Still Planning to Plan?
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
That depends a good deal where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
I don’t much care where – “ said Alice.
Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
– Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
According to Business Matters magazine, www.bmmagazine.co.uk, May 1, 2015, something like 30% of UK small to medium-sized businesses don’t have a business plan. Certainly that would be consistent with much of my own experience of working with many SME businesses over the last 30 years.
Of course, you might question how valuable having a plan actually is! Who amongst us anticipated 9/11, the 2008 economic crash, frequent hardware and software security breaches, Mad Cow disease, SARS and now Covid-19? Who among us factored those major events into our strategic thinking and planning? Closer to home, did you anticipate the loss of that major customer, or the new competitor or technology that you simply didn’t see coming, and that overnight has disrupted your business? Perhaps planning really is just guessing?
Still, research commissioned by business and finance software provider Exact, April 10, 2014, suggests that SMEs that did have a business plan in place were consistently more profitable (70%) than those that did not (52%). It showed that those companies that had business plans in place were more than twice as successful in achieving those goals than those that did not (a 61% success rate v 31%).
So it appears that even though it’s extremely difficult to anticipate all the trends and events that are likely to impact your business over the next 3 to 5 years (and even the next 12 months), thinking strategically and making the time to properly plan your business increases the chance of success considerably!
So why are so many businesses still operating without written business plans?
It seems there are a number of reasons for this. The most common one I see is that business owners and managers are to busy working in their businesses to make the time to work on their businesses. The flame of operational fire fighting is too compelling! It’s where the action is! And in resource stretched SMEs, rolling up sleeves and getting “stuck in” often seems the only option.
But there are other reasons for the lack of business planning. Often it’s to do with a lack of knowledge, experience and confidence in how to think strategically and build a plan. How is a Business Plan constructed? When you take a quick look at what information, methodologies and frameworks are available online, it’s easy to become confused and daunted.
A third reason is a lack of discipline! Business planning is hard work. Even thinking through the fun stuff around Vision (or Ambition as I prefer to call it) can be difficult, because it requires the ability and a willingness to think outside the box – which is not that easy! Once key ideas are surfaced, making strategic choices is not that simple either. Finally, for the plan to be useful it needs to be executable. And that requires another level of detailed thinking, and a whole bunch of work! Little surprise then, that strategic thinking and business planning sessions get bumped into the long grass really quickly and management teams go back to doing what they’re often good at – operational fire fighting!
Other reasons exist too: “I’m not comfortable with numbers”; “It’s not necessary, I have the plan in my head”; “I’ve been in business a long time, we’ve never had a written business plan – I know what I’m doing”; “If I commit to a plan, then I’ll be held to it if we can’t deliver it”; “I don’t have anyone to help me”; “My team are not interested” etc…
Yes, creating a well thought-through strategic and business plan is hard work! No question! But investing the time to do it up front will make all the difference down the line. It’s going to save you and your team from wasting a lot of time, eliminate shoot-from-the-hip decision-making, and making very expensive wrong decisions. It’s also going to help everyone in the business understand why specific strategic choices are being made and enable the leadership team to act with clarity and conviction!
So, instead of having a complex plan consisting on dozens of pages to describe your company’s vision, values, strategies, goals and priorities, what if you could instead have your strategic thinking and planning captured on one page? And what if you could then simply and quickly review and update that page two or three times a year? And what if you could manage your key strategic projects and manage your entire operational performance on one page? And imagine being able to do your annual budget within two days (and then never have to do it again)! Would that make you more likely to have a plan?
Would you like to learn more? Get in touch via the contact form on our website (www.ninety-days.co.uk) or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss what it is you feel you need and to see if our experience can help.