Planning: how to make it quick and effective

Many businesses never get round to putting their plan down on paper. But they should. And it need only take one side of paper.

Posted on: 12/09/2019

Every 90 days successful businesses regroup, review and refocus their efforts. They update their plan, the priorities and budget and then tell everyone.

In reality everyone knows they should have a plan but so many businesses never seem to get round to putting the plan down on paper.

I have spent the past ten years coaching successful high-growth companies – and in that period I have only seen two companies with written plans when I started to work with them.

The usual response of business owners to talk of business plans is to shudder at all the extra work. They have all experienced the painful process of preparing a huge document – only for it gather dust on a shelf, ignored.

Yet such a detailed business plan is only necessary when raising finance; you don’t need it to run your business.

An opportunity to regain focus and find time to innovate

Writing a business plan on one page of A4 is the solution.

The golfer Rory McIlroy writes his goals on the first airline boarding card he receives at the beginning of each golfing season. The card stays in his wallet, reminding him of his goals. At year-end he reviews his performance against his goals; it always involves an improvement plan. He doesn’t look at them again until the end of the year. “They are just my little goals,” he says. “I’ll try and achieve those and I’ll take that boarding pass out at the end of the year and see how well I’ve done.” No large document here.

Don’t keep it in your head

The Innovate2Succeed (I2S) programme can certainly help. At I2S we find that business owners can be all too good at ‘holding the plan in their head.’ Yet when the plan is in your head, it’s too easy to scale back the challenging goals you set at the start of the year. It’s even easier to ignore them altogether.

When the plans are in your head, no one else knows what they are. Each person you tell will interpret them differently; they hear different things, some bits they don’t hear at all and other make it up. That’s why you get five different versions of the vision and goals from a five-person leadership team!

Planning to achieve clarity

All that’s needed is the important points clearly written on one page of A4. And that’s where the I2S team can help so that:

  • Everyone will read it, there’s no confusion and nothing is ‘lost in translation’
  • Everyone knows where you’re going, why you’re going to try to get there and why it’s important
  • Everyone knows how you’re going to get there and the part they have to play
  • It’s easy to re-forecast every 90 days, keeping the plan current.

When the I2S team works with a business, we use the one-page plan as a quick effective planning tool because it works. The key is to extract the goals, plans and dreams from you and then get it down on paper. It may feel onerous but we always find business owners have virtually all the answers in their head. It doesn’t take long to write the plan and once written it’s easy to reflect, review, refine and refocus.

Will it make the boat go faster?

Now it becomes a dynamic document that informs your decision-making, answering the question posed by Ben Hunt-Davis and Great Britain’s gold medal-winning men’s rowing eight: “Will it make the boat go faster?” It will keep you on track and less distracted by ‘shiny things’ that chew up your time with no reward.

The one-page business plan helps you create an action plan and assign accountability. Breaking down tasks makes them easier to swallow and so they get done.

If it’s more than 90 days since you last reviewed your plan then it’s time to complete your one-page business plan. Don’t drift along, make a plan, assign the actions and do it! If you’re not sure how to start, call us.


Connect with Innovate UK Business Connect

Join Innovate UK Business Connect's mailing list to receive updates on funding opportunities, events and to access Innovate UK Business Connect's deep expertise. Please check your email to confirm your subscription and select your area(s) of interest.