This is a new approach to business planning. It’s new and different because it takes what’s most important about the traditional business plan idea and applies it better to today’s world. And it’s a lot better than the traditional business plan, quicker, easier, more flexible, more practical, and more useful.

It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been working with business plans for about 30 years now. Startup plans for new companies that didn’t yet exist, growth plans, strategic plans, action plans, feasibility plans, lots of plans. One of my startup plans became Borland International, which went public less than four years after it started, and made me a lot of money. I did annual plans for Apple Latin America, then Apple Pacific, and then Apple Japan for a combined total of 12 years. I’ve used business planning to grow my own company to 40 employees and 70 percent market share without outside investment.

Through all of these years, I’ve seen how business planning can be the secret of success for new companies and growing companies. I’ve seen how the best companies understand planning and regularly develop plans and manage them. Good companies plan.

I’ve also seen how myths and misunderstandings get in the way. People think — wrongly — that having a plan means getting locked into doing something that doesn’t make sense, mindlessly, because it’s in the plan. People think –wrongly — that rapid changes make planning less useful, when in fact good planning is one of the best ways to manage change. People think — and this is one of the most damaging misconceptions — that a business plan is hard to do and set in stone with a long list of necessary parts, a ponderous and pompous formal exercise.

The plan-as-you-go business plan is what you need and only what you need. It can be as simple as a 60-second strategy summary that can be delivered in an elevator. For smaller companies it might be that plus a review schedule, milestones table, measurement notes, and a sales forecast. And as companies grow, their plans can grow. Then, when you need the big plan document, you add the additional parts you need and create the document. But you are always planning, and you are never without a plan.

This is not the first business plan book I’ve done. Unfortunately, I now hate the title of my last business plan book, the most successful, because it sets up exactly the wrong idea: the business plan as hurdle. The book was titled Hurdle: the Book on Business Planning. What’s wrong with this is that business planning isn’t supposed to be like a hurdle that stands in the way; instead, it’s a powerful tool for managing your company better, controlling your business destiny, establishing accountability, and developing teamwork. You should never think of it as a hurdle. It’s not an obstacle you overcome; it’s a technique that helps you manage your company better.

So don’t stop working. Don’t ever let the business plan stand between you and doing business. Get started, get going, and make the plan useful to you from the very first day.

You’ll find that strategy in this book. I want you to get started. I expect that you’ll be able to do something today that will already be helping your business tomorrow.

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.