5-Step Business Planning for the Rest of Us 0

Gulp. Business planning for the rest of us, in less than four minutes? It was fun to do, great exposure and, what the heck, I at least tried to keep it short. For the rest of us, in this case, means all of those businesses that aren’t entering a business plan competition, don’t need to show a document to an investor or aren’t supporting a commercial lending application.

I’m not able to embed the video here, but you can click on it to go to the source video on the American Express OPEN Forum. This is from the MSNBC Your Business show last month, in an interview with Jean Chatzky.

You can see my five points on the image above, and here’s a quick summary as well:

1. Keep it simple

Don’t sweat the printed output, the writing and editing, so you can focus on keeping a live plan available to you and your team members on a computer or network. Do the main numbers. Use bullet points for big concepts, and lists for milestones and such.  Do the plan, but not necessarily the big, formal document.

2. Strategy is focus

A lot of great strategy is figuring out what you’re not doing. You can’t please everybody. Focus on those key elements that drive your business, and make sure you do those well. It doesn’t take a lot of writing. Use bullet points and pictures. Focus your target market and business offering.

3. Set the steps

Planning will help you keep long-term objectives in mind while you deal with the immediate problems. Figure out where you want to go and think about concrete, specific steps in the right direction. Don’t obsess on details. Set the main steps down so you can track your progress. Think about the metrics.

4. Set a review schedule

I mean like the third Thursday of the month, over lunch. Fix a time for reviewing the plan. The real value of planning isn’t just doing the plan, it’s using it to manage results and do the course corrections you need. Just like with diet and exercise, we need reminders. We’re only human. And business planning is about regular reviews. Plans are supposed to change.

5. List your assumptions

This one helps with the problem of when do you change the plan to match reality. If you keep changing it all the time, it’s less useful. On the other hand, one good reason to change a plan is because the underlying assumptions have changed. So you list your assumptions. Start your planning review by looking at how assumptions have changed.

About the Author Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry. Follow Tim on Google+ Read more »

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