The Scary Truth About Writing a Business Plan

(and why too many business owners don’t have one)

Most of the micro and small business owners I’ve worked with over the past 20 years are not business school graduates. Some didn’t even finish high school. These are the true grass-roots Australians who work hard, and have developed their particular talent into a business with grit and determination more than having polished business acumen and a flair for marketing.

In the process of becoming acquainted with the intimate details of their business, I often found it surprising that they were able to stay in business as long as they had. The stress over how they would survive another month “if things keep going this way” was huge.

THE key piece of artillery in anyone’s business success armoury is:

A business plan. Every business adviser I’ve ever spoken to says the same thing. It’s universally agreed that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Yet, the majority of the business owners I’ve worked with don’t even have a financial projection, let alone a plan.

From the perspective of the owner-operator, it was never their intention, it just kind of “happened” that all of a sudden they’re running a business. They’re in way over their head, just doing the best they can. There’s never enough money for help, but more importantly, there’s never enough time.

Despite the obvious obstacles of money and time, the biggest factor is:

Fear. Fear of finding out how bad they’re really doing. Fear of being exposed as having no idea. Fear of having no more excuses for things being the way they are. No one really wants to admit it, but it’s there, plain as day.

For anyone on the other side of the table, it’s heartbreaking to see. We know that with a little bit of help, guidance, and support, it’s really not that hard. Yet, without their decision to take that on as a priority in their business, there’s nothing we can do.

3 steps to overcome the business plan funk.

Step 1:

Squash that fear. Dear Business Owner, You’ve taken on so many risks in the past, and some of them have paid off, you’re not new to taking risks. You can do this, and it’s OK to admit that you need help. You have permission to feel out of your depth. It does not mean that you are any less of a professional business owner, just look at everything you’ve accomplished so far on your own! There is truly nothing to fear but fear itself. Most of the obstacles we face as humans – not just business owners – are the result of a limited mindset. Change your perception, change your life.

Step 2:

Start with what you have. Many business plan templates I’ve seen are nothing short of overwhelming. They go into such great detail! It would take a month to complete the Market and Industry Analysis alone! So, why couldn’t we start with just the chunks that we can answer easily? In this climate of economic uncertainty, it’s only the prepared that will survive. It’s way too cut-throat out there for anyone else. Make a start somewhere – anywhere! Just start, and give your plan some priority to nut out the rest a little at a time.

Step 3:

Make your plan the boss. If you’re anything like me, you love being our own boss. You decide when you work and when you don’t, you decide what to spend your hard-earned money on, and you decide what the over-arching priorities are for your business. If you take on a business plan, be prepared to hand over control. A well-prepared business plan will set the terms of what is required to achieve the desired results. And then you’re not so much the boss any more, are you? But can’t you see the wisdom in that? Without that accountability, we are at the mercy of our own distractions and weaknesses, and perhaps that’s why we haven’t enjoyed the level of success we’ve been trying to get to for so long.