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Business Planning: The 100 day plan for 2009

 Over the past couple of years, the 100 day plan has become my most requested service. It’s a great tool to quickly instigate a business transformation process.

 And, in these current economic choppy waters, it’s a great way to quickly refocus or reinvent a business that is no longer viable in its current state.

 So in response to several emails, here is a “do-it-yourself’ version.

 This 100 day plan is suitable for:

  • Commercial business operations
  • Professional service providers
  • Non-profit organisations

The first two steps are vision focused. To be able to move forward, you need to get clear on what your business or organisation would need to “be like” to survive and thrive in this new economy.

Step one: Make a short list of the major “functions” or processes that are the basis on how you operate or do business. Typically, these might be marketing, service delivery, human resources (or team), financial management and administration etc.

 Keep it as simple as possible by focusing on just the major functions. Look to identify the three to seven functions that are the fundamentals or workhorse of your business or operation.

 Step 2: Get a clean sheet of paper.  Select the first function from your list. Then write a paragraph or two that describes what it would look like and be like if this part of your business was operating very effectively ? in the current economic climate.

 Very-very important. This is a “WHAT” exercise, not a “HOW-TO” exercise. Do *not* write down any ‘how-to’ methods or solutions. Keep your descriptions result, outcome or performance related. Keep in mind, you are creating a “Vision”. A business operation vision.

 For example, for your Marketing Function, you may say something like: “We have a great understanding of what our customers want in terms of value for money.”

 Or you might say: “We are able to relate well to our clients and describe the benefits or our services in ways that motivates them to buy.”

 At this stage, it is not necessary that you know how to do this. The how-to solutions will be worked on later. Your job at this stage is to understand what excellent operational competency would look like for your particular business type.

 Repeat this procedure for each of the major functions you listed in Step 1.

 If possible, see if you can keep this to a one page Vision Document. Two pages would be the maximum.

On completion of these two steps, you should be able to answer the “Number One” strategic question: “How would I/we know if our business was operating successfully?”

In part 2 of this blog post, I will show you a simple way to manage all of the “How-to” solutions.  

Andrew Smith

The Business Plan Guy

Business Plan Templates – good choice or bad?

I frequently get questions about business plan templates. Here’s a part of a recent email I received. 

“I want to write a business plan. The option that appeals to me most is using a template. It seems to me that this is a good way of not reinventing the wheel. What is your opinion on using a business plan template?

So here is my reply.

Hi Jerry, before I can answer that question properly I need more information. But to save time, here is a pre-prepared response that I have on file.

Business Plan Templates – good choice or bad?

The first thing you need to get clear on is purpose. In other words, why do you want to create a business plan, what do you want the plan to achieve?

To help answer this question, you need to get clear on what type of business plan you need to create.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of business plans.
Type One: The first is the kind that you might take to a bank or potential investor. Its purpose is to persuade someone to lend you money or invest in your business.
Type Two: The second is essentially an internal plan. It’s a business success blueprint or business direction roadmap. Its purpose is to effectively convert ideas and goals into good decisions and smart action steps. If it’s a good plan, you will always be clear on what you need to do next; on your pathway to success.
If you would like more information of this topic, see my previous blob post at

http://thebusinessplanblog.com/writing-a-business-plan-avoid-this-frustrating-mistake/

TYPE ONE:
Now if your need is for Type One, and you have really got your business act together, then a business plan template could be a good tool to prompt you for the right information. If your not sure what “getting your business act together” means, checkout the link above.

But there may be a better way for you!

Consider this. If you know who or whom you are going to approach for finance, do some quick research. See if you can find out – what is their criteria for lending money or providing a grant.

If you know this information, your business plan or financing application can be better targeted than a generic business plan template.
TYPE TWO:
If the purpose of your business plan is to get your business operation organized and positioned for success, a business plan template may be a bad idea.

Here’s why.

The success or otherwise of your business will be greatly impacted by three major factors.

The first is your vision or passion. What you seek to achieve and why it’s important. Developing clarity is this are is vital. Particularly in this challenging new economy. This should be goal number one of your business planning process.

The second is your ability to put in placed the processes and systems that can turn your vision into practical reality. Designing these systems and processes should be the number two priority of your business plan.

The third and vital factor that you must come to grip with is what I call “The Making-It-Happen plan. Time and time again, business plans are created only to die on the shelf. To succeed, you must be a leader and take charge. The Making-It-Happen process needs to be a daily priority for you, the business leader.

Now I think you will find that a business plan template would be a poor substitute for some common sense and effort on your part.

This blog is totally dedicated to enabling people like you to be able to plan for business success. Take a look at some of my other post for topics that can help you achieve your business goals.

Andrew Smith
The Business Plan Guy

How to prepare a simple and powerful strategic business plan in one day (Part 1)

Many business owners/managers know in their heart that their business or organisation would be more successful if they had a clear business plan to work to.

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But for many there is a problem.

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The problem is the perceived time and effort that would be required to produce an effective business plan.

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Problem solved!

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The purpose of this three-part article is to present

you with a simple, common-sense method to prepare a business plan that will do two things:

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(1) Show you how to get clear on what your business or organisation would look like if it was performing effectively

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(2) Show you how to translate this information into the needed action steps to translate the vision into reality.
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The Big Picture
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So let’s get started with an overview on how the preparation of a

business plan can be made both simple and effective.
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The “Functional” approach
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Explanation: For any business or organisation to be successful, it must be “functional” in its core business capabilities.
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Let me clarify what is meant by “functional” core business capability as it relates to your business or organisation.
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For a typical commercial business, these functions could be Marketing (or Sales & Marketing), Customer Service, Team (or Human Resource),

Financial Management, Administration and Asset Management.
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Some refer to these functions as “Key Business Activities”.
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For a non-profit organisation, most or all of the above functions will

be required, but the terminology may vary.
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For example, the term “marketing” may be inappropriate for some

operations, but there may be a definite requirement for “Members

Communications”. So the term “Marketing” would be replaced by “Member Communications” or “Client Communications”.
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The fundamental logic of this functional approach is as follows:

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If you are highly “functional” in all of your key business activities,

then the complete business or organisation will be a success.
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A qualification. In some situations the above may be an over

simplification, but mostly it is a truism. 
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A Simple 3 Step way to prepare you business plan in one day (or less)

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Part 1 is about vision or goal setting

Part 2 is about strategy
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Part 3 is about taking action
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  (to be continued)

“…the fact that business is in for a tough time will make business even more interesting…”

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This interesting headline appeared in a recent issue of The Wall Street Journal.
 
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At first glance, one might get the impression that this is the press talking their way into an economic recession. But it’s the exact opposite.  
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As you read on, it turns out this is an advertisement by Fortune magazine. The statement “…the fact that business is in for a tough time will make business even more interesting…” was made in 1929 by Henry Luce, founding publisher of Fortune Magazine. 
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And wasn’t he so right. The period after 1929 was very interesting and a lot of changes took place. Changes that most of us have benefited from. 
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So, if we are to face some challenging economic times in the next year or so, there will almost certainly be business opportunities for those with their eyes open. 
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Well that’s how I’m seeing it. It is a time for optimism and opportunity.
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.What do you think?
 
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Andrew Smith
The Business Plan Guy

The Marketing Plan – An Alternative Approach

A major part of any good business plan will be the marketing plan.

For some, the marketing plan – is the business plan.

Any way you look at it, your marketing plan deserves serious consideration.

The usual approach is to start with the product or service, and then think through the steps that you or your team will engage in, to take the product or service to market.

Some call this ‘hope marketing’. You plan it and hope for good results. Frequently, the results are disappointing.

An Alternative

As an alternative, let me tell you about an approach that turns the above thinking on its head. An approach in which the product or service comes last. (Or forth to be exact.)

This approach was presented by Internet marketing guru Ed Dale, in a project called The 30 Day Challenge (2007) – http://www.thirtydaychallenge.com Ed called it “A Magnificent Symphony of Four Parts.”

Here is a brief overview of these four parts:

Part 1 is about “Market Research”. Here, you identify a market or niche Market and get to understand what their problems and needs are. Also, you get some idea of what the competition is like. There are now a host of tools available on the Internet for this type of market research. Many are free.

Part 2 Ed Dale calls “Traffic”. This more or less asks you, how you will go about communicating to your market. This may be online, offline or a combination of both. If you can’t do this cost-effectively, you may need to seriously rethink your approach.

Part 3 is called “Conversion.” This is about selling. Given that you can cost-effectively solve the problems of Part 2, you can then work out how you will ‘sell’ people on what you have to offer. This may be simple, or it may be very hard.

The point Ed Dale makes here, is that you may like to ‘test the water’, by trying to sell a competitors product. If it’s very difficult to make sales, you again may need re-evaluate your original thinking.

Part 4. Now we get to the part you understand, or thought you did . . . your product or service. The point here is that if you have carefully been through steps one, two and three, you will be a lot smarter: 

  • One: You will understand your marketplace better. You’ll understand their problems and their wants and needs. If you have done your research well, you will know how motivated they are in seeking solutions. Also, knowledge of your competitors strengths and weaknesses could change your thinking.  

  • Two: You will understand what’s required to be able to talk to your market and build relationships.

  • Three: You will understand what’s involved to get customers convinced so that they will give you money to buy what you are selling.

The big payoff

If you are in charge of product development, maybe you can now design a ‘killer’ product.

If making changes is not an option, you can make decisions on how to best ‘position’ your offering – based on your enriched market knowledge.

If this marketing strategy has caught your attention, you can get more information at http://www.thirtydaychallenge.com/members/day1/

Andrew Smith

On Strategy and Tactics

About 15 years ago, I had two different mentors teach me and coach me on the topics of Strategy and Tactics.

Each was knowledgeable, experienced and passionate, so I have developed a high interest and respect for these two success concepts.

I’m working on an article to succinctly describe what each is, how they differ and how you can use each to your advantage.

In the meantime, let me whet your appetite with some ancient wisdom:

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.
Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

Sun Tzu (Chinese General, circa 500 BC)

Mark Twain on Business Plans

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

Mark Twain