Why Are We Afraid of the Business Plan?
I know, I know. “Afraid” is a rather strong word. And you – well you are an Entrepreneur/CEO/someone who clawed their way up the ranks or past the competition and you aren’t afraid of anything. And really, why would you spend your valuable time putting together a document that will just sit in a drawer?
And that’s the key. Spending the time. However, do tell me, when is it a waste of time to think about your business or organization?
The fear of wasting time is only fear #1 of putting words around ideas, numbers in a spreadsheet and process on paper. But a business plan doesn’t have to be a 200-page Word document. It can mimic the culture of your company or department by taking on many forms. And the exercise of pulling together a plan is as valuable as the outcome itself. Is it really a waste of time to talk through with your team, and an outside advisor (shameless plug for Alidade Strategy & Communications here), what your mission really is? What are realistic objectives? How you plan to reach your goals? No. No, it is not. Unless you are a brilliantly designed android, you should not operate in a vacuum. Instead, you should document all the brilliance down and you work through scenarios. How could that be a waste of time?
Fear #2 of business plan creation is the fear of commitment. If I write stuff down, I’m suddenly responsible for all that stuff. Someone might come to you later, with plan in hand, and say "Hey, what happened to all the stuff you/we were going to accomplish?" But a business plan doesn’t become law once you hit save. It’s reference material. It’s decision-making preparation. It’s a compass when the waters begin to become uncertain. And it shouldn't sit around unaltered for the duration. A business plan should be a living, breathing document that is reviewed and adjusted on a regular basis. External and internal environments are in a state of near constant change, and it is OK if your business plan acknowledges that fact and operates accordingly. But the framework will be there to support change and guide you along the way. And, perhaps, you could use a little commitment in the form of a plan?
Fear #3 is knowledge. What if we put together a business plan and the outcome suggests that we are – gulp – going to fail? Well, first, if that truly is the case, isn’t it better you know now rather than later? You wouldn’t be the first executive to cut your losses or scrap the scheme. Unfortunately, you also would not be the first to continue on with a strategy that isn’t sound – and that is a far less attractive scenario. Plus, a business plan isn’t a mysterious fortuneteller who can predict doom. It is an extensive equation, made up of many variables, which can be adjusted in order to get to a better answer.
And fear #4 is the scariest of all. What if I put together a plan, a great plan, a plan that tells me that my business will be a success... AND I STILL FAIL. What does that say about me?
To avoid the scenarios around this particular fear, you must include systems for measurement in your plan. Checking in on a quarterly basis to readjust tactics will greatly reduce the probabilities of this fear coming to fruition.
What’s more frightening that putting together a plan is not putting one together. Here is what could happen:
1. You will fail. (Yes I did.) You will realize too late that there are elements you did not think through and it will send you off course. Now, failure is not the end of the world, though it is most likely the end of that particular business. But why would you risk it when you can get ahead of it through planning.
2. You will waste a lot of time overcoming unnecessary obstacles that could have been foreseen and addressed in advance. While wasting time doesn’t necessary equate to failing, why set yourself back? And while you can’t predict every outcome, thinking through the possibilities will help you be prepared for the unknown. Business planning is an investment, one that is near certain to provide a return, or at least cut back any losses.
3. You will want/need funding/resources and you will have nothing to show. Maybe you are going in the right direction in a space of untapped demand or your innovative idea is going to break the company into new, highly profitable markets. But investors/financiers/upper management want to see that you have thought everything through. And if you don't have a plan, you are riskier than the person standing in line behind you who has one.
Yes, putting together a plan means an investment in time and resources. But it's an investment that will pay off if conducted properly. The return comes not just in a document that can be your bible, but in critical and productive conversations with your team about those elements that make up your organization. Let Alidade Strategy & Communications put your plan in place. Give us a call at 312-857-5220 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.