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Fluid business plans are behind successful businesses

Diane Hall


To do list with create business plan written on sticky note with pen

It’s highly recommended by business coaches and successful entrepreneurs that you should create a business plan for your enterprise. This helps you visualise where you want your business to go, and in what timeframe. When your goals are formed, you can then work backwards and decide what needs to happen/what you need to do to reach them.

Business plans are great as a guide, but they should not be set in stone. There are plenty of outside forces that could affect your best-laid plans.

For instance, hands up who foresaw the Covid pandemic? Who knew, when Boris Johnson advised us all to stay at home on March 23, 2020, that we would still be there eighteen months later? Who knew how much a virus would impact their business? Who could have guessed which sectors would be banned from opening?

Any company owner who made a plan for their business before 2020 will have either revised it or torn it up by now. The pandemic radically impacted every business. Some closed and lost thousands in revenue. Others thrived and took advantage of opportunities that came in the strangest of places (e.g. antibacterial handwash, face masks, signage and separator screens, takeaways, online keep-fit classes…); even the brightest business brains wouldn’t have plumped for most of them.

As the saying goes, even the best-laid plans change.

However, if you’re completely overhauling your business plan every few months, it becomes a pointless exercise. It’s not a good idea for your business to change direction so often. Doing so will confuse your audience and you won’t become known for the thing you do, but as a jack-of-all-trades (master-of-none). You’ve got to give it time to make an in-road into any sector or market, and if you continually move to new ones or you’re someone who follows new ideas like a cat following a shiny ball, you won’t experience much business growth. Growth comes from capturing more and more market share in your given niche or industry; if you never get away from the starting blocks before you change your mind again, you’re not capitalising or building on anything.

It’s a fine balance between taking advantage of new opportunities/ideas and sticking to your guns.

team meeting planning business plan from birds eye view

team meeting planning business plan from birds eye view

Even though five-year plans are probably the most common for business owners to create, it’s wise to revisit the resulting plan every six months, to ensure it’s still appropriate given current market forces and whatever’s going on in the world. There are even some that believe you should update your business plan every 90 days. According to Advisory Works, ‘What you have to remember is that the every-quarter rule has been developed for the modern world. Once upon a time, you might have been able to get away with changing your strategy less often, but the reality is that the here-and-now is full of change. Agility is the name of the game in modern business, and the company that falls behind stays behind.’ First past the post seems to be the strategy that’s most reliable and the most lucrative; maybe updating your plan every six months could see opportunities slipping through your fingers in favour of your rivals’.

Creating and revising goals is just one aspect. When updating a business plan you also need to re-evaluate your competition, monitor any internal weaknesses and reassess any threats that could thwart your plans. Blindly doing what you always do and having no plan in place means that you may not even notice a rival setting up under your nose until half your business has disappeared. Knowledge is half the battle, and going through your business plan on a regular basis can bring healthy objectivity around your business. It provides the opportunity for you to research whether what you offer is consistently hitting the spot with its audience, and whether you should be raising your prices or diversifying. It really is a worthwhile exercise.

A business plan can be a fantastic guide for success, but don’t allow yours to control you. You’re in the driving seat, and if your plans need to change—and this change can be backed up/justified by market research, a financial report or current market trends/outward pressures—then don’t hang around. Change your plans—just not that often that you’re left with no time to follow them at all.

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