Why bother?

Do you need a business plan that actually helps drive your business forward and positively influences behaviours and outcomes on a day-to-day basis?

A Business Plan won’t single-handedly transform a struggling business in to a successful one and putting it together can easily take up hours which might be better spent working “in” the business rather than “on” it.

If it’s well done however, it will give a concise road map which will allow you to target your efforts on getting the right things right. This in turn will allow you to be more successful.

What should the business plan look like?

 Brief. Unless you have more than 250 employees, I would argue that you should be able to explain your Business Plan in no more than a few pages.

This is not to say that it easy. It takes time and a lot of honest, clear thinking to put together an informative Business Plan. It is worth bearing in mind the quote from President (and Five Star General) Dwight D. Eisenhower:

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

The structure of a Business Plan

There are lots of different ways of putting together a Business Plan. The shape of it is not critical and if it informs your thinking and your actions to positive effect on a daily basis, then it is good and if it doesn’t, it is not. Everything else is secondary.

Hence, there is no such thing as a wrong structure. As a place to start though, I would suggest considering five headings:

Vision, Values, Mission, Strategy, Action Plans.

Before launching in, it is important to remember who this document is for, i.e. you. It may be helpful to use the same document (or variations of it) to share with Employees, Banks, Investors etc., but first and foremost, you need something which helps you on a daily basis.


Vision is about aspirations. It is not what your Company does right now, (that’s the Mission statement) it is about what you want it to do, or where you want to be.

The Vision can be about the business itself, e.g., “To grow turnover by 20% every year”, or “To be the first choice supplier for 50% of UK Tier One Manufacturers”. Equally it can be about the business outcome for you, e.g. “To realise £10M in a sale before the end of 2016”, or “To have an autonomous business that runs itself on a day to day basis.”

Ambition is a fantastic thing, but your Vision needs to reflect what you really want and are actually prepared to make happen. It is not helpful to state that you want to be the next Facebook or Apple, if you don’t have the appetite to grow something on an exponential scale.

You don’t have to come up with a Vision which will be a perfect piece of marketing and will light up your website. But you do need to come up with something which you genuinely care about and can strive towards. This is true of all long-term goals. There is a “double-think” required, simultaneously holding in your mind both the excitement and energising thought of your future vision along side the roll-you-sleeves-up, hard-work-needed thoughts of how you need to shape your day today.

If you are finding it difficult to set your Vision, then try to think about the moments you enjoy most in business. Is it face to face with the Customer when you see them starting to see the value your product/service will bring them? Is it when you see the monthly figures laid out showing healthy growth? etc. The actual moments (be as specific as possible) might guide you as to what is really important to you in business.


Values drive an organisation just as much as they drive us as individuals. Most of the work that most of us do is what you might call “mind-work” and as such, our productivity is entirely a function of our attitude and motivation. Employees will perform significantly better if they care about what they are doing. Values are thus key.

Typically I would suggest choosing no more than five core values.

Again, your Company values should be as specific as possible. “Quality” will mean ten different things to ten different people. Also, if you choose a Value as being central to your organisation, it needs to be true! It is detrimental to choose “Customer focussed” if your sales team is geared up to on-sell products the Customer doesn’t need. (PPI etc.)

As a guide it might be worth keeping in mind that successful companies tend to be leaders in one (but not all) of the following three areas.

  • Innovation
  • Customer Understanding
  • Delivery excellence

It might be helpful to use these three differing areas of focus to think of how you define yourself against your competition and what your Customers really look to you for.

It might also be worth borrowing from the world of Positive Psychology to examine what really makes you and the Company tick.

Martin Seligman’s PERMA model might be a good place to start:

The model looks at five discrete drivers of an individual’s well being:

  • Positive Emotion
    • Figuratively doing things which make you happy then and there
  • Engagement
    • Or Flow. Things that are so absorbing that you lose track of time and self whilst doing them
  • Relationships
    • The importance of the people around you – depth or breadth of relationships?
  • Meaning
    • Having a purpose or direction. A shared cause.
  • Achievement
    • Even without the above four factors, achievement in its own right motivates and rewards.


Your Company Mission is what you do right now. Obviously you want to make this a positive statement, but try to keep this as honest and as specific as you can. It is not too helpful to describe yourself as “The best XXX Company in the UK”. Best will mean different things to different people. Does it mean most ethical? Most profitable? Do you have the most reliable product? The best lifetime value? etc.

Also, who are your Customers? It is unlikely that you serve the entire market. Do you only supply FTSE 250 companies, or do you have a geographical niche?


Having explored Vision, Values and Mission, the Strategy often emerges almost fully formed, focussing on the Values and creating a strategy which allows the company to provide Customers with more of what they value you for.

It is important when setting Strategy to consider first and foremost where you want to be. Don’t start from where you are now. This might seem like odd advice, but the Strategy needs to be unencumbered by the limitations of current employees and current customers. There will be time to tie the Strategy back to reality later, but the Strategy should be “clean” and “ideal”.

For example, part of your Strategy might read: “Servicing less Customers, eliminating the bottom 20% which are unprofitable and focussing our efforts on providing the best service to our deepest relationships and most profitable customers”. You should not be held back from this because you don’t have the Management Information to calculate profit per Client figures. You should not be held back because operating procedures aren’t currently in place or because you don’t have the right skills to get you there at the moment.

The Strategy should not be complicated and needs to be concise and to the point. You can go in to detail with the plans which cascade from the Strategy. If Strategy is a Road Map, then it should contain only the motorway network. Leave the A Roads and local roads to the Action Plan.

Action Plans

Action Plans follow on from the Strategy. They are specific and time-bound (SMART) and they tie in the idealism of the Strategy to the reality of where you are right now. A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis might help to analyse the current situation if needed.

The most important point to make about Action Plans is that they form a working document. This is not something to be kept in a draw and referred to occasionally. It needs to be kept out & looked at on a daily basis. This should inform the shape of each day above, wrestling focus away from the immediate and towards the important.

Now what?

 Having written a Business Plan (Vision + Values + Mission + Strategy + Action Plans) the next step is to use it. The Action Plans should be referred to daily, and I would suggest that it is helpful to regularly set aside time to review the whole Business Plan.

Personally, I tend to do this based around half term and the Summer Holidays, so I revisit the Business Plan seven times a year. It is not unusual to re-write a three year Business Plan every twelve or even six months.

Finally, I would return to the Eisenhower quote. If you have invested time in thinking a plan through, then that time will have been well spent. Plus, any plan is better than no plan and if you have something to start working with, you will, no doubt, refine it and improve it with time. Don’t worry about trying to be perfect. Don’t worry even if you don’t cover all of the five areas above, but do invest the time. It seems we are all running very fast these days, but there’s no point sprinting until we know that we are pointing in the right direction.


Executive Coaching will improve the value of your business and will make work more rewarding. These days, most top performers in business work with a coach.

If you would like to invest in yourself and the value of your business then call me on 07730 700258 to arrange a free introductory Coaching session.


Helpful Definitions


Vision:                    What your Company aspires to be. (The first name in… etc.)

Mission:                 What your Company does right now. (Delivers excellent service in the field of…)

Leadership:        The art of creating (and then maintaining) a successful, unifying theme which resonates so strongly with individuals that they are drawn irresistibly to contribute willingly to the best of their abilities towards the fulfilment of a common purpose.

Management:    The art of appreciating each employee’s individuality and using this understanding to help them align their own personal motivations with that of the organisation whilst ensuring that every barrier to performance is removed and equally every aid within reason is provided.