Business Planning for SMEs – Is it worth it?

25 September 2017

“To Plan Or Not To Plan?” I often get asked.

Logically, there’s nothing to debate. Planning is essential, all the business heavyweights have said it, all the fancy MBA courses insist on it, and management consultants swear by it. Why is it, then, that most business owners are guilty of not regularly planning their growth strategy?

The ‘plan or not to plan’ question often has a common motive behind it: what is the point of creating a plan which then never gets executed? Or – even worse – becomes a reason of frustration in the coming weeks and months. And the above is not a unique case; I have worked with hundreds of businesses where the motivated planning sessions in the early days have turned into disheartened ‘strategic reviews’ in a few years. Not because the business is no longer interesting, but because the market constraints, constant firefighting and intrinsic unpredictability of business has meant that no plans have ever really been executed. Why should this time be any different?

And that’s the bad news. Regardless of how well you plan, life happens, ups and downs happen, and – well – s**t happens. There is no magic formula in existence that will immunize you from the downturns, the macroeconomic disasters and changing customer perceptions. As ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson famously said: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Then we instinctively move into damage control mode, only thinking of how to get back on our feet, recover and not fall flat.

The good news, however, is twofold: firstly, planning is not a destination, it is a journey. The activity of planning is sometimes even more powerful than the eventual outcome. Done right, the exercise can help identify opportunities, encourage open communication, and build accountability and ownership (If you’d like to know how to run an effective planning meeting, I’ll be writing about it soon. Get in touch if you can’t wait).

Secondly, a good plan is not a prescription, but rather a roadmap. It’s okay to miss a turn, or have to take a detour if the road is closed. You still know which direction you’re heading in, and the milestones along the way can ensure you’re never too far off track. And, at the end of the period, you can measure progress from where you were, and gauge distance left to the goal.

Planning in business is like planning in sport. You never know what the weather will be like, what the opposition has planned, and what unexpected good or bad luck may come your way. Regardless, you never go in to a game without a winning plan. At best, everything goes as expected; at worst, you have something to fall back on. Winning the game of business takes just as much – if not more – to succeed. Unlike professional sports, there is no payout for the losing side.

Do what it takes to win. Plan your play. And if you know you aren’t going to do it effectively yourself, join us on the 28th of September to do it together. Let’s make this quarter count.