March 14, 2013

Why All Business Plans Should Be Written in Pencil (Or At Least, Erasable Ink)

If you are thinking about starting a new business or you are already in those early growth stages, then you’ve probably heard about the importance of writing up a good business plan. While having this collection of research, projections, goals, and strategies is very important, what many small business experts and consultants fail to mention is that chances are this plan will be pretty irrelevant a few years or even a few months down the road.

Nothing is Set in Stone

One of the unspoken “rules” of running a business is that you’ll probably end up doing things that you didn’t plan to at the beginning. It’s very common for business owners to change course along the way. Sometimes these changes are small; other times really big. Some of the changes are pleasant, others a bit painful. But as long as you approach these pot holes and detours with openness, flexibility, and the desire to work things out, you’ll come out on top.

The key is balance. Earlier this week I saw this video that chronicles how IMAX was able to use their setbacks and potholes along the way to totally adapt it’s business model. In the end the company was able to fit both the needs and realities of the film production industry and the movie theater industry. 

Over the past few years they’ve totally transformed the way they do business, but it’s clear that they’ve never swerved from their goal of making IMAX movies an accepted, prevalent, and profitable movie standard.

IMAX may be a big company, but the process that they went through to reach the point where they are today can be applied to just about any company regardless of the business’ size or industry.

If you are keeping the lines of communication open between you and your customers as well as your business partners and peers, then you can’t help but learn things that you never would have known otherwise, and you will realize that you have to respond to these things.

An Erasable Business Plan?

But if your plans will inevitably change, then why make such an effort to plan things out in the first place? Why not just jot down a few token notes and ideas so that you can quickly scrap the previous plan with a clear conscious and start totally anew?

The advantage of writing up a plan that can then be edited and erased is that you’ll still see all the cross outs and eraser marks- a silent testimony to all the twists and turns along the way. And that’s important, because you don’t want to lose the thread of where you’ve come from. That thread keeps you connected to your overriding business goals, and those objectives you don’t want to indiscriminately forget.

In short, as long as you are open to learning along the way, you take the time to refocus when those changes in course creep up, and you head into your business decisions with an overall plan in mind, then chances are good that you’ll go very far in your business.

 

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