Business Plan Tips & Ideas

Information that you can use to get your ideas on paper so you can communicate better, inspire others and make things happen.

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Business Plan: The Big Difference Between Strategy and Tactics

Grasp this and you will be in the top 20% of business managers

 Can you identify with this situation?

If I was to ask you to tell me what a “tactic” is, you would properly respond with a reply that mentioned actions or activities.

 In other words, what you have to do to get a result And I’d he happy with that.

 Next if I asked you to tell me what “strategy” is, there may be a silent pause. When you did start speaking, it’s likely that your confidence level will have dropped and your reply will contain words like “how to” and again some action words.

 The point I am trying to make is that it is likely that there is not a big difference in the meaning you give to the world “Strategy” and “Tactics“.

 So let me see if I can rectify this – and give you the potential for greater success in every important result getting opportunity.

Meaning of the words
Let me start by giving you one of my favourite and most practical definitions of strategy.

 “Strategy is the simple fundamental logic of how you intend to achieve a predefined result”

 Good strategy is frequently expressed by describing what you are going to put in place to achieve a certain result.

 So strategy is usually about the complete big or bigger picture solution.

 And “tactics”. Tactics are the actions that will be needed to fulfil the strategy.

 Now here’s the payoff for you
Nine time out of ten, strategy can be explained in just a few simple sentences. Sentences that are constructed with simple easy-to-understand language.

 So we are talking one page or less of writing.  Just imagine if politicians did this all of the time.

 What this means for you is:

  • (a) you can get your head around it – it’s not complex
  • (b) You can use everyday common sense. You can quickly ask yourself, “Will this strategy or solution package, likely give me or us the results we are seeking?”

 Just think about how many poor business decisions you or your colleagues have made because you or they used tactics rather than strategy as your prime decision making tool.

 Let me leave you with this

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

 Andrew Smith

The Business Plan Guy

Business Plan – Your Recession Strategy (Control)

The global recession is having an impact on most businesses and non-profit organisations.

 When I use the word impact, I’m not necessarily meaning negative impact. However for many, the effect is negative, for some it’s profoundly negative.

 The purpose of this article can be described in one word. The word is CONTROL. It’s about putting you in control, or expanding your scope of control.

 Straight away, I know I will have triggered scepticism in many of my readers. So if you are sceptical, that’s fine. But please try and have a slightly open mind for just three minutes.

My proposition to you
Whether the current economic climate is impacting you positively or negatively, being in control has got to be a desirable situation.

So how can this be done?

In your business or organisation you have customers, clients and prospects. If you’re a non-profit, perhaps you call them members and prospective members. For this article let’s refer to them all as customers.

If you are now getting less (or more) business, the most likely reason is because your perceived value proposition has changed.

Is your business suffering – mildly or significantly?
Let’s look at the getting less business situation and explore ways to increase or improve your levels of improvement control.

Step 1. Could you carry out a survey or some simple market research? Is this something within your control?

The purpose here will to find out what’s going on in your market place.

It could be that some people in your marketplace have changed their requirements or their perception on what is and what is not good value for money.

Maybe in their minds, they perceive your product or service in its present form something they can do with less of.

Perhaps your customers are favouring a competitive product or service.

What about relationships? Are your customers now placing more importance how they are treated by the people they do business with?

Step 2. When you have gathered some up-to-date information on your market, here is the next step that you can control.

Make a list of the options that you could consider taking.

And do remember, not making any changes is always an option. It may not be a smart one, but it is an option.

Your options list might include repositioning your business in terms of what sector or sectors of the marketplace you wish to serve.

Also on your option list could be cutting out or making value changes to products or services.

As well as considering the tangible factors of your product or service offering, also consider the intangibles.

For example, could doubling or tripling the number of smiles and thank-yous that you deliver be an option?

Step 3. Now that you have a list of potential business strategy options, is it in your control to deliver a yes or no decision on each?

If making decisions of this type are not within your control, could you propose to your boss, steps one and two above, and then request a yes or no decision?

What about if this recession is having a positive impact on your business or organisation?

If the current economic situation is bringing you more or better business, you also need a recession strategy.

In this situation, you need answers to the following two question:

  •  What research do we need to carry out to fully understand why we are being perceived as a superior value proposition?
  • What changes should we be considering to make our improved business situation sustainable?

Conclusion

Whatever your current situation, a recession strategy is something you do have control over.

You can ask questions and note the answers.

You can list options – including the no changes option.

You can make decisions or request your boss to make decisions.

Andrew Smith
The Business Plan Guy

Business Plan: The Executive Summary

Now, or in the near future do you need to secure serious business funding?

 This may be from a bank, from investors or maybe from a well-heeled potential shareholder.

If the answer is yes then please read on.

Let’s start with the basics

I’m making the assumption that you have a Strategic Business Plan or an Internal Business Plan.

 In other words, you are clear on the purpose and direction of the business. And you have a system of action plans or a roadmap to get you from where you are now, to where you want to be.

 If you don’t have a good workable plan of this type, then this should be your first priority.

 Elsewhere in this blog are articles on how to do this. If you are short of time, the simple 100 day plan might be an attractive option.

 Back to getting the money  

To persuade someone to invest or lend you money, you should prepare a document that investors call “An Information Memorandum”.

 This is typically a 10 – to 30 page document that provides information on what the business is all about, the amount of money you are seeking and the risk/reward information needed for an investment or loan decision.

 The very critical part

Most Information Memorandum documents are never fully read. Many are instantly dismissed. The reason for this is because the Executive Summary did not ‘hook’ the reader.

Financially successful people are usually busy people. They like business proposition to be presented to them in a clear and concise way.

If you can prepare an executive summary that instantly grabs an investors attention in the right way, you are well on your way to success.

It was my intention to provide you with a series of tips to help you achieve this. But here’s a much better way.

Frank Peters is a very experienced angle investor in Southern California. As well as his own personal angel investment experience, he gained a wealth of experience as Chairman of the much admired Tech Coast Angels http://www.techcoastangels.com/

 On his website, Frank has published what he calls his irreverent Guidelines for Executive Summaries. http://www.thefrankpetersshow.com/attachments/ES.pdf

 This is a gem – straight from the horse’s mouth. Follow this and you will be far ahead in the race.

Andrew Smith
The Business Plan Guy

Business Planning: The 100 day plan for 2009 (Part 3)

Let’s start with a quick refresher.

 The purpose of your 100 day plan is to have a simple and speedy way to reorganize or refocus your business or organisation.

 In Part 1 of these articles, you learned how to start the process of getting clear organized thinking by creating a brief Vision document.

 This document answers the number one strategic question: “What would my/our business or operation be like if it was *functioning* effectively.

 In Part 2, we started a process of smart solution simplification. As mentioned, for your 100 day plan to be effective, it must be simple enough for all concerned to fully understand.

 To begin this, you were asked to identify just two or three priorities from all of the vision goals that you identified.

 Next, you were asked to name or describe the “Solutions” or “Processes” that would be needed to achieve the vision goals you have named.

 At this point, let me stress it is not necessary that you know how to do the needed action steps.

 So Step 1 and Step 2 are very *WHAT* focused. Not how focused.

 The “how-to” solutions

Finally, it’s now time to handle the “how-to” action steps for your 100 day plan.

 Because doing the action steps is a step that trips up many, let me explain the logic that I suggest you follow.

 Know or not-know
I’m going to suggest that 90% of all of the action plans that you will need to create, come into just two categories:

  1.  You know how to do what’s needed
  2. You don’t know the how-to action steps

 The other 10% is likely to be: “I think I know some of the action steps, but lack some skills or knowledge for taking effective action. In other words, it’s a combination of the two categories mentioned above.

 So here is how the action plan system works.

 Select one of the “Solution” requirements you identified in Part 2

  1. Make a decision as to whether you are, or are not, confident on the required how-to action and implementation steps.
  2. If you do understand what need to be done, do this:Make a numbered list of the required action steps. Beside each action steps, note the name of the person who will perform the task and the desired or required completion date.
  3. If you *do not* know how to achieve the selected goal, do this:Make a list of the steps that you (or a team member) will take to:
    (a) Learn how to perform the needed action steps – or
    (b) Delegate or outsource this requirement – or
    (c) Seek help from friends or business associates – or
    (d) Investigate the feasibility of this goalAgain, for the selected action option, note the name of the person who will perform the task and the desired or required completion or decision date.

 As you can see, this procedure puts you and keeps in control. If you understand the situation, it’s simple and straightforward.   

 If it’s a requirement that’s beyond your knowledge or skill, this method gets you into “plan the next part of the plan” mode.

 If you have any questions or suggestions for other planning related articles, I can be contacted at Andrew(at)apt.co.nz

 Andrew Smith

The Business Plan Guy

Business Planning: The 100 day plan for 2009 (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this article, I covered the first part of your 100 day business plan. The focus was on functional vision.

In other words, it was about you getting clear on what your business would look like and be like if it were functioning effectively.

 The next logical step in your 100 day plan is to be able to answer the question: “how will I (or we) make this happen?

 In this post I will show you a simple way to design the “how-to” section of your 100 day plan. So this is about strategy, or to be precise strategy design.

Simplification

The first strategy tool I need to show you is the art of simplification. I believe that simplification is the ultimate form of sophistication.

Remember, this is a 100 day business action plan. Simplicity is essential. If it’s going to work, it has to be simple for you (or your team) to understand and do.

So here is what you need to do.

Step 1.

In Part 1 of this article, you prepared a one or two page document that:
(a)  identified the important key functions that are the basis of how you operate or do business. Marketing and financial management were mentioned as potential examples.
(b) described what it would look like or be like if these functions were working effectively.

Your first step in the making it happen process, is about setting some priorities. You can’t do it all at once. If you spread yourself too thinly, you will surely fail.

So do this.  

Carefully read through your one or two page vision document (from Part 1). Then select just two or three vision goal that you believe would move your business forward.

Only you will know what these should be, but let me repeat a couple of examples vision goals I gave you in Part 1:

Example 1: “We have a great understanding of what our customers want in terms of value for money.”

 Example 2: “We are able to relate well to our clients and describe the benefits or our services in ways that motivates them to buy.”

Again, let me remind you to keep it simple and just go for two  or three functional improvement goals. In you next 100 day plan you can select another two or three for the making it happen process.

Step 2.

Take a fresh sheet of paper. At the top, give your page the title: “100 Day Plan – Making It Happen Solutions”

Next list your two or three selected vision goals. Start with the words “Our selected focus goals for this 100 day plan are:” (then list your selected items.)

Step 3.

Your next task is a simple one.  All that is required is that you name or identify the solutions you will need to address each chosen goal.

So let me show you by example. Here is what your page might look like:

————————————————————

100 Day Plan  –  Making It Happen Solutions

Our two selected functional improvement goals are:

1. We have a great understanding of what our customers want in terms of value for money.

2: We are able to relate well to our clients and describe the benefits or our services in
ways that motivates them to buy.

Making It Happen Strategy

For goal number one, we will implement a “Customer Survey Process”.

The purpose of this survey will be to better understand our customer’s perceptions
on value for money as they see it.

For goal number two, we will implement a “Client Relationship Plan”

The purpose of this plan is to:
(a) Establish ways that we can better get to know and relate to the 20% of customers
that provide the bulk of our income.
(b) Engage a professional copywriter to translate our products technical features into
simpler customer benefit language that is more likely to stimulate sales.

 ————————————————————————————————————————-

As you can see, all this one page document needs to do is:

(a) List the improvement goals that you have selected to work on
(b) Name (or describe) the process or processes or solutions that you believe will be needed to bring about the improvements required.

As well as naming the solution, it is a good idea to write a brief “purpose” statement for each solution process. This starts to clarify your improvement intentions.

If you have trouble naming the solution required for a particular goal, all you need to do is write the goal or a shortened version of it and add the words “Solution Process”.

So for example goal 1 “We have a great understanding of what our customers want in terms of value for money” – you could call this:

“The understanding of what of what our customers want in terms of value for money solution plan.”

In other words, just add the words “solution plan” to the goal.

Now this may seem a gross simplification to you, but I promise it will still work.

What about the action steps?

In Part 3 of this article, I will, show you how to translate any solution plan name into simple action steps that you can do.

Andrew Smith

The Business Plan Guy

2009 Business Planning and the Importance of the Big Picture

Bottom Line: If you are making important business decisions in these challenging economic times, always consider the big picture. Making knee-jerk reactions to economic fears may cause you to shoot yourself in the foot.
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Ben’s Story
In October I had an email from a client I’ll called Ben. Ben wanted some advice on updating his business plan for 2009.
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What he had in mind was some major changes to handle the current economic downturn.
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Ben’s company provides specialised electronic equipment and services to the building industry. They have been in business for about eight years.
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In a telephone conversation I learned that the proposed changes involved dropping several low or no profit products and services. The advice he was seeking was on how severe he should be with his cutbacks.
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At a first glance, Ben’s thinking seems logical and appropriate for these times of economic uncertainty. However, there was another factor that it appeared Ben was not taking into consideration. A factor that I was surprised he did not mention.
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I suspect that economic fears were getting in the way of common-sense decision making.
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Background
For the past two and a half years, Ben and his team have been developing and introducing some very specialised products and services. Their strategy was based on being able to better solve some industry problems that their competitors were not competent or cost effective at providing.
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This strategy had had its ups and downs. A plus factor was that it got them into several high end building contracts. Some of these have developed into very worthwhile business relationship.
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On the down side, Ben and his team had underestimated the time and cost it takes to develop and promote new problem solving approaches.  Thus cost recovery was a slow process.
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Another down side was that three of their ‘work-in-progress’ development projects still require considerable time and cost before they were marketable.
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My Suggestion
My suggestion to Ben was to take a big picture approach to responding to current economic conditions.

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I suggested he make up a spreadsheet list of products and services that should be vetted for retrenchment. I also suggested that all work-in-progress developments be included in this list.
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Next I suggested that he create two additional columns in the spreadsheet. One for a “Profitability Rating” i.e. Low, Medium or High. The second column I suggested he name “Opportunity Factor”. The purpose of this column is to indicate the likely value of other business that this product or service could attract.
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In other words, what I suggested to Ben is that is that he thinks about a bigger picture when making profit and loss decisions. In management circles they refer to this as a “Strategic Switch”. It’s about using longer term strategic thinking rather than short term (knee-jerk) tactical thinking.
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I’ll update you on Ben’s decisions and outcomes.
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Conclusion
Next time you are under pressure to make important business decisions,  pause for a moment and use some brain power to consider the big picture consequences.
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Andrew Smith
The Business Plan Guy

Business Plan: A smart way to set and organize your priorities

Establishing intelligent priorities is a critical part of any good business planning process.
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However, the task of making these priority decisions can be

challenging, And open errors – sometime very serious errors.
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So here’s a way to both simplify the process – and reduce the

opportunities for making mistakes. It’s a systems approach,
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The Old Way
Traditionally, decisions are frequently arrived at by providing an

answer to the question “What are our top or ‘A’ priorities?”
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This can lead to several forms of confusion and poor judgement. The more options you have, the greater the chances are of making poor priority decisions.
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Change your thinking
So is there a simpler/better way? I believe there is . . . and here’s

how it works.
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The Five Steps
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Step 1. Make a simple list of the priority options you currently have.
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Step 2. Read through your list and select the items that are of lesser

importance for the next month or so.
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Mark these item ‘C’ priorities.
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A ‘C’ priority is an item that you can safely delay taking action for

the next 30 days.
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You may also have some items in your list that are important, but can’t

be actioned until some other preparation or preliminary event has

occurred. These are also likely ‘C’ priority candidates.
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Step 3. (Now this next step may seem radical, but bear with me. It’s

the essence of a simplification process.
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So do this:
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Temporally, mark all of your other priorities to a ‘B’ classification.

That’s right. Make *every* other item that is not a ‘C’ priority a ‘B’

priority.
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So at this point you are absolutely forbidden to have any ‘A’

priorities. This is the business equivalent of tough love.
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“But, but, but, . . .” I can hear you saying.
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Trust me for a moment, I promise common sense will prevail.
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Before I continue, let me define what a ‘B’ priority is. A ‘B’ priority

is an item you can or should take action on – if you have *spare*

resources available (time, money, materials etc.)
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Step 4. This is where you get to differentiate your important stuff. Do

this.
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(a) Scan through all of the items that have a ‘B’ priority.
(b) Any item that you think is or could be an ‘A’ priority; upgrade

it to a ‘B+’ priority. Important – do *not* make any of them ‘A’

priorities.
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Step 5. Scan through all of your newly created ‘B+’ priorities and

upgrade just two or three of them, to ‘A’ priorities.
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I strongly recommend that you keep your ‘A’ priorities to two or three.
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If your track record of getting thing done is poor, you may wish to

consider have just one ‘A’ priority ant a time.
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Managing your priorities
As you complete an ‘A’ priority, you can then choose a new ‘A’ priority by reviewing your ‘B+’ candidates.
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So you now have a living priorities system.
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As you will recognise, this is a bottom-up method of establishing

priorities.
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It simplifies the selection of true top priorities by filtering out all

of the lesser important issues.
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Andrew Smith
The Business Plan Guy.

Survival Plus Business Planning – Tomorrow’s Business Successes Are Being Planned Now!

In the past, most business planning is directed towards successful growth or expansion.
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However, for many the current global financial situation has changed this. For many, the focus of the latest business plan is just about survival.
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While the logic of this is understandable in the short term, I would urge readers to go beyond just survival thinking. Some types of survival thinking can actually create more problems than they solve.
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The alternative I would suggest is “Survival Plus”.
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The “Plus” factor is about looking for the opportunities that a change in circumstances presents. Let me explain.
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For many, business will never be the same. So survival tactics can only go so far. The great opportunity for you is to take the lead and start thinking about what your type of business will need to be like in the future.
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Then start planning on the changes you would need to make to start being this success business of the future.

Here are some ideas for your “Survival Plus” business plan
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What systems will you need to create to learn about what your customer’s new goals and problems are?
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How will you go about converting this information into new products and services?
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How will you position your changed or reinvented business?

How will you present and communicate your new business model to your customers or clients?
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How will you measure and asses your new business strategies?
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How will you keep the business development momentum alive?
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I’m happy to respond to any questions or comments you have on this topic

Andrew Smith
The Business Plan Guy

Business planning is a waste of time!

How often have you heard someone say: “Business planning is a waste of time?”
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Perhaps you have said it (or thought it) yourself?
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But what if you have got this wrong? What if you are not seeing the right picture?
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To help you understand the benefits of smart business planning, let me go over a few brief points. You will then be better informed to decide what’s best for you and your situation.
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Who is my target audience?
Because you are reading this article, I’m assuming that you are directly or indirectly involved with a business or organisation of some type.
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This may be an existing business or a new business start-up. Or, it could be a non-profit organisation.
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What is your role?
Whatever type of operation you are involved with, it’s likely that your role involves some responsibilities. These responsibilities maybe performance related or you may be responsible for managing specific operational activities.
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If achieving results of some type is your role, then finding better ways to get things done, should be a part of your job description. 
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How you can do it better?
The proposition I would like to put to you, is that a simple smart business plan is by far the best way to meet or exceed result expectations. It is also the best way to systemise everything that can be described as operational.
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Let me now walk you through the preliminary steps of preparing a simple smart business plan.
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What gets in your way?
To begin, let’s look at some of the specific problems or issues that can be obstacles to how well you can perform your role.
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Or if you’re the business owner or the CEO, these could be the issues that govern your overall success.
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For commercial businesses, sales and marketing issues are frequently problem areas. I hear statements from my clients like, “Sales are harder to achieve and profit margins are getting very tight.”
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Staff problems of one sort or another are also frequently an issue.
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Other concerns are financial issues and coping with increasing levels of regulations and administration.
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For businesses and organisations that are coping and growing well, I get questions like “In what direction should we be heading?” or “The nature of our business has changed, how do we get organised to best manage this change?”
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Can you identify with some of these issues? Maybe you could add some additional issues or problems?
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Now let’s move the thinking forward.
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What is your desired situation?
When I facilitate a business planning session, I like to get the people involved into a positive focus as soon as possible.
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Typically I do this by asking the question: “What would this business (or organisation) be like if you could solve the pre-mentioned problems?”
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I get responses like:
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I (or we) would be more in control. Things would get done faster/better and without stress and drama

We would ‘have our act together’ and be regarded as a leader in our industry
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We work as a professional team, always focused on a great common goal”

In a period of an hour or so, I can usually draw out 20 to 30 vision goal that relate to the specific business or organisation.

Now I’m sure you could do this first part of a preparation for a smart business plan. So if you are serious about success, follow these steps:

(a) Make a list of the problems or obstacles that are getting in your way of performing better. Aim to identify your top six to ten areas of concern. Let’s call this your “current situation”.

(b) Now switch on your imagination. Visualise what the difference would be if these problems or issues were resolved. Again, you should be able to write six to ten sentences that describe what we could call your “desired situation”.

So far so good . . .  Now let me alert you to the trap.

Here’s where it can all turn to custard . . . and here’s how you can be the leader who understands how to build a roadmap to success

To begin with, let me tell you why many business plans are not simple and not smart. Because of this, the plan is doomed right from the start.

1. They are based on a financial model and not a people model. The plan contains pages and pages of spreadsheets and financial figures that are frequently pipe dreams. Many see a plan of this type as complex mumbo-jumbo. It’s a turn-off. Not a turn-on.

2. The plan frequently does not provide a specific understanding of how these wonderful figures will be achieved. Thus there is a credibility gap.

3. The plan does not take a systems approach to performance and goal achievement. Thus everyone does their own thing, and the consequences of inconsistency become the norm.

So what’s the better solution – “KISS”
KISS usually stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. But for your business plan, let it mean “Keep It Short and Simple”.

I’m going to suggest you follow a simple and fast three step procedure. This is the basis of a method that I have called the Accelerated Planning Technique. The three steps are Dream it, Design it, Deliver it.
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Dreamit - Design it - Deliver it with APTPLAN.comAPT 3 Step Planning Method
In part two of this article, I will walk you through these three steps.

Andrew Smith
The Business Plan Guy
www.aptplan.com

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