A business plan should essentially cover three aspects – what are you going to do, how are you going to do it and how will you make money. Watch as Prajakt Raut highlights the key components of a good business plan.
How well you are doing as a company is really not dependent on benchmarking versus how others in the same space/stage are doing. Each company may have chosen a different path towards similar goals, or it is also quite possible that the goals and aspirations of the companies could be very different.
Hence, how well you are doing or not doing, is to be evaluated against what your own plans, goals and milestones were when you started the journey.
Not for one moment am I suggesting that you need to look at your original business plans as THE only road to follow. I have rarely seen any startup or early-stage company come even close to what their original milestones were in their business plans. Your original plans are merely a roadmap that you define to think through the different aspects of your startups journey. Once you hit the road, you have to make adjustments according to the weather conditions i.e. market realities. In some cases, the direction itself may have to be altered or changed all together. And it is perfectly all right to do that as long as it is a well-thought out plan, after taking into consideration all factors that may help you take a good and informed decision.
Therefore, if you have a well-defined business plan with your goals and milestones towards those goals well laid out, it should give you an indication of whether you are going in the right direction and at the right pace.
For your business, you need to identify what the key drivers are and that will give you leads on what you should measure your progress or success against. Each business will have its own set of key drivers or aspects on which success or failure will depend. Sales/revenues is usually just one of the indicators to measure the progress of a success of a startup. Other factors could be things like gross margins, employee efficiency, brand equity & brand familiarity within the relevant audiences, cost of customer acquisition, maturity of processes, proving of the business model, organization structure in place (or getting into place), key people on board, attrition rate, quality of contracts and respect of partners/vendors, etc. are all examples of indicators of what can be tracked to check if you are doing well as a business.
Plan B is already built into a good B Plan.
When you are thinking about your venture, you are going to think about multiple scenarios, including very pessimistic ones and what you would do to mitigate the risks and the challenges in the journey. This should include what matrices you would use to track progress, and at stage you would take corrective action, including aborting the journey. It will be important to have an advisory board, or a real board, which will guide you through your decision making in good times as well as tough times.
Anyway, a business plan should take into account possibilities of failure, and hopefully the course correction that you might take in case the journey is not as you plan it to be.
In planning your business, including plan B, it is important to ensure that your assumptions are closer to reality. Wrong assumptions are more likely to kill a business than poor implementation.
A business plan is nothing but a plan for your business. While there are fancy templates, a business plan is nothing more than a story about
(a) what you are going to do i.e. concept
(b) how you are going to do it i.e. operations planning
(c) how you will make money i.e. business model
Of course, each has to be very detailed when thinking through a business plan. The excel sheet is nothing more than a summary of costs and revenues associated with your story. The power-point version of this story includes context i.e. why is there a need for this concept, who is your competition, the team who is doing this, etc.
Also remember that a business plan is a ‘process’ and not a product. And hence, while it provides direction, the route has to be constantly adjusted according to how the venture progresses. This process of evolving the B Plan is in a way also about working on Plan B.
- Start with a ‘story’ – ‘See the film in your mind’ about your venture – what do you want to do, how large do you want it to be, what will make you happy, what are your aspirations, etc. Imagine it as a business a few years down. This gives you a good view of ‘what you want to aim for’
- Work out rough milestones and goals: Your long-terms goals and aspirations should then be broken into short-term and long-term milestones, which are the stepping stones to your eventual destination.
- Think deeply of how you will implement it: This is the critical aspect of planning your implementation. This also gives you a view of the cost structures, the infrastructure & people needs, processes, etc.
- Work out the ‘structure’ of an excel sheet: Now, after you have done the thinking, it is time to use an excel sheet to evaluate if there is a business case in what you plan to do. Before you start entering numbers, work out the ‘structure’ detailing every cost head and revenue stream.
- Start working in the excel sheet – assumptions are critical: An excel sheet exercise with the wrong assumptions is going to give you a very wrong direction, and perhaps wrong hopes. Be realistic. Be conservative.
- Work on multiple ‘scenarios’: Life does not play out the way you plan it. Real life situation will be different than your excel sheet plans. It is therefore essential for entrepreneurs to work out multiple scenarios to see how the business will pan out under different outcomes.
- Finally, articulate it into the ‘presentations’: Once your ‘Business plan’ is ready, you then articulate it into different presentations. Even an executive summary is one articulation of the B-plan. You can have an executive summary for introductions, a 8-10 slide ppt for first meetings and more detailed documents and presentations for follow-up meetings where specific details are going to be discussed.