In an article published by The Globe and Mail, Jon Umstead proposes that running your business from a documented plan will increase your odds of success by 30-50%. He further states that business leaders who learn how to be better planners not only improve their own business and personal success, but they can collectively change economic growth throughout the country. This article is worth a read. See link at the end.

When I first read this article several years ago, it stuck with me. I knew from my own business experience and from chairing a CEO peer group, that documented plans, along with a commitment to an ongoing planning process, really works. I’m now on a quest to help business leaders everywhere be more successful through better planning.

Here are three things to consider when business planning:

• Structuring the plan
This is the starting point. Once you have clear picture of what information to include in the plan, and what isn’t necessary, this work can go quickly. With a solid structure, it’s simply a matter of adding content. And content can be easily changed and revised over time using the same structure.
• Documenting the plan
Plans kept in your head, or another person’s head, aren’t helpful. Only when you distil your ideas onto a document can these ideas be understood and added to by others.
• Committing to planning
Even well structured and fully documented plans grow stale quickly. Effective planning is a continuous process. It requires discipline to stick to a review schedule with so many competing demands on your time. Take a break, check on your progress, celebrate your achievements and reset priorities for the next quarter.

Over the past few years, we developed a structure for planning in business that makes this task relatively easy for any size business at any stage of growth. We are also compiling resources about planning on our web site ( If you have any great tools that you have used successfully, or insights, or questions on this topic, I would love to hear from you.

If you are already on the planning “bandwagon”, please share this message with others. Let’s get the economy going again.


Why does your company exist? (from your customer’s perspective)

We are seeing a lot of attention being paid in recent years to this idea of knowing your “Why” or Purpose of your business, for good reason.

Discovering the answer to this question can have a profound effect on the success of your business. It provides context for so many other strategic decisions as grow your business, a foundation piece for your business plan.

On the surface, “why” seems like a simple question, yet many business leaders struggle to find a strong, compelling, and succinct answer to this question.

The key to getting to a clear Purpose statement is to focus on your customer’s perspective.

Start with this question:

What fundamental value or benefit do our customers receive from us?

Brainstorm a list of answers with your team. Mix and combine ideas until you have a good starting point. Review and tweak over time

Here’s an illustration. Imagine you are the owner of a company that sells lighthouses. What might be the Purpose of your business?

Something like: Our company purpose is to protect the lives and property of our customers at sea.

With this purpose in mind, the company has the foundation to build out and improve it’s products and services over time. Eg. Life boats, life jackets. GPS systems, charts, etc all flow from this strong purpose statement.

Pontish Yeramyan, CEO of Gap International, wrote in a recent article about being purposeful:

“The 21st Century Organization can also differentiate itself by operating within a bigger context than a vision or mission, something more expansive. It’s not enough anymore to simply have a clear direction – people must be able to throw their entire selves into the game to be successful, with full engagement of heart and mind.

We have found that when leaders leverage Purpose, it creates a competitive advantage that’s difficult or even impossible to replicate. Purpose creates the ability for people to care about something much bigger than their personal concerns and fully apply their talent to meaningful endeavours.

 If you think about it, Being Purposeful creates the platform for organization success, because it taps into a reservoir of potential energy latent within the organization. When peoples’ orientation to their job transforms from performing work to that of making a difference, they become exponentially more effective at coming together to produce extraordinary results.

 It becomes possible to consistently produce results beyond what is predictable in the normal flow of business. Powerful strategies can be created and re-created when purpose is present. Purpose gives people a far more expansive space to create and grow, where creative, purpose-based thinking replaces crisis-based, firefighting thinking.

 An organization of people who have connected themselves to something bigger can thrive rather than simply survive –they can move fast together and nimbly adjust strategies and tactics to succeed.”

 When your business plan starts with “Why” the other pieces will follow more easily”

For more tips on planning please visit

Clarity Creates Confidence

I’ll Show you mine, if you show me yours!


Are you ready and willing to show me yours? – Your Business Plan, that is.

Sharing your written plans with others outside your business is one of the best ways to bring clarity and insights to this document, yet many business leaders are often reluctant to do this.

The key is finding the right audience, someone you trust and is willing to challenge your thinking and provide fresh perspectives. Ideally, you also want someone who has a broad business experience, and not necessarily in your industry.


Some possible examples:

  • Business leaders you may know in other industries who are not connected with your business in any way. Offer to review their plan and exchange ideas – “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” This could be done one-to-one or with a small group, spaced over time. (If you are involved in a CEO peer group such as The Executive Committee, you have access to this type of opportunity on a regular basis.)


  • Senior business bankers


  • Senior business accountants


  • Other professional advisors, such as M&A firms, business coaches or consultants


  • An advisory board (distinct from a formal board)


  • A mentor or coach


You are looking for a coach’s perspective: Does this plan make sense to you? What parts need clarification? What’s missing? Where are my challenges, opportunities, blind spots?

This may be too large a task to complete is a single meeting and may be better tackled one section at a time.

Presenting your plan to others will require you to be more succinct in documenting the plan and will lead to much greater clarity. And, clarity creates confidence.

Don’t be shy, ask for help. I think you will find most people you ask will feel flattered that you reached out to them.

If you need help in structuring your working plan, please visit our web site,




The Art of Moving Forward is a Top Priority of Every Business Leader and Entrepreneur. But How?

If you wish for a steady stride to navigate the challenges of the coming year, putting yourself in the driver’s seat is key. After all you are the navigator.


As the captain of the ship, what is your highest priority? When we put the question in this nautical context, the answer is obvious; Always be crystal clear on your destination and how you intend to get there.


This sailing metaphor makes this assertion intuitively obvious. It is absurd to think that a captain of a ship, a plane or a bus driver would venture forth without knowing the destination and having plotted the route.


Nor would we, as passengers or crew, choose to embark on any such journey.


Once the captain and his leadership team are clear on the destination and route, the next step is to share this information with the crew and help them understand their responsibilities on the trip.


Inevitably, course corrections are made along the way: route changes, timelines adjusted, emergencies resolved. The plan is routinely updated and communicated to the crew.


As the leader of your enterprise, how effective are you at documenting and communicating the future direction of your business?


  • Are your short- and long-term goals clearly defined?


  • Does your leadership team know and agree on the “route” – the steps you need to take to reach your destination?


  • Do you have a culture that supports the venture? Does everyone understand the “rules of the village”?


  • How clear are you and your team on where you are today? is there a common understanding of what you sell, who you sell to, your partners and alliances, and your competitors.


  • How clear is the crew on their individual areas of contribution?


  • Do you have an adequate number of “seats on the bus”, and are they filled with qualified people?


A business without a working plan is like a ship sailing without a destination.

The art of moving forward requires mapping, communication and action steps just as is required for reaching any destination, whether in business or in your personal life. 


For more information and easy to use tools on maintaining a working plan for your business please visit our web site. Share your views and insights about planning with others on the “community comments” section.


Jan 27, 2021                                                             © Plan Genie

Frequently confronted with the argument that you don’t have time to plan, we don’t believe this for a moment.

We all have the same 24 hours in a day, every day. This is not to say you aren’t busy, it’s to say that we know if you make time for planning, it is time well spent and invested. We challenge you to implement the practice of planning.

We adhere to the principle that there is power, or “magic”, in the act of writing our plans down. The magic is the clarity the act of planning provides and the “aha” experiences you have when you write your plans, you give them life. Running your business from a plan is a shift from a passive to active stance for your business.

We named ourselves Plan Genie because we know we all have those “3 wishes” for our business and while we can’t grant wishes, we can help teach and support you to make your own wishes come true in your business.

Planning is a catalyst for learning, growth and clarity in every aspect of your life. Why don’t more businesses plan? It’s a mystery.

To use the analogy of a grocery list. While a business plan is more complicated than a weekly shopping list, it is in essence the same principle and not that much more difficult to get into the habit of. How much more effectively do you use your time when you go to the store with a list. When you have a current written plan you start to see what’s both working and not working in your business. You get grounded and inspired.

Now, while we have so much uncertainty is a good time to get back to the basics of planning.


There has been a lot written about “disruptive innovation” in the last few years. New and creative approaches to established industries are changing the landscape. Examples include Uber disrupting the taxi industry; AirBnB is disrupting the hotel industry. The underlying message is about reminding business leaders to take innovation more seriously and avoid complacency.

We didn’t see it coming, but our business and personal lives have been hit by one of the biggest disruptors in recent history. And it happened quickly, in a matter of a couple of months. Very few, if any businesses or personal lives have escaped. (Uber and AiBnB are being impacted, … a lot of Uber drivers are now doing food delivery via Uber eats… while AirBnB is in disarray ) Whether you have seen a significant loss of revenue, or a major spike, or something close to normal, the way we operate our business has been irreversibly disrupted.

COVID19 has been a disruptive force. And it has created an exceptional opportunity to innovate. As the C19 storm eases, it’s time to renew our plans for the next cycle of our business.

The opportunities are everywhere for new ideas:

Our markets,

How will our market change? How will we adapt? What new products or services, or pricing will we offer?

Our Operations – What have we learned, so far, about how we deliver our products and services to our customers?

Our people – how do we redeploy our people more effectively in the months and years ahead?

Our systems – what lessons have we learned about our embedded way of doing things?

Planning ahead is an essential task for all business leaders. Planning requires more than generating ideas. It is important to cull, prioritize and to write them down in a coherent, easy to understand document that can be shared with your leadership team, your employees, your bank, your partners, and occasionally with your customers.

Taking your thoughts from your head and documenting them is the catalyst that cannot be overlooked and why a written plan is so powerful – there is magic in writing things down and speaking them aloud. Ideas die in the dark.

Now is an excellent time to get your team all rowing towards your next destination.

Any comments? Better still, love to have your questions about planning. What do you need help with?

Are you feeling like you’ve been hit by a COVID 19 hurricane? Your business ship took a blow and you’ve been scrambling to get things back under control. Immediate, urgent, short term plans have been devised and executed. Time lines are hourly, daily, weekly. There has been no time to think beyond the current week.

Planning never stops, it just speeds up and slows down.

As you start getting things back under control, your crew will be more anxious than ever to know where the company is heading, and how they can help.

How do you communicate the new direction and focus when you’re not clear yourself. The business leader’s primary function is to set the next destination and chart the course. Wandering aimlessly in a turbulent sea is not an option.

How can I make a plan when the future is so unclear and changing so quickly?

Yes, the landscape has changed dramatically in the last few weeks and continues to change quickly. But planning is always done in a fluid business landscape. Each time we refresh our business plan, we do so in the context of an ever changing world. We set our goals and determine our best course of action, taking into account the impediments we are facing and the resources we have available.

Most plans are stale after 90 days, and need to be rewritten. When the pace of change speeds up, this review cycle needs to be adjusted accordingly.

If our normal practice is to set goals for 1-3 years into the future, we may need to be focused on 3 to 12 months in the current situation.

 Where do I start?

Start with the big picture, your business plan summary. The structure in the Plan Genie business planning workbook contains five core pieces of information:

  1. Your unique business proposition – a succinct description about what makes your business special and unique.
  2. Your purpose – why your business is needed, as seen from the customer’s point of view.
  3. Your long term goals. Your destination 3 years from now (or 1 year).
  4. Short term goals, one year out (3 months).
  5. Strategy/Action steps – A list of the major steps we need to take to reach our goals.

Write it down!

Write your plan down in a structured, easy to understand format. Your business plan summary is the foundation for communicating the future direction for your business – where you intend to take business and how you will get there.

As you go through the process of writing your plan, you will gain clarity and confidence to tackle the challenges ahead. others are looking for this – your leadership team, your bank, your suppliers and distribution partners, and your customers.

 It’s in our DNA. The human brain is a planning machine. We create hundreds of plans each day, some large, some small. We plan our route to work or school, what to make for dinner, a week-end fishing trip, our next hair appointment. We are always planning.

We contemplate a desired outcome (goal), determine how to achieve it (strategy) and take action (execute). We rarely, if ever write these plans down, totally unnecessary for the multiple small, simple, plans we action every day.

As our plans become larger, more complex we occasionally write them down.

Here’s an example we can all relate to: our weekly trip to the supermarket.

It starts with a goal:  we need food, replenish the pantry, to feed our family.

A senior executive (Mom, Dad) jumps in the car and heads to the supermarket with a vague plan bouncing around in his brain. He grabs a shopping cart and starts to execute on his plan.

Up and down the aisles he goes, somewhat randomly tossing items in the cart, making moment by moment decisions. (he’s an entrepreneur and takes pride in his ability to make decisions on the fly)  – a little of this, some of that, maybe one of these. Look, on sale, I’ll buy three!

Oh, that’s new!  I’ll give it a try.

Whoops, forgot the butter, back to the dairy section.

Now he rolls into the check out and begins to stress over the unrelenting rising price of groceries.

Back home, as the goods are unpacked, the accusing voice “where’s the coffee!”, followed by hasty return to the store.

Let’s compare this plan, to a similar one, only this time we write our plan down.

We start with a review of our current situation, then make a list. Check the pantry, the fridge, contemplate the meal requirements for the next week. Next, we organize the list by category, meat and poultry in one column, then fruit/vegetables, dairy, other. This will save time in execution at the supermarket.

Now, let’s ramp this planning process up a bit. Put the list on the fridge door so the whole team can get involved. The plan is updated and refreshed on a regular basis throughout the week.

After s few months of experience with this, we decide to make a further refinement, what if we had an overarching purpose (our why) to guide our decisions.  Something like, “ maximum nutrition that will promote, strong, healthy energetic lifestyle for our family”. Over time, chips and cheesies disappear from the list, replaced by fresh fruit and healthy nuts.

Now, we’re ready to execute. With list in hand, off we go to the supermarket. We save time, money, and get better quality results.

Better still, the family executive, Mom and Dad, can delegate the execution of the plan to their senior team members, son or daughter, and spend the day in the garden, go for a walk on the beach.

If this shopping project works better when we invest a few minutes to document our plan, and implement an ongoing planning process,  imagine the impact on your business if we develop the skills and habit of “running our business from a written plan”.

Research shows the probability of success goes up by 30-50%.

Your written plan is the foundation that builds team alignment, accountability, and clarity of direction.

It’s time to get started. Improved results will soon follow.




Plan Genie, is first and foremost, an on-line tool to assist you in writing a narrative business plan for your business. But is more than that.

Plan Genie is a Universal Business Practices Template supported with audio Coaching Modules that:

  • makes business planning accessible and affordable for any business, and
  • provides a framework and foundation to expand  business knowledge over time.

Our purpose at Plan Genie is to help you:

  • Get your business under control and keep it that way
  • And in the process, Achieve more balance in your life and Enjoy enduring success

Our format and workbooks were created through many years of simplifying and refining core business principles and best practices.

Plan Genie will help you quickly and efficiently write a narrative business plan for your company, and to refresh your plan on a regularly scheduled basis.

As you revise your business plan each quarter, you and your employees will gain a greater understanding of your core business and broaden your knowledge of effective business practices.

This instruction audio has eight segments so you can work at your own pace , and refer to the corresponding segments as you get to them in the workbook.

The first three audio segments  will give you an overview of the planning process and our 4 Step Method for writing your business plan.

The next 4 modules will take you through the 4 steps and the final segment deals with tracking your progress and refreshing your plan on a continuous basis.

I believe, and few people  will argue,  that a business plan is the “foundation” for a successful business, yet the majority of business leaders fail at this important responsibility. The latest figures I’ve seen suggest that fewer than 20% of small to mid size companies have a written business plan that is reviewed on a regular basis.

So why is that?

Here’s what I’ve observed after 25 years running my own companies, and helping other business owners succeed with theirs.

I find that new, or  early stage, company owners rush into their business with energy and enthusiasm, and lack the patience to take the time to put their plans on paper – so much to do, so little time. Once the basic business model is flushed out, their energy is applied to launching the business, and getting sales to pay their bills.

Then, as companies grow and mature they learn to “survive” without a plan – so why bother. They struggle and  survive, but they don’t really prosper.

Others have tried to work from a plan, but don’t have the commitment to stick with it, or find that the format they used was awkward or confusing, and didn’t really help them focus on specific action steps and priorities. This leads to the conclusion that business plans don’t work.

And, finally,

many business owners simply don’t know how to create a written plan – they have not been able to find a clear, easy to understand format that makes sense for their business and a process to keep it fresh and moving forward.

Cost can also be a huge deterrent. The fee for consultants combined with staff meeting costs, off site facilities can easily run in the $20 – 30 k range

Plan Genie provides a format that is clear, logical, easy to understand and readily tailored to any business, large or small, early stage or mature. Our Workbook  takes the drudgery out of the task and  focuses the efforts of everyone  involved, including:

  • Company owners and leadership teams
  • Your Employees
  • Business Partners and alliances
  • Investors

This is a practical, no nonsense, system that delivers results every time.

As you go through the workbook, you will  gain a deeper understanding of your business, which is critical to inspiring employees and engaging them in a journey toward mutual success.

You will also discover untapped potential of your business, to go beyond mere survival to prosperity.

And, most importantly,

A well managed business plan will put you back in control of your business.

With clarity and control comes peace of mind, not only for the owner and leadership team, but for all employees.

That feeling, throughout the whole organization, of knowing where you are, where you’re going, how you are gong to get there, and how each individual can contribute on a personal level.

Your business plan is the foundation on which to build a successful business and, at the same time, maintain a healthy  lifestyle, and keep your sanity.

This audio recording will guide you through the Business Plan Workbook

You can write your Business Plan, either on your own, or with the appropriate contribution from your employees.  The Workbook breaks the task into bite sized, logical steps and results in a  Working Business Plan  that is easy to understand at all levels of the company,

And it doesn’t require a significant investment in off site work. It can be completed in a few short, 2 or 3 hour sessions, scheduled into the regular routine for any business. You can complete your plan in a few days of focussed effort, or spread the work out over a period of a few months. We actually recommend the latter approach if you don’t have a hard deadline in front of you.

The format can be tailored to any size of business or types of business, including non profit organizations and will work at any stage of the business life cycle.

Business Plans only work if you keep at it

In many ways, running your business from a plan is similar to keeping fit through regular exercise. We all know its good for us, but keeping up the habit can be a challenge.

And like exercise, keeping your business plan alive and well is easier if its done in small steps rather than trying to tackle every aspect of your business at once.

A big challenge for most business leaders is finding the time to plan. Calendars fill up quickly. One way to ensure you take the time to plan and think about your business is to make an appointment with yourself. Schedule dates to review parts of the plan fairly often, every month or so. Log in and review and update the section or sections that need attention, or that have become a priority for you.

Remember you can edit your plan at any time as events occur and new ideas spring to mind.

We suggest a full review of your plan with your management team each quarter or season. These dates should be scheduled yearly in advance, and placed on everyone’s calendar.

You may want to consider using a coach.

In order to stick with an exercise program, some of us work better with a partner or a coach. This same approach may be necessary for your discipline of business planning.

A business coach can hold you accountable to stay on track with your planning process and also help you work through the various sections of your plan.

Of course, involving your leadership team and employees is the best way to get committed to, and maintain a planning schedule. Once your team is engaged, an internal accountability will kick in.  If you are the not the best person in your group to keep the program on schedule, find a process champion in the company who will follow through to keep the rest of the team on task.

A regular business plan work-out will make your company healthy and strong. Hey, you’re doing great, keep it up.