Are you planning to fail your business?

No-one goes into business planning to fail – do they? I was reading some quotations yesterday and one from Michael Gerber really got me thinking,

“Why is it that with all the information available today on how to be successful in small business, so few people really are?”

In this enlightened communications age we have all the answers and advise on business best practice easily accessible, yet we still blunder headlong into the unknown with the kiwi catch phrase “she’ll be right mate” on hand to justify our lack of direction. The old saying fail to plan, plan to fail is unnervingly accurate in business and sadly a primary factor in the failure or failed potential of many ventures. All the information in the world is of little use to anyone unless it is verified, filtered, and recorded in an easy to reference and easier to follow road map.

I have had the good fortune to be CEO of a large business organisation that trained and networked with a wide cross section of the business community. I am still a business mentor, volunteering my time to give advice and assistance to those evolved enough to seek it. I’ve even had the honour on a number of occasions to be a judge at regional business and export awards, digging deep into what makes successful business tick. What does makes the thriving business stand out from the mediocre is they know what they are doing, why they are doing it and who has the responsibility for making this happen. Simply put they have a strategy (Direction) and a business plan (Actions) that support it. Sustainable growth and development can only be achieved by structured and formal planning that is committed to paper and revisited often.

Many businesses may have done a token business plan during start up phase to appease their bank manager or accountant, this they would have then filed and never given a second glance. Even fewer have even contemplated, yet attempted a formal strategic planning process, dismissing this as something done by “big business”.

Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) are a significant contributor to employment and the New Zealand economy. Being small gives them an advantage over larger businesses in that they can react to market, consumer, fiscal and environmental changes much quicker than their generously proportioned counterparts. Change can be seen by some as threatening and challenging, but executed correctly it is an opportunity. This can only be realised or even contemplated when business finances, processes and staffing are carefully monitored, evaluated and maintained in readiness for this opportunity.

Business Plan vs Strategic Plan

Writing a business plan is different from strategic planning. A business plan is developed when something new is proposed – a business or a product/service line within a business. Strategy looks to growth while business planning looks to beginnings.

Without a strategy your business has no direction. While strategic planning shouldn’t be all you do in your business, it should be an integral part of it. Every action taken should fit with the direction you want the business to go – so every action should be in alignment with your strategy. That means every employee knows the strategy and understands their part in making it happen – and in helping change it, if that is needed. No strategy should be set in stone. It needs to be revisited and revised at regular intervals, again related to how quickly your industry is changing.

It is not possible to do justice to the right and wrongs of the planning process. The message here is it must be done, and done sooner than later. Search online or seek the advice of a professional to assist you through the strategic planning process. The latter is probably preferable if your budget allows given an independent facilitator can give impartial and non-emotive advice to help you step back and address the real issues associated to the development of you business. And you must be involved throughout the process, if you aren’t committed and passionate about the direction of your business no-one else is going to be.

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