In these bold times, where the entrepreneurial spirit is lionised, a glamorous and somewhat pernicious myth has developed. This myth has two aspects, the first depicts the entrepreneur as a freewheeling type, generating business success through random acts of spontaneity. The second casts the entrepreneur as the star of their own show with no room for others on the stage.
While going it alone in business requires generous measures of self-belief, bordering on egotistical tendencies, coupled with a dash of luck and undeterred optimism, the entrepreneurial path is rarely taken alone and not an advisable path to navigate unplanned.
The idea of preparing a business plan may seem completely at odds with the glamour of this myth, and yet, investing in the process of preparing and maintaining a business plan can benefit aspiring and established business owners in the following ways:
Clarifies your Vision
Your business plan is your statement of intention and if you don’t yet know it, here is your chance to figure it out. In his book ‘Start With Why’, Simon Sinek explains that the quality which sets innovative and creative businesses apart from the rest is the sustained connection to and clarity of their reason for being; their core vision.
Successful businesses consistently think, act and communicate with their customers in a way which demonstrates their core vision and which permeates every business activity, from product development through to strategies for growth. Whatever your product or service is, your customers ultimately respond to what your business stands for.
Reflects your Current Position
When setting out to prepare your business plan, make it your objective to create an accurate reflection of your current position. It’s always effective to start from a place of raw honesty. This can be an uncomfortable process, but is far more beneficial than a ‘head in the sand’ approach. An honest assessment of where you currently stand reveals the gaps in your plan and will initially raise more questions than answers – go with it and accept that this is part of the process.
Adapting a constructive mindset at this stage with reap dividends, as it enables you to appreciate your business plan – and your business, as a work in progress. From this position, you are then able to stand back and explore possibilities, opportunities and solutions.
Defines your Outcomes
To measure your success, you need to define what success looks like. Defining your goals and outcomes helps you to consciously plan for growth. In doing this, you are able to identify the resources and strategies you’ll need for your business to grow in the way and direction you’ve determined.
It is important to maintain the awareness that while your business plan presents a snapshot of your current position, it is also to be viewed as a living document, subject to revision and refinement as your business evolves with time and changing circumstances. Get into the habit of regularly reviewing and updating your business plan to reflect this awareness.
Creates a Roadmap
Writing your business plan determines where you are, in relation to where you want to be and is generally based on a three to five year projection. Plotting your strategy – your roadmap – is integral to this process, in which you identify the route and key milestones for your business to develop. This process reveals the resources you already have and those you will need to realise your entrepreneurial vision.
The more you’re able to identify resource gaps, in the form of people (yes – other people!), funding, skills, research and experience required to build your business, the clearer your business strategy will become. The key developmental stages in your business strategy should include the mode and direction of growth, how to expand your range of goods and services and defining when and how to exit.
In this way, using your business plan as your roadmap to success places you in a better position to respond proactively – and proactivity – as we all know, is such an admirable, even glamourous entrepreneurial trait.