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:
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:
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.