A business plan should be a given for companies of all sizes, types, and development stages. A polished, well-defined business plan provides companies with the structure they need to realize their ultimate potential.
Think of a business plan as a road map to getting your organization on the right path. They can help secure buy-in from your team, assist your fundraising efforts, and even connect you with potential partners. While a business plan is a helpful resource to help chart your company’s course, that plan doesn’t necessarily need to be set in stone. You should regularly revisit and reevaluate your business plan.
With December being National Write a Business Plan Month—and the end of the year looming—it’s a great time to check back in on your plan. In my experience, a business plan is only as good as a company’s willingness to modify it when necessary.
A business plan is never finished, and regular status checks allow businesses to see whether their big-picture objectives are still within reach. When reassessing your business blueprint, keep some of these things in mind:
1. Make goals and objectives paramount: Vince Cauvin, founder and CEO of Tabula Rosa
This one might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised. Ideas and endgames are sometimes buried beneath the surface to help companies maintain some kind of competitive edge. But as far as business plans are concerned, the whole strategy is designed to arrive at a destination.
To that end, these goals should be the focal point of your business plan. Each goal should be clearly communicated to ensure everyone is on the same page, a tactic Tabula Rosa CEO and founder Vince Cauvin knows well.
“If I could impart one tip, it would be not to hesitate in communicating your idea,” Cauvin said. “We got started in 2016, but we were so afraid of someone stealing our idea that we ended up playing it too close to the vest. An idea is only good if you share it and others agree, so get people in the know.”
2. Don’t let customer-centricity falter: Beatriz Winn, co-founder and CEO of MindMatch
When taking stock of your current business plan, MindMatch co-founder and CEO Beatriz Winn argues there’s one element that shouldn’t be taken for granted: the customer.
“Stay close to your customers, listen to understand their challenges, and be willing to adapt your business model as needed,” Winn said. “I highly recommend the book ‘Talking to Humans’ by Giff Constable, which is a great reminder of the importance of identifying the main problems your customers have and how your business can solve them.”
Without customers, there’s no business or need to create any sort of plan. When sifting through your business plan in its current form, don’t let customers get lost in the logistical shuffle. Customers should be a focal point throughout that plan.
3. Make it flexible: Brian Freeman, CEO of Heartbeat
As stated before, business plans aren’t meant to be permanent. The market changes, your customers change, and your capacity to serve both sometimes will change. Construct a business plan that can adapt to the many variables influencing your company.
Heartbeat CEO Brian Freeman notes how adaptability has been a hallmark of the pandemic business landscape. He believes a “go with the flow” mindset is vital for any business plan.
“While the pandemic has decimated sectors like hospitality, it has created unprecedented growth in other sectors, like e-commerce,” Freeman said. “If you can adapt quickly and introduce products that serve the shifting needs of consumers, there are still a lot of opportunities to help your business thrive in this new economy.”
4. Revisit messaging and training: John Sukup, founder and principal consultant of Expected X
Are your brand’s voice, narrative, and objectives still properly hitting their respective preferred notes? Are employees acquiring the skills necessary to stay current and credible with clients? You can ask these questions (and answer them) through an audit of your current business plan.
Training and messaging are paramount to the foundation of any business. The former ensures your team is ready for any task posed by the audience, and the latter informs how services and credibility are communicated. The status of each is something that every business plan must address to ensure all bases are covered.
John Sukup, founder and principal consultant of machine learning and data strategy company Expected X, understands the importance of both.
“The machine learning world develops and changes so rapidly that keeping content fresh and relevant is a constant struggle,” Sukup said. “We’re really trying to refine how we approach prospects and develop relationships—especially since the world requires that to be done virtually these days. Our messaging focuses on how every business today is a technology business regardless of its product or service.”
5. Create an infrastructure that supports nontraditional workplace settings: Brent Morrison, founder and principal of Morrison Co.
As recently as June, 42% of American workers were remote. Although that shift to remote work seemed like it would be temporary at the start of the pandemic, it seems more likely to become the norm for many businesses moving forward.
To that end, you’ll need to examine your ability to foster effective, flexible work policies. When reimagining your business plan, include principles of a flexible workplace that will enable your team to keep pace from anywhere—something Morrison Co. Founder and Principal Brent Morrison plans to do.
“While we expect some evolution in our service offerings, the main driver will be continuing to offer our services remotely when and where that is preferred, without losing our personal attention,” Morrison said. “This year was not our first experience with Skype and Zoom, but those and other electronic system interfaces with our clients are now a fact of life—and a key part of serving clients well.”
Remote and flexible work are realities that aren’t going away soon. Build a business plan that can evolve with the changing landscape.
6. Emphasize forward momentum: Seth Talbott, founder and CEO of Relief Factor
A business plan should keep the majority of your company’s big-picture and day-to-day responsibilities in focus. At the same time, it offers an opportunity to think of new and creative ways to generate buzz for your company.
In Relief Factor CEO Seth Talbott’s opinion, this task boils down to positioning your company as transformative and showing (instead of telling) consumers why that’s the case.
“If you have to convince someone that your product matters, you’re done,” Talbott said. “Your product needs independent momentum that people can’t live without.”
Business plans are blueprints that help companies build foundations that will ultimately put them on a path toward success. Spend this month taking a thorough look at your company’s game plan to make sure it’s viable for 2021 and beyond.
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