It’s a rote truism that every business needs a business plan, although that necessity may not be obvious. Alan Gleeson offers an example from Lewis Carroll’s famous book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to illustrate the importance of business planning.
At a fork in the road, Alice asks the Cheshire Cat:
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
David Ronick agrees. At the very least, a business plan provides direction. Regardless of the reason you established the business, as the head honcho you’re obligated to lead it. A business plan prevents you from losing sight of reality amid the passion and excitement of launching your new business. If you don’t know where you’re going, then you won’t know how to get there.
Another excellent reason to craft a business plan is to secure investor funding. Banks generally require that a business plan be submitted with loan applications in order to determine whether the company’s leadership has a solid plan that will lead to the recovery of their investment. Banks and other investors won’t fund your business unless you can convince them that doing to will earn them a profit.
A solid and persuasive business plan outlines the path you’ll tread in leading the business to profitability. The best business plans allow for flexibility to maneuver around obstacles and even backtrack if necessary to regroup and reconsider alternate ways forward. It anticipates challenges and sets processes into place for confronting them.
Of course, you can’t predict everything unless you have a crystal ball that actually works. You can’t predict the tornado that might wipe out your building and equipment, but you can purchase insurance that will enable your business to recover physical assets and resume operation. You can’t predict your star employee’s sudden absence because he fell off a ladder while cleaning the gutters and broke both legs and arms, but you can ensure that other employees are cross-trained so they can pick up the slack while the poor guy’s taking the necessary time to recuperate.
Business plans help leadership develop and communicate a course of action. It will help your company assess future opportunities, develop a process for action, and then commit to that action. It can help you identify benchmarks for the company as a whole and for specific individuals in key positions to enable monitoring of progress. Circulated among staff, the business plan can also be used as a launching pad for employee questions and concerns. Their feedback will let you know where additional thinking and tweaking will help with comprehension and follow-through.
The benchmarks identified by your well-thought-out business plan further assist in making decisions when it’s time to quit. Sometimes a venture doesn’t work out. Sometimes a project just isn’t worth the time, resources, and sheer aggravation of its potential profit. Sometimes leadership makes the decision to retire. A proper business plan considers common exit strategies, such as an initial public offering of stock, acquisition by competitors, mergers, management succession, employee buy-outs, etc.
The best business plan in the world, however, does nobody any good if no action follows. Inaction leaves the business vulnerable to the whims of outside forces without any recourse for recovery or map forward.
The Heggen Group analyzes the big picture, breaks it down into coherent and finite goals, and helps businesses develop feasible steps to achieve those goals. We’ll assist in crafting a flexible process that will guide forward progress, accommodate unexpected challenges, allow for changes in direction, and establish accountabilities all with an eye toward your success.
The challenge features in Norman Rockwell paintings, sitcom TV, and movies: delivery of a holiday dinner with all the fixings. What the media doesn’t show in those picture-perfect displays of domestic prowess is the detailed planning that these home cooks use. (Note to hiring companies: If you come across a person who can get the meat, vegetables, and bread prepared and on the table hot at the same time, then you’ve found an incredible project manager. Hire that person right away!)
No traditional Thanksgiving dinner succeeds without a domestic mastermind managing the process. Whether it’s you, Grandma, or Great Uncle Bob who cooked for the Army, begin meal delivery well in advance of the holiday by with deciding what to serve. Inventory ingredients, pots, pans, servingware, and appliances. You won’t want to run out of stove-top burners or oven space or pots in which to cook. Count heads: who will descend upon your household and what can each person be expected to consume? Shop for the ingredients you’ll need in the quantities anticipated. Decide what can be made a day or three ahead. Delegate to visitors: they can all bring something to the table.
Plan your culinary campaign and allow for extra time to accommodate the inevitable delays and mishaps. You might even want to have a backup plan in case the family dog helps himself to the tempting bird sitting unguarded on the kitchen countertop. Calculate cooking times for the different dishes you’ll serve and schedule them accordingly, including preparation time. Complete as much prep work in advance as possible. Be sure to figure in resting time for custards, cheese sauces, and meats. But not souffles. Those should be served within 90 seconds of emerging from the oven. Especially if you’re the host of this holiday gathering, enlist all those extra people cluttering your home and put them to work, even if it’s only to remind you to take that pot off the burner before it boils over.
A bit of extra help comes in handy when the time arrives to set the table. This is a great time to teach youngsters how to properly set a table. (In this age of fast food, learning that skill won’t hurt them.) Uncork the wine and let it breathe. Take a few exploratory sips and tell everyone you’re testing the quality. You and they will know differently, but everyone will maintain the polite fiction.
Transfer platters and serving bowls to the table immediately prior to ringing the dinner bell–or bellowing, “Dinner’s ready!” above the noise of family members cheering (or booing) the game on television. Once everyone’s seated, take deep breath, say a prayer of thanksgiving, and dig in.
When the meal ends and there’s nothing left but dirty dishes, a bony carcass, and groans complaining, “I ate too much,” draft assistance once more as you and a trusted helper or five set out pies, cakes, cookies, and other desserts. Now it’s your turn to relax. You cooked that fabulous meal, now let someone else clean up while you accept well-earned praise and take a breather.
Process. The very word makes people’s eyes glaze over in boredom. Micromanagers salivate and staff members cringe when they hear it. Most people misunderstand it.
The mundane nature of process is what makes it critical to business, integral to behind-the-scenes operation. Without process, business cannot have efficiency, employees forsake guidance, and clients are left to wonder why their projects aren’t being delivered.
Process ensures consistency. That’s great if consistence means “consistently good.” Consistently poor performance broken by spurts of brilliance won’t carry a business. Just ask Mark Sanborn.
The Tingley Advantage states that process “is a set of defined tasks needed to complete a given business activity, including who is responsible for completing each step, and how they do so.” The processes your business uses should serve as a guide for how to get things done. Well-designed processes imbue the following characteristics:
But there’s a “U” in “SUCK,” or so the saying goes. A well-designed process mitigates the SUCK. It can’t be all fun and games–that’s why we call it work–but there’s no reason to make work as miserable as possible. A good process assigns appropriate tasks to the correct positions, spreading the misery thin enough that a difficult project may actually be anticipated as a stimulating challenge rather than the next episode of Mission: Impossible.
Process involves participation from the entire team. Peter S. G. Carter in “Why Are Business Processes Important?” offers the following example from the automotive industry: “If the final sub-process is to move a car into the paint shop and the paint shop can only handle 5 cars per day, there is little point in having 10 cars per day ready to be painted.” The gist of that example is to show that a good process will take into account the capacity of each benchmark point and regulate the speed of manufacture to maintain consistent performance. Or it can spur the manufacturer to decide to expand the paint shop by adding extra paint booths and personnel to accommodate the higher capacity the rest of the factory is capable of producing. Whatever the decision–regulate or expand–the result is a business that operates on all cylinders, not with one cylinder clogged.
Process works best when everyone works together and no one feels overburdened.
Larger companies will have the luxury of appointing a position specific to managing processes. Such an expert–a business process manager–analyzes the underlying activities needed to produce a particular result. This is performed through studying the type of work and tasks performed as well as interviewing those people performing said tasks to learn what works and what doesn’t.
We all know that if something works flawlessly on paper, it won’t work that way in real life. Paper-based processes don’t account for real life glitches, bad attitudes, or individual competencies (or incompetencies). According to iGrafx when the process works, it aligns the “customer needs, and helps executives determine how to deploy, monitor and measure company resources. Regardless of whether the process is governed or managed by software, it must be responsive to changes in technology, industry standards, and employee capability in order to remain relevant and effective.