Thursday, 16 May 2013

Successful Business Leaders Plan Their Business

Successful Business Leaders Plan Their Business



Executive Summary

Business planning often gets a bad press, yet those who do sit down and plan their business are so much more focused, confident and successful than those who float along with the economic tide. Over the past ten years as a strategic planner I’ve worked with hundreds of business owners and seen how those that create a plan and implement it, do so much better then those owners who try aimlessly lead their business on a wing, a prayer or a dream.  

According the latest BERR report, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME’s) together accounted for 99.9 per cent of all enterprises, 59.8 per cent of private sector employment and 49.0 per cent of private sector turnover. SME’s really do matter to the British economy, despite this they receive little effective support from Government agencies despite being the backbone of the economy, employment, and innovation. Small business matters to every economy and those which plan their growth outperform those that don't.      

Why Businesses Don’t Plan       

“If you don’t make things happen, things will happen to you” Lanes Company

Having questioned business owners over the last decade there are many reasons why owners have not put a plan in place and executed it. The excuses range from not having the skills, not able to make the time, or have the conviction of their thoughts. Nearly all business owners know they should have a plan 'we had one when we first started, but have not looked at it since’ is a common theme.  

The other key factor is being too busy fire fighting, to realise that preventing fires starting is the best way to not have to fight them.  If business leaders do not believe in their business plan and don't follow them, then the value of business plans in driving your business forward and achieving their goals is limited.  

Do business owners not see the value in developing a plan for their business? On the other hand, is the classic perception for business owners that frenetically staying alive is seen as being successful? For many not knowing how to plan or what to plan is another major reason why people haven’t and don’t plan their business. Where to start,  or knowing what they are trying to achieve immediately puts business leaders off planning.

Business planning is also often at fault, the most common reason people have a plan is to secure funding from banks, that’s when banks did fund business start-ups (now they just offer a high interest mortgage backed by the Government). Therefore, once people have received funding they no longer see the main advantages of planning (and the real advantages are not around money). 


Planning Skills – Have clear GOALS

"The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen." - Lee Iacocca


Business planning takes time, resources (grey stuff) and commitment. Its not the executive trip to some exotic away weekend planning, but some time allocated to review where you are as a business, how your sector and industry are performing and what you want to achieve in the future. Whether it is looking at the next year or planning the next five years, everyone who owns or directs a business is responsible for setting its direction. However, just having a plan in your head, with the classic defence of ‘its flexible at the moment’ is either ducking the responsibility or deluding themselves. 

Great leadership is about developing a clear vision for your business and turning it into a plan with clear goals and objectives delivered through action plans. The only way to have a plan rather than a dream is to have it written down, turned (if it is not already) into an action plan which is resourced and owned by someone to deliver. Only then do businesses go forward in a deliberate purposeful way. 

Only then do the right things happen because you made them happen and only then can everyone, employees, shareholders, customers, channel partners and even other halves, see your dream, share your dream, deliver your dream. That’s when planning works. It is a written document, which lives within your company, and it doesn’t matter if you are a one-man (woman) band or running a multi-national Plc.

What Planning Delivers


"In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it." – Robert Heinlein


Planning provides focus in strategic direction, its provides clarity of where the business is and where it is going as well as a vehicle for getting from where you are to where you want to be, in your market, with the customers you want. Planning time provides time to reflect on personal and corporate goals, time to share and channel new ideas while reviewing existing activities.

Planning in a structured and open format develops clarity of purpose and a clear understanding of the organisational and individual skills people have and can use to leverage advantage. Bringing in outside views widens the planning horizon, which can drive businesses forward, which is why many successful businesses use non-executive directors or outside specialists to help drive their business forward. That is one reason why so many people volunteer to get support from people like the Dragons from Dragon’s Den, they are looking for expertise and advice which gives them confidence to go forward as much as the money.   

British business owners need to plan, more often to keep being successful. Good planning creates and sees opportunities as owners and directors lift their heads up from the daily grindstone. How often should you plan? Well it all depends on the speed of your market’s evolution, but even stable and stagnant businesses should review their business every year, and not just a light dusting (add ten percent and change the year) but strategically review what and how well they are doing.

It is only by looking for fresh opportunities and how to take best advantage of them, by planning your business around those opportunities that companies successfully compete in today’s business environment.




Planning is not a four letter word

“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage" Jack Welch

The old adage, compete or get beat, is more relevant today than it has ever been. The rise of the internet means there are no secrets, competitive advantage lies with those who can see an opportunity and adapt fastest to take advantage of it. Those owners and directors who see and go for opportunities become the stronger ones, and that is where good strategic business planning provides it real advantage.

By orientating a company to where it can retain better, win new and develop existing customers companies that plan their success outcompete in their sector, and equally importantly have everyone focused on where they are going. From the smallest to the biggest every business needs to have a plan that is written down, owned and guiding your business in the direction you want it to go.

Good Luck

   Richard Gourlay 


See how great leadership can be enhanced by business planning skills to deliver innovative business plans using robust, tried and tested and easy to use business planning tools, click here to see my video on how to take the guess work out of your business success.

Other resources on Leadership: www.cowdenconsulting.com
Other resources on Leadership www.richardgourlay.com


Business planning toolkit, http://www.cowdenconsulting.co.uk

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