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.

Now that you have completed your narrative business plan,  there are three more things to consider to ensure the plan remains relevant and the planning process gains momentum.

Once the action plans are completed, it’s a important to review how you track your progress and how your company is organized.

First, a brief work about Key Performance indicators:

We all like to know how we are doing, from the CEO to the sales team, the service reps or the admin group. The business plan provides the reference point to measure your progress

Take a look at what you are tracking. Is it relevant and meaningful?  Look for the activities that drive the business, that have the most impact on results. How are you tracking those activities?

Make a list of these “key performance indictors” and review the list on a regular basis. You will soon learn what is important to your success and what isn’t.

A word about Organization Structure:

As you assign responsibilities for the action plans, questions may arise around how the company is organized and what people or other resources may be needed to get the job done. This is a good time to review your organization chart, and make changes that will support the plan.

Once you are clear about your goals and the action plans, planning future changes to the organization structure is a fairly straight forward task.

One way of doing this is to draw the current org chart, and then a second one that reflects changes you may need to make over the next year.

Even the smallest companies should have an org chart, although the names in the boxes may be repeated because of share responsibilities. It will help you visualize the importance of balancing the need to drive new business concurrent with working on existing projects.

Now, The Final Step:

Schedule your Business Plan quarterly review sessions and put them in the corporate calendar.

Make this information public and stick to the schedule.

I’ve learned that 90 days is the natural cycle for refreshing your plans. Our world is constantly changing. If your plans are left beyond 90 days, clarity turns to confusion and energy starts to be wasted.

Get into a 90 day habit. Each revisit to your working business plan will add more insights. You will soon get very efficient at this work and begin to look forward to it.

We will review Step 4 of your business plan, completing the detailed action plans.

Step 4 is where you can fully tap into the talent and resources of your employees. The approach you take will depend on the size and structure of your company.

If you are organized around traditional departmental lines, such as marketing, sales, operations, and  finance, the action plan format in the workbook will work well for you.

In smaller companies, these departmental responsibilities are shared and individuals may have several roles. However, following the workbook will ensure you cover all areas in a coordinated set of action plans.

Let’s start with something I call Critical Impediments:

Before jumping into the specific action plans, we suggest you spend a few minutes listing your “Critical Impediments”.

This can be done on a corporate level, and in larger companies, by any other organization lines, such as division, department, region, business line, etc.

Try brainstorming without limiting the ideas. This will help “prime the pump” as you begin more focused discussion under each Action Plans section.

The Action Plans section of the Workbook is designed to guide the creation of “to do” lists in all sections of your business.

If you are working with a team, this, again, is where brainstorming techniques work well, and then distil the ideas into a manageable priority list

Notice, the format for documenting the action plans has 4 columns (see Marketing Plan,:

The key to success in executing the plan is to ensure that each activity has a “person responsible” for it’s completion, and a completion target date.

Bear in mind, the person responsible may not be the person who performs all the tasks within that action item, but is the ultimate “owner” of the project, and must report out on the result at the next plan review session.

1st column, Discussion/Action Item – Here you capture a short description of the activity, perhaps with the rationale. You want enough information here to easily pick up the discussion at a late review, but stick to the headlines, not the full story.

2nd column, Person responsible – the individual who is accountable for ensuring the action item is carried out and will report back at the next review period. Remember, this person doesn’t necessarily do the work, but ensures it gets done, calling in any other resources, internally or externally, as needed.

3rd column, Completion date: although we recommend quarterly reviews, not all action items may need to be competed each quarter. As you assess your priorities, and resources, you will find some activities will need to wait until later in the year. It’s better to record the items needed to be done, then defer to a later completion date, than leave them off the list. This is where the “sanity” part kicks in. It’s a huge stress reliever when you see all the work that needs to be done, scheduled over  a realistic time frame, that everyone understands.

4th column, Cost – this column can be used to flush out potential capital cost investments or added resources. The intent here is to identify potential cost areas, not to focus on actual numbers. You will find this a helpful tool for budgeting.

Remember, your action plans need to relate to the general strategies listed in the BP summary.

They can be organized directly from the broad strategies list in the BP Summary  document, or you can follow the Workbook format, and , each department can create action plans that support the larger strategies listed in the Business Plan summary.

For example, the Sales Manager and sales team will have a major contribution to the marketing and sales plans, but could also have some action items that relate to improved customer service, or financial controls.

Similarly, those working more on the operations side of the business, may have action plans to support the sales or marketing goals of the company.

Needless to say, you want avoid “silo-ing” and keep everyone working collectively towards the corporate goals.

Let’s take a look at the Marketing Plan as an example,

For this work book we distinguish between marketing and sales activities as two different but related processes

Your Marketing Plan is any activity that:

  • Builds the company brand, and
  • involves communication with your existing clients and  new prospects

With the ultimate goal of generating new business opportunities for the company

The Sales Plan addresses all activities, processes, and tools to manage an unqualified lead through to the close of a contract, sale, and beyond, into a long term relationship (these customer for life that we all want)

The workbook is designed to help you target specific goals within each business area, that are meaningful, and practical for each business section, and also support the larger corporate goals.

For example, the marketing plan may have its own 12 month  goals:

  • increase the number of new leads from x to y  (use quantifiable language whenever possible)
  • Develop a social media component to our marketing program
  • Launch marketing campaign in new region
  • ??

Again, there is a thin line between a goal and strategy, the “how to do” it part. Don’t spend a lot of energy on the semantics. The key is creating a “to do” list, select a champion to lead the project, and set a reasonable completion date.

Once you compete this section of your work book, you will have a compete set of action plans that address all aspects of your business.

You also have the tools you need to help everyone understand their contribution to the whole picture, and how their fellow employees are involved in moving the company towards its goals. The stage is set for collaboration between departments, as everyone has a clear picture of what needs to be achieved.

The last step is to consolidate your actions plans into a single list and identify the priorities for the next quarter.

Now return to your work book and draft your action plans for each section of your business.

We will look at Step 3 of your Business Plan; gathering some baseline information and documenting where you are now.

This is information about:

Your Customers  –  who you sell to, who is your target audience

Your Product and Services, and how you charge for these

Your partners, alliances and influencers


Your Competitors

Documenting this information in specific and clear terms provides a reference point for the action plans that follow.

For example, your marketing and sales plans start with a clear understanding of your target market, those individuals or companies who will have the greatest need for your product and services.

This may seem obvious, but I find that many organizations do not have this information readily at hand and in a format that everyone in the company can understand

As you review and revise this information on a regular basis, you and your teams will better understand who your best customers are, and what changes you need to make to your products and services to continuously add value for them.

This document will become a useful record as you evolve your business over time.

Let’s start with Your Customers.

The intent here is to clearly articulate the criteria of your target customer. Depending on the size and scope of your business, you may have a relatively short criteria list or  it may require a matrix or spread sheet to clearly explain your current  situation.

This is a good place to involve a wider circle of employees to put this information together.

The test of this document is when everyone in the company can recognize a potential new customer and know how to categorize a new lead. – and to know who isn’t a likely prospect, so you don’t waste time and effort there.

Next, Products and Services/Pricing,

Look at the array of products and services you currently offer, and how you charge for these.

Again, put this information in a format that is easy to understand, both internally and, more importantly, for your current customers and prospects.

Are there any immediate changes you need to make to your current offerings, or pricing strategy? If so, make a note here and transfer an activity to the action plans section later in your business plan.

By the way, when was the last time you asked your customers about their changing needs?

A disciplined, quarterly review, of your business plan, will keep your service offerings fresh, profitable and ahead of your competitors.

Partners, Alliances, and Influencers.

This section captures important information about the companies and individuals you rely on to run your business and deliver on your promises to your customers. These may be your suppliers, or other service providers who have an impact on your business.

The intent here is to assess these relationships and build more productive ones in the future.

We start by looking at the criteria for a productive partner or business alliance, What do you need from a business partner to ensure successful results?

For example,

  • Are their business needs aligned and complementary with yours?
  • Are they open to sharing information about clients?
  • Do they have the same or similar corporate Values?

What other criteria can you use to identify a solid business partner or alliance to ensure your company is successful?

In this workbook, the distinction between partner and alliance is a matter of degree – a partner is a much stronger connection and usually will have a contractual arrangement

An alliance is less intimate connection, and may be seen as a potential future partner

Influencers are people or organizations that can “influence” potential or existing customers – both in a positive or negative way. It’s helpful to recognize these sources, and from time to time, invest some energy in building these relationships.

A good example of an influencer is your industry association groups and key players within these associations. They also might be opinion leaders in the media, either the  traditional media , or social media.

In today’s world of exploding social media, the affect “influencers’ have on your business will surely grow.

Getting clear on who your “Influencers” are, will help you formulate strategies and action plans in the Marketing section later in this workbook

Next, Competitors, 

The Competitors section is designed to capture information and bring some attention to your competitors.

Although I am not a big fan of spending a lot of energy or focus on competitors, it is helpful to keep track of who they are, and, over time, learn as much as possible about them and from them.

We start with a simple list of who they are, a somewhat subjective “risk rating” and a comment on what they do better than you do – what do they, or their customers, say is their competitive advantage?

If you have the inclination and resources you can dig into more detailed Business Intelligence data on your competitors over time. Keeping this document current on each review period will remind you to pay close attention to your changing customer needs, and help refine your target market for future growth.

Keep in mind, a competitor, depending on your perspective, may be a potential future partner or alliance.

The intention for this section of your business plan is to document the behaviours and attitudes that form the basis of your corporate culture. These are the “ Rules of the Village”, that everyone follows. Once these rules are clearly understood and supported throughout the company, all employees have a reference point to make independent decisions.

Your company values are another foundation piece of your business plan. All companies and organizations have a set of values, but they are rarely written in a format that is clear and easy for everyone to understand.

The most common flaw with Values Statements in business plans is they are too general, or ambiguous, and, therefore, open to wide interpretation.

To help make your values clear, we suggest for every value statement you make, you add  3-5 clarifying points, to move from the general to specific.

“Less is more” is a good rule of thumb here. 3 or 4 clearly articulated values are far more useful than a page of words that few people understand and therefore pay little attention to.

Now take a crack at writing a Values Page for your company- Again don’t be too concerned about getting it right the first time. This too will get clearer each time you review and update you plan

Note: if you are running an existing business, that is, not a start-up, most of the information you need to write your business plan is likely already contained in various documents in your company. This work book will help you organize this information into a practical tool that you can systematically update over time.

Before you start to complete the workbook, I suggest you gather up all your existing material so you can “cut and paste” some of it into your business plan.

 A word about  how the workbook is designed.

You have the “working” section where you jot down your thoughts, using the prompting questions to guide you.

This page is followed by a formatted page for you to transfer your ideas into a finished product.

The Genie will produce your Business Plan when you have completed all 4 steps

Step 1, Your Business Plan Summary

You will find this document to be the most useful communication tool available to you in running your business.

It captures the essence of the business, and sets the foundation for planning the details, and

It will give you a deeper understanding of your business

Don’t worry about getting it perfect on the first try.

It may require several versions over time

To put this in perspective, I like the quote from a letter Mark Twain wrote  to a friend:

He starts the letter with: “please accept my apologies for the length of this letter. I would have written a shorter one, but I didn’t have time”

Your narrative business plan will get clearer, and shorter, as your return to this document each quarter

As you get started, consider how and when to involve other employees.

We know that employees are much more committed to completing action plans they understand and have a hand in creating.

As a general guideline, Steps 1 and 2, the Business Plan Summary and the Values sections, are leadership responsibilities and should be written by the CEO with assistance from other senior staff.

As you get into Steps 3 and 4 we suggest you involve a wider circle of employees. Your company size and how you are structured will affect how and when you engage the others.

The first two steps need to be written, at least in draft form, by the CEO, with input from the senior executives.

There are a couple of ways of doing this:

2 options

The CEO can prepare a draft document for review and critique by the senior management team


The executive team can create these documents together

From a practical perspective, we find the first method works best, with the CEO outlining his/her aspirations for the business and bringing this to the senior team for critique and changes. A colleague of mine, Doug Bouey, who has been coaching CEO’s for many years, put it this way:

“Presidents have 3 missions:

  • set the game
  • staff the organization
  • keep the edge on

At the top of the house is where these happen. Nowhere else.

The Business Plan Summary contains 5 pieces of useful information. They are:

  1. What is Your Unique Business Proposition – This is a basic description of your business- who you are, what you do, perhaps where you are, and what is unique, special or different about your company? What are you really good at, your special area of expertise? Why attracted customers come to you in the first place, and why do they return?

Now take a crack at writing your Unique Business Proposition

  1. What is the Purpose of your business, as seen from the customer’s perspective?

– this is the why of your business, as seen from the customer’s perspective? why you do what you do, what core problem do you solve, or fundamental need do you fulfil for your customers? I invite you to take extra time to think this one through.

This is not about you or your company, such as being the best at this or that, or making money.

It’s about the customer.

If you look in the workbook, I have a couple of examples,

A drill bit company:

Their purpose, “perfect holes every time”, not about great drill bits.

See the distinction? The customer wants perfect holes every time; they don’t much care about how you do that.

The purpose of a bicycle rental business we work with, their purpose , :

“ a unique outdoor experience”, not fabulous bikes, great service, etc

A well written Purpose will inspire your employees, make their work meaningful, and guide their behaviour

The Purpose statement of the bike rental company reads like this:

“Our purpose is to provide our customers with a unique outdoor experience – spectacular scenery, sounds, movement, activity, education, and nature at its best – a sense of well being and a chance to recapture a part of youth that can be shared with family and friends of all ages and physical abilities.

This experience is facilitated and enhanced through our commitment to customer service and quality products “

With that purpose in mind, the young part-time summer staff can get excited about helping tourists and locals alike “enjoy a unique outdoor experience”,

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, fire fighting 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.”

If you struggle a bit with this, you are not alone. Getting clear about your purpose may take awhile. Talk  with your customers.  Peter Shutz, a resource speaker for The Executive Committee (TEC) recently reminded us “If you listen closely enough, your customers will explain your business to you”

Now, return to your workbook, and draft a Purpose statement for your business


  1. What is Your Destination – this your longer term goal, your picture of success 3 years from now

Be specific, clear, and use quantifiable language as much as possible. Keep it simple and easy to understand, with a limit of 4-5 major results.

Start with your financial goals, one goal for revenue/profit, and one based on improving some aspect of your balance sheet and/or cash flow position

To help you set financial goals, a good place to start is a review of the past 2-5 year numbers, if you have them.

Be realistic in your expectations of future results.

When setting your revenue targets its critical to have the accompanying profit improvement goals. Pushing only for revenue growth, in the absence of profit targets is a recipe for disaster.

We strongly recommend you assess your balance sheet and set a meaningful goal for this part of your business

Other goals may involve changes to your culture, people development, geographic expansion, product innovation, acquisitions,  or any goal that would make you happy as the CEO.

Item 4,

  1. What are Your one year Goals – what do you need to accomplish in the next 12 months? These will be a shorter term version of the items listed under the Destination

And, 5

  1. What is Your Strategy –  how you will achieve these results, in broad terms. We suggest you have at least one strategy for each goal statement above.

Note: goals and strategies may look similar as there is a thin distinction between what is a goal and what is a strategy. Try to identify  the 3-5 most important results, put these in the goals and destination sections,  and leave the other ideas to the strategy section

Please go to the workbook and complete the Business Plan Summary section now.

In this audio segment, I will explain the 4 steps to writing the business plan.

We need to look first at the process of planning

Let’s start with the basics,  – what exactly is a business plan?

Business Plans have two parts,

The first part is the narrative plan– a description of what you expect your business to achieve and how you will accomplish these goals. It starts with an outline of where you are today, and includes a description of your “destination”, and how you will get there.

In plain terms, the narrative plan is the road map for the journey ahead.

The second piece of the business plan is the financial projections. These typically include:

  • an annual budget which shows –  your revenue, cost  and profit projections,
  • forecasted  Balance Sheet changes, future expected asset growth,
  • cash flow projections, and
  • a Capital Budget that reflects the capital investments needed for the business to perform on its plan

Many companies create an annual budget, a forecast of revenue and expenses and call this their business plan. It is the narrative plan that usually falls by the wayside.

Note the order of these two pieces of your plan. It’s important to recognize that the narrative business plan leads this process. Without the narrative plan, you have no foundation to make financial projections. (other than repeating last year’s numbers and fudging in an arbitrary growth factor)

This workbook will help you put your narrative business plan together in a clear, easy to understand format. We’ll leave the financial projections to you  to complete as a separate exercise.

So Why a businesses plan?

Lewis Carol’s “Alice in Wonderland” said it best.

He writes, “One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree.

Which road do I take? she asked.

Where do you want to go? was his response.

 I don’t know, Alice answered.

Then, said the cat, it doesn’t matter.”

In business, if we aren’t clear where we want to go, we run the risk of following the wrong path, leading to poor, if not disastrous results.  If your employees do not know where you want go, they also may go down the wrong path.

There are several obvious reasons for writing a narrative business plan:

Firstly, to inspire your employees  to deliver on a specific set of performance metrics, or goals.

We all like to know how we are doing, from the CEO to the sales team, the service reps or the admin group. The business plan provides the reference point to measure our progress

Secondly, to improve and strengthen teamwork and cohesiveness –  people enjoy  working with teammates to reach a goal, to achieve something worthwhile, doing it together, celebrating their successes, learning from their  mistakes, and

Finally, and most importantly, writing your narrative business plan will help you to better understand your business –  you need to truly understand your business if you want others to  understand it and be engaged with you in achieving extraordinary results.

When you take the time to document your plan, using this workbook, you will gain a much deeper understanding of your business.

A well written business plan, understood at all levels of the company , is like a magnetic force   – it creates a tension that pulls the company towards it’s goals, providing a strong motivational force for the entire organization –

Now, let’s look at the process of Planning

There is a process to planning, and it is a continuous process, and your plan will be constantly changing, as the situation around you changes.

Fixing regular review dates, in your corporate calendar, is critical to the success of this planning process!

If you commit to this discipline,  you will find, after a couple of quarters, these regularly scheduled review meetings  will

  • create a planning habit in the company
  • demonstrate your commitment to the plan, (which,  by the way is the #1 reason most plans fail)  and
  • build in  accountability for the execution.- I’ll talk more about how  this accountability works later in the workbook in the action plans section

Good planning is a collaborative process. This workbook is designed to allow the company leaders to set the overall direction for the business and also engage appropriate level of employee participation.

Your plan gains momentum when employees are involved in creating the action plans – and are held accountable for it’s execution.

I find it interesting to watch the behaviour at the reporting out at the first quarterly review meeting, and then observe the changes as the team gets into motion in the following months

As the employees gain a clearer understanding of where you are, where you are going and how you intend to get there, they will align their efforts with yours to get you there.