To Business Plan or Not: Is That Really the Question?

After coaching many people through the eye of the business planning needle, I’m intrigued and bewildered by the gap between “what business planning is” and “what people seem to think it is.” Time and again I see intelligent people going to great lengths to avoid business planning when it’s exactly what they need to navigate the complexities of start-up.

Whether they admit it or not, those who succeed in business do some sort of planning – or hire someone to do it for them. The pieces of a successful business don’t fall into place perfectly by themselves without some kind of high-level roadmap to get them flying in formation. The elements of success come together because someone—usually the business owner—plans, agonizes, organizes, pampers, and weaves the threads together to achieve the desired positive result.

So, what is this aggravation called business planning?

If you’re getting into business, you’ll be business planning.

  • Whether or not you use a pencil and piece of paper.
  • Whether or not you crank up a spreadsheet program and create elaborate tables and graphs.
  • Whether or not you build a cash flow projection into the foreseeable future.
  • Whether or not you engage a hired gun to squeeze your thoughts from your cluttered mind and organize them on paper (or in a digital document).

Business planning is what you do when you start, buy, or grow a business.

  • If you’re thinking about starting a business, you’re business planning. The better you do the planning, the more likely it is that the business will go the way you want it to.
  • If you’re talking about your business idea—to your friends, to your banker, or to your mom, you’re business planning.
  • If you’re snooping through the aisles of competitors’ facilities, you’re business planning.

The business planning I speak of is not just for big businesses; it’s just as relevant and critical for small and microbusinesses. Business planning is not hyperbole. It’s not fluff. It’s not a practice reserved for academics or CEO’s of large corporations. It is certainly not a throw away, or a waste of time, or too expensive. And it doesn’t have to be daunting.

So, what’s the rub? Why do so many people go to great lengths to avoid “business planning”?

The big question that entrepreneurs and business owners need to answer is not whether or not to “develop a business plan”. If you’re jumping in with no plan, you’re really casting your fate to the wind. So, if you’re jumping into business with a skeleton of a plan, why not call it a business plan and write it down in a way that it can be used as a tool to communicate with others (bankers, investors, partners) and as a roadmap to help get you get where you want to be? That is the real question.

Ready to get started? Business Planning Online Workshop Starts Sept 24. Join from anywhere in the world, all you need is a business idea, a computer and access to the internet.

2 thoughts on “To Business Plan or Not: Is That Really the Question?”

  1. Great post. Couldn’t agree more with your take on business planning. The business plan doesn’t have to be this big daunting task that takes forever and produces a 40-page document that doesn’t get read. It can be a simple process that produces a plan that is right for your business and helps keep everyone on the same page.

    Here at LivePlan we focus on helping businesses track their business plan by comparing their plan to their actual results. We find that businesses that track their performance and revise their plan on a regular basis are significantly more successful than those that don’t.

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