What’s Wrong with Business Plans – the truth you won’t hear from Consultants

I am about to reveal a business consultants trade secret. Most Business Plans don’t work. Business Owners either produce a Plan themselves when they launch their business, or pay a consultant to write one for them, but it just ends up, unread and unloved on shelf in a cupboard covered in cobwebs and dust. If you knew that, would you hire that high price consultant? And can you see why its a trade secret?

To make a Business Plan work in your business, you need a Business Management System to drive it. But if the consultant only has a ‘Business Plan in a Box’ that they want you to buy, because they make more money this way, don’t expect them to tell you this. But this is a much harder proposition for the consultant to sell, particularly to small business owners who are just looking for a quick fix. And a business plan is not a quick fix. To be effective you can’t just hand it to someone else to do. It requires you to put in some effort. Not what a consultant wants to tell you. Once owners have prepared their “fill in the blanks” plan, they expect it to transform their business overnight just by its mere existence. But it doesn’t, so the plan is left and forgotten.

Business Plans do work, but you have to make them work. It is not a one-off exercise. If you buy a ‘Business Plan in a Box’, you need to understand that you are responsible for maintaining the plan. And while a multiple choice answers and a fill in the blanks approach may seem an easy way to go, this won’t give you the answers you need. These plans always end up on the bottom shelf. They don’t show you how to do your strategic analysis (which is never a fill in the blanks exercise- no matter what someone tells you).

Business Planning is a real soul searching exercise for the business owner. Don’t gloss over the flaws in your business. You will only be kidding yourself. To be objective, you must get an outsider from your business to force you to be truthful about your business strengths and weaknesses! Looking at examples of what others have done can help, but your business will have different strengths and weaknesses and will operate in a different marketplace. And when you finish your plan, does this one-size-fits-all information actually show you how to make your new plan work.

This also applies if you use a consultant for your plan. Ask them to show you how to make the plan work. Schedule a review of your performance in six months. And to make sure that you hold yourself accountable, organise the consultant to conduct the review. While this will cost you extra, this will ensure that your plan does not end up on the bottom shelf- because you know you will be held to account!

Business Planning is not an easy process. It takes time and commitment. You don’t just do it once. This is not what business owners want to hear, and what most consultants won’t tell you, because it might cost them a sale. But the rewards from a well implemented business plan are worth many times your investment.