You know you need a business plan for your business.  You’ve probably read and heard a great deal of information about creating a business plan for 2016, but you still don’t have one.  It’s OK, it’s not too late to get started creating a plan to make this your best year ever.  If you have a vision for what you want your business to become and if you really want to make that vision a reality, then creating a plan that is your map to get you there just makes sense.

Use the following six tips to get started.

  1. Be specific and realistic about what you want to achieve. This step is about gaining clarity around two things.  First, you need to be clear about your vision for the business; that is what you want your business to achieve.  Second, you need to be clear about how you’ll use your business plan to achieve that vision.

Your business plan is a statement of your vision and a current description of the main strategies and tactics you’ll use to make your vision come true. 

Some business owners need to create their plans for someone outside of the business; such as potential lenders, shareholders or the community at large.  That type of plan may not serve your business as you move through the year.  The focus of this post is on creating a business plan that provides a map for every person in your business to determine how they will individually contribute to achieving the company goals.  You can take this plan and then adapt the content and format, if necessary, for the external audiences you need to address.  But start with the internal plan first.

  1. Choose a time horizon for your plan. Since we are focused on 2016, you can create a plan based on this one year.  It’s short enough that it’s likely to not significantly deviate and long enough to be a meaningful contribution toward your vision.
  1. Get organized. It’s key that you make a commitment to devote the time, attention and resources to creating your plan.  Eliminate overwhelm as much as you can.
  1. Think about how you’ll get others involved. Getting others within your organization to contribute to the creating of the plan, not only creates a sense of shared commitment but you also get the benefit of more knowledge and help.  The engagement that people feel when given an opportunity to participate at this level of business planning is definitely worth it.  Decide who within your organization you’d like to have involved.
  1. Make it flexible. Don’t think of your plan as a rigid “final product” with every detail pinned down. It’s best if you think of your plan as a living, growing document and welcome opportunities to add to, revise or even eliminate parts of your plan as new information becomes available.  Whatever you do, don’t follow through with something in your plan, just because “it’s in the plan!”  Stay flexible and be open to change, when you do, you’ll have a business plan that serves your company well.
  1. Use milestones. You’ll find that if you break your annual goals down into achievable milestones, you will keep yourself and others engaged throughout the year.  A way to do this is to make sure every goal has a project associated with it.  Then determine the high-level tasks necessary to complete the project.  Give each task a due date and assign accountability for accomplishing that task.

Now that you are organized and have laid the foundation using the six steps above, it’s time to continue moving towards the creation of your plan.  Are you ready?

The following benchmarks help you pull all the pieces together into your planning document so that it will truly become a living, breathing plan for your business.

  1. Imagine the impact you want your business plan to have. Take a minute to visualize the impact that you want your business plan to have on the people who work in your organization.  In your mind, see how people are responding as they read it. How is everyone using the plan as they go back to their individual positions?  How are departments working together differently because of the new plan?  Picture this exactly the way you want it to be within your company. 
  1. Assess the current condition of your business. You want your plan to be an attainable stretch, not an unrealistic dream, so take a good look at where you are now.  A good honest look.
  1. Prioritize the business’ needs. After completing step 2, you are now ready to prioritize.  We find that there are always more ideas than time to implement them in the timeframe that you decided upon for your plan.  So work through your ideas and commit to a short, realistic list of projects that will lead to the achievement of your goals.  You can always do the others some other time.
  1. Create quarterly goals and monthly actions. Break your annual goals down into achievable milestones to keep everyone, including you, engaged in the journey.  To determine that your plan is realistic and achievable, assign a project to each goal and then plot the high-level tasks necessary to complete the project.  This will also give you a sense of the resource requirements, such as, time, money and personnel needed to accomplish your goals.
  1. Assign accountabilities and due dates. Assign one person to be accountable for each task and project.  Also make sure that there is a due date that the assigned person commits to and believes is realistic.
  1. Document assumptions and allow for change. Documenting your assumptions is an important part of the process because it helps you learn from mistakes and flow with the inevitable changes. When new information arises months from now, you’re going to be thankful that you documented your assumptions so you can easily change parameters due to the new information.  Also establish a formal review period, either quarterly or semi-annually, to review the entire plan and update parts as needed.

These benchmarks for producing your business plan lead you through the process of producing the physical document of your business plan.  With this information in mind, you can now start to formulate the actual content of your plan.

Also check out my video Business Planning Steps to Make 2016 Your Best Year Ever.

If you would like some assistance with the creation of your annual plan, reach out to me and schedule your complimentary consultation.