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13 Mistakes to Avoid When Business Planning

Last updated September 1, 2020

Not enough business owners have a written business plan.

Why is it that?

Sometimes it's because they're not sure what to do or have made mistakes in the past. Or they prefer to keep it in their head.

We come across all sorts of reasons why there is no plan.... here are the 13 business planning mistakes we see most often. Avoid these and you'll stay on track.

1. Forget the end goal, the why

If you don't know where you're going, similar to a car journey, you will never get there. Having a clear vision of the end goal is one of the key things that will keep your business on track. Start with the end in mind - one of the seven habits! If you lose sight of the goal, getting too consumed in the day to day running of the business, this will have a detrimental effect on the business. Be clear about the end goal, whether that's a beach somewhere or a target figure or cause satisfied.

2. Don't do any research.

Lots of business owners believe that preparing a business plan is about completing a template. We are firm believers that business planning is all about the planning process and research is a big part of this. Now don't get me wrong, a lot of it you will already know but it's floating around in your head and not written down for the rest of your team to see or understand.

3. Hide the plan

Most business plans take lots of effort and time so that you can persuade the bank to give you an overdraft or an investor to invest in the business.

That's not the only reason for business planning. A truly effective business plan is one that is kept alive, it is reviewed every week to check actuals against budgets and to re forecast on a regularly so that its always up-to-date.

4. Not embracing change

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it's that we must expect the unexpected. Businesses that were successful during lock down where the ones that were agile enough and forward thinking enough to pivot their business or deliver their customers at different solution. Think about the restaurants that provided takeaway meals against those that just closed up shop because they didn't have a plan.

5. Keep it to yourself

If you keep your plan to yourself that's just the same as keeping it in your head. The only way your plan is going to be successful is if your entire team is on board with the business plan and knows what they're working towards. Make sure you share it with your team

6. Outsource the planning

Google 'business planning' and you will see adverts from consultants who will write your business plan for you. I'm sure it will be brilliant. I'm sure they will include things that you haven't thought about, but it will be their plan not your plan. The only way to have a successful business plan is for you & your team to do it yourself. By all means get somebody to write it up for you, but you must do the thinking.

7. Just fill in a template

Some business owners know that they should have a business plan, but look for the shortest cut to get to one, and that's generally filling out somebody else's template. So you still have somebody else's plan, not yours. And you haven't done the important thinking which is a crucial part of the planning process.

8. Use a whole ream of paper

Is a business plan only valid if it has lots of pages? I was curious so I Googled 'business plan pages' I found people suggesting a typical business plan should be at least 20 pages long. We disagree (unless you're raising finance). 3 Pieces of Paper™ is all that's required

  • a one page business plan
  • a financial forecast for the next 12 months and
  • a 12 month calendar

We know if you have 3 Pieces of Paper™ everybody will read it, everybody will understand it and everyone will implement it. An added bonus is when it comes to re-forecasting it's so much easier

9. Ignore the world around you

When we're working with businesses, we very often play the 'what if..' game. What if...

  • a key component for your product was no longer available
  • the dollar currency collapsed
  • Covid-19 second spike happens or doesn't,
  • your competitor ramps up the competition?

Playing the 'what if' game forces you to lift your head, look at the world around you and see if any of those 'what ifs' are 'probably wills'.

10. Ignore your team

I'm sure you've heard the phrase many hands make light work (always Mum's excuse to get us to do the washing up!) and that's particularly true when you're in the planning process. Additionally, if you involve your team you are capturing more ideas, more challenges, more thoughts, different ways of problem solving, different ways of thinking. All of these are really valuable to the planning process so make sure that you don't ignore your team.

11. Ignore change

Ignoring change will kill your business. Part of your planning process is anticipating change, engineering change, expecting change and considering the unexpected changes that may come along. The more you look at change, in all its aspects, the more prepared you will be for any unexpected or 'shock wave' changes.

12. Ignore your strengths

We're often told to work on our weaknesses. We prefer to focus on strengths combined with business opportunities to ensure success. Much better to be robust, resilient and confident, than timid, scared and lost.

13. Ignore business planning altogether

Focus on doing the day to day and you'll always be doing the same day to day until no-one wants your day to day anymore.....

shirley-mansfield-CoachSME
Shirley Mansfield
Master Business Problem Solver

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