Small Business Planning

Business planning for a small business is not all about writing a business plan. Many small businesses have never written a business plan and get along just fine without one. That doesn’t mean that written business plans aren’t helpful or sometimes even necessary (potential investors and banks will want to see a business plan, for example). But a written business plan only reflects conditions at the time it was written. And these days, things change fast (as all small business owners know). So the business plan that was written today, starts becoming out of date tomorrow.

Small business planning is a dynamic process. Boiled down to its simplest elements it goes like this “Where am I now – where do I want to go – how do I get there”? It doesn’t take a written plan to work that process, it doesn’t even require conscious knowledge or effort. What it does require is a clear idea of what you want from your business. Knowing where you want to go and having the desire to get there is a powerful combination. If you know where you want to go, you can take stock of where you are now and formulate a plan to get there.
That is what business planning is all about.

The beauty of the planning process is that it can be applied to your business as a whole or to any part of your business (sales, marketing, operations….). You can write things down, or not, do a detailed study or work from the back of a paper napkin. You can allocate regular time for planning, or do it when it feels necessary. There is no best case – it all depends on the business and the people involved. Of course, it does really help to have good information about your business, because it gives you a clearer idea of where you are and where you are headed. Timely, accurate, financials for example, make planning a whole lot easier as does good knowledge of your industry, your clients and your suppliers.

Then comes the real fun part. Strategy. How do I get from here to there? How do I get where I want to go? How many failures did Edison have before he got a working light bulb? Not all strategies work. But you can learn from each attempt. That is part of the process. So, you execute your strategy, then see where you are and the cycle begins again. Where am I, where do I want to go, how do I get there.

That is small business planning in a nutshell. Every business owner does it in some way or another. There is no right way. As for myself, I prefer some structure and regularity – a small, nimble planning document, periodic plan reviews, measurable metrics tied to key goals and occasional retreats to re-examine overall goals.