle plan from a shelf of plans cannot produce success. Rules in the business world are every bit as intense and critical as they are in warfare. Pulling a plan off the shelf in hopes to maximize victory is guaranteed to be as useless for as business endeavor as it would be for an impending battle
Churchill understood that pulling the critical players, his Generals and Leaders, to the planning table allowed them and himself to investigate, consider, and plan for the impending idiosyncrasies.
So take your time, recognize that the real value is in the planning process. The plan is merely a byproduct. Call in assistance. We, at Eagles’ Wings Business Coaching are happy to recommend skilled experts.