Anything is possible, so yes, it’s possible that a business can be successful without any planning. But this would be unusual. Big or small, high performance businesses mostly have well-conceived strategies in place that are faithfully implemented. Likewise, a closer look at struggling businesses often reveals that they don’t work to a plan and instead flounder around chasing success.
Reams of research speaks to the reality that for a business to grow and thrive, protected from uncertainties, a plan is essential.
The value of a plan is not just the roadmap written down on paper. The planning process itself is a highly valuable developmental exercise that strengthens both individuals and the business. Planning demands that you think through threats and opportunities; it defines goals and targets; and, it establishes a system to evaluate progress that empowers you to take action when something goes off track.
Despite these clear benefits, it is estimated that around 70% of small-to-medium business owners don’t formally plan. What this means is that they don’t actually know where they are going, they fail to provide their employees with vision and purpose, they constantly shift their priorities, and they chase goals without knowing how to achieve them. Little wonder the rate of SME failure is so high.
Small business owners are quick to refute the need to plan. Here are three common excuses that are just myths:
No.1 Myth – I don’t need a strategic plan; my business is too small
This is the truth: when it comes to a strategic planning, size really, really doesn’t count. Every business benefits from a strategic plan that helps you make informed decisions, manage time-lines and allocate budget to essential activities. Your strategic plan is the basis for everyone in your business doing the right things efficiently and cost-effectively. It guides your marketing activities, directs and focuses employees, measures performance across the business and helps you keep track of finances.
No.2 Myth – I can’t afford the time; I’m a stretched small business owner
This is the truth: Because you are a stretched small business owner, you can’t afford NOT to take the time to plan strategically. Yes, there’s a constant demand for you to work IN the business. But as the owner you have to take the time to also work ON your business. Strategic planning gives you rare and valuable time to think about your business beyond the day-to-day demands.
Yes, you will have to invest some time in preparation, in the execution of a strategic planning session and in generating the outputs. But you will find this is one of the best investments of your time. If it is possible, you can ease this burden by outsourcing some functions to a professional facilitator, and you can also involve your team in preparation, presentation and reporting.
No.3 Myth – By the time we finish a strategic plan it will be out of date; my business is fast-moving
A strategic plan is not a beginning, a middle and an end. It is a living document that is supposed to change and grow along with your business. It should be reviewed and updated regularly, at least every quarter.
The purpose of your plan is to guide the activities of the business on an on-going basis. It necessitates regular meetings with the staff responsible for achieving goals and checking their progress against the plan. By tracking the progress and results, you can take action mid-way in order to get back on track if you need to. Likewise, if goals are achieved ahead of schedule, you can set new ones and update your plan.
The purpose of a strategic plan is to drive action to achieve the growth and development that will help you reach your vision of your business. The small business owner who embraces strategic planning, not as a once-off intervention but as an ongoing, vibrant business process, sets the course for success.