How to create a Business Plan in 4 hours – Part 1

This post is by Giles Ellis, an experienced business coach and Director at GECA Chartered Accountants. If you need help unlocking your business potential, then Giles can help.

Hands up all those business owners who have business plan? Now keep your hands up if you looked at it this week? Typically by now, there are very few hands left up in the air.

And yet, ask any business owner if they recognise the importance of a business plan and invariably it’s an emphatic yes. So let’s make it this month’s goal to write or update your business plan.

My three part series that will show you to create a one page business plan that will give you these benefits:
• Clarity so you understand where you are going
• Identifies your key goals
• Creates strategies for you to achieve your goals
• Sets timeframes for achieving goals and therefore provides accountability
• Provides a tool to communicate your business goals and vision with your team

So find a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted and let’s get started. Turn an A4 sheet on its side and head it up Business Plan. Now divide into two columns. For your first title in column 1, write;

1. Purpose

From a customer perspective, ask yourself why your business exists. What does it do for your customers and how is it different to your competitors. Great purpose statements are short, punchy and clearly articulate the business reason for existence. Some great examples of purpose statements are Walt Disney’s “to make people happy” or’s “to teach everyone to play music”. Our purpose at GECA is to unlock business potential.

Give yourself 20 minutes to brainstorm as many things as possible that describe your purpose. On a separate piece pf paper, write these down and then create a simple meaningful purpose statement of five of fewer words that conveys why your company does what it does for its customers. This should tie into your marketing materials such as websites and business cards.

Now you should be clear about what your business does. In column 2, now write

2. Vision

Consider at a high level what your business will be like in five or ten years’ time. Be realistic but at the same time, ambitious. This is your desired end point – what you want your business to become. It needs to be measurable but the detail can come later. Right now we want to capture the big picture.

Spend 20 minutes listing all aspects of your vision of your future business. Be sure to include internal focus and external focus elements. Now refine these into a clear Vision of what the business will look like in the future.

Consider your business purpose and make sure the Vision is aligned to this – there is no point having Vision that cannot be achieved with the business purpose for being. I love my dentist’s Vision to be “Auckland’s most sought after cosmetic dentist”. It’s clear, measurable and he shares it with his team and his clients.

We now understand the purpose of the business and have a vision of where the business is going. Now under the Purpose write;

3. What we want to achieve

This section focuses on what the business needs to deliver to you, the owner. Ultimately, a business is just the vehicle to achieving what you want in life and a truly successful business should provide the income to support the lifestyle you want and the discretionary time to enjoy it.

Start by listing in as specific terms as you can what you want to achieve. For example:
• How much income (after all costs) will the business deliver to you personally in the next 12 months
• What will you be doing? (Role, hours of work per week, holidays per year)
• If you are planning a holiday; where will it be and when?
• What will the business be worth / will it be ready to sell?

Your goals should be ‘SMART’ – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.

Now prioritise the goals and list them on your business plan. You are now ready to complete one of the most important sections and under Vision write;

4. Values

A set of core values are the key principals which a business upholds and is an extremely powerful business tool in its own right. Meaningful core values provide a decision making framework that enables your team to understand how they work with each other, with customers and suppliers.

Generally these are values that the business owner follows and are unlikely to change over time. You should have no more than five core values and these should be clearly explained. One of the GECA core values is “Best endeavours – doing everything with a positive, can do attitude”.

Many businesses publish their core values and they can be an excellent way of explaining how your business is different and the way you interact on a day to day basis. Be careful to use core values that you, the business owner can live up to – a client of mine had “honesty” as a core value but was caught short when commercial circumstances meant he was unable to be truthful with his staff at the time about a particular issue.

For the purposes of our business plan, we will only spend 30 minutes on this, however, to do this properly, ideally you need to spend a full day with key team members.

The two hour check-in. By now you have achieved a lot. You understand your purpose and the vision of where you want to go. You know what the business needs to deliver to you and you have established a set of core values that will provide the basis of how you will do this. Give yourself a pat on the back and take five. When you get back, we’re diving down into the detail to make your Business Plan actionable.

Click here for How to create a Business Plan in 4 hours – Part 2

Good luck creating your business plan and remember, if you need help to do this, contact Giles or his team on  0800 758 766 or sign up for our business planning service.