Business Plan Maintenance Reference Guide
A business plan is not a one-time document, at least it shouldn't be. Most businesses put together a business plan during their start-up phase to organize, attract partners and employees, and to try and get a loan or financial investment. This is a great use of a business plan, however far too often once the company has started up the plan is not ever touched again.
Ultimately, a business plan is about results, about making your business better. If you don't think doing a business plan will improve your business, then don't do one. Planning for planning's sake is a waste of time.
Where a plan is most likely to make your business better is by allowing you to:
1. Set priorities properly.
Reviewing Your Plan
Real planning requires regular reviews just as much as navigation requires knowing where you are as well as where you were and where you wanted to go.
Every real plan needs to be full of specific dates, budgets, forecasts, and management responsibilities. People involved have to know there will be tracking and following up on specifics. Then that plan must be reviewed against results, and those reviews should produce course corrections and fine tuning.
Generally a business hopes for a consistent long-term strategy built on short-step incremental changes, not major revisions. Consistency is important to strategy, and the business should avoid the temptation to jump around from one strategy to another so quickly that no strategy is ever really implemented. Remember that even a mediocre strategy well and consistently implemented is much better than a brilliant strategy that wasn't implemented.
However, businesses do come to crossroads demanding major revisions in their business plan. These are some signs that indicate its time to review your plan:
Always keep the revision in perspective. While you do want to review and correct constantly, you don't want to change a strategy unless you are sure it isn't working or you see real changes in the underlying assumptions that formed the foundations of strategy.
Maintaining Your Plan
That means, of course, that to make a plan worth the effort of developing it, you'll want to follow it up. Whether that's every month or every quarter, you need to track results, analyze the difference between plan and actual results, and manage. Change things that need to be changed. Compare what you planned to what happened in reality. Ask yourself the following questions:
» What went right, and how can we take advantage of it?
After you've answered these questions, update your plan accordingly, set new budgets and milestones, adjust your financials, and repeat the process with another review of your plan again next month or next quarter. Update your plan accordingly again, and keep repeating. You'll find that maintaining your business plan gives you a better grasp on your business, your market, and everything else that happens with your company.