The Power of Business Planning

4 minutes to read

A great business plan can help you set up - and realise - incredible success when everyone buys into it. But you must stick to it. Here Andrew ‘Billy’ Baxter, Founder and Senior Advisor at StudioSpace agency, 24 Hour Business Plan, explains how your business can apply the same techniques he used to drive major growth as CEO of two of Australia’s largest communications agencies, and more recently as an in-demand advisor of high-profile boards.

Picture yourself at your business’s end of year party in 2024 celebrating the success of a three-year business plan. Now ask yourself: ‘How was that success achieved?’

Plenty of people can tell you what they think success looks like. But the question of how it was achieved is where four out of five leaders get stuck, because they just don’t have a living, breathing business plan they can refer to every day.

As a leader you’re well used to motivating people by encouraging their aspirations.

One of the first steps in getting your team on board with your business plan is to help them focus on what great success looks like - your team needs to see the goal to believe it.

Olympic coaches know this works and use deep imagery techniques to motivate their teams to go ‘Faster, higher, stronger - together’. When your team can imagine what success and failure look like they will also start thinking about what they need to do to achieve their personal and business aspirations.

Clearly, without a plan, it’s harder to make the best decisions in the interests of the business day-to-day, let alone set up a roadmap for future success.

Businesses with a robust plan perform better. Their people know what success looks like and equally importantly, they know what they need to do day-by-day and month-by-month to achieve success.

So even though it can take a few days’ effort to get your strategic plan on a page, it’s worth it:

71 percent of fast-growth companies have a strong business plan

Businesses with a plan experience 30-50 percent faster growth versus those without a plan

Companies with a long-term view outperform their peers and create more jobs

If you don’t have a well-thought-through strategic framework on hand for all the business decisions you have to weigh up, your team won’t know which direction to head.

Interestingly, in many of the workshops I’ve facilitated since launching 24 Hour Business Plan, I’ve found plenty of leaders and team members can unlock those strategic growth areas when they put their minds to it - they mostly need help focusing on the overarching strategic direction.

Most experts agree roughly 80% of the information you need to start planning already exists within the collective mind of the organisation.

Good business planning combines aspiration and accountability.

When you start planning what you want to achieve you also begin to sharpen your thinking on how you believe you can get there.

Bring people into your plan by making sure everyone has a chance to be heard. And as a leader be prepared to step back to give room for other voices in your organisations: encourage them to contribute not only ideas, but also ways to bring them to life.

In our business planning workshops we ask all participants to record every goal they think might be worth aiming for, then work on identifying which goals are the most important - and what needs doing to achieve them.

After four workshops of around six hours each, the team will have a business plan for the next three years which includes:

Market context - analysis of industry trends, customer audiences and their needs, competitive landscape, the DNA of the organisation and opportunities for growth. And agreement on why your organisation is different: what do you offer your customers that’s better than your competitors?

Business strategic plan on a page - agreed definitions of your organisation’s purpose, vision, values and culture, plus an ambitious financial target. Keep it brief and make it visually appealing because most people are visual learners. Telling the story of your plan simply makes it easier to communicate and easier to remember.

Growth plan - match business goals including the financial target to best practice drivers for significant growth. When setting financial goals, have clear indications of how the organisation will shift from business-as-usual revenue to alternative revenue growth: you might create new capabilities, acquire or partner up with another organisation or expand into new locations.

Top 10 Must-Dos - a playbook of the 10 most important goals which need to be executed to achieve the organisation’s ambitions in the next twelve months. Clearly identify the executional levers for excellence and encourage your team to regularly check progress.

In my experience the best way to get continued buy-in from everyone on your ambitions is to include them from the get-go, then make your business plan accessible and easy to remember.

That’s why we boil it down to four pages.

Fat documents, long presentations and deeply detailed memos won’t cut it.

Knowing people tune out or lose their place when they’re given too much information, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos insists on documents being no more than six pages. And if you’re doing a presentation, there’s plenty of scientific evidence most people switch off after 10 minutes.

So, if you want people to buy-in to the big picture, keep it simple:

  1. Refine your organisation’s strategy into an elevator pitch;

  2. Define the vision for success concisely, so everyone knows what you’re aiming for, even at a glance; and

  3. Be clear on what your major goals are that will deliver on your vision in the next 12 months, and regularly share clear, short updates on how you’re tracking against them

I’m a big believer in setting big, audacious goals rather than a whole lot of incremental improvements. Because when people get excited about big opportunities they’ll really go for it. It’s this sort of ambition that truly accelerates growth.

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