The Business Plan Debate

The Business Plan Debate

It wasn’t that long ago that full-blown business plans were commonplace in American businesses. Companies created five or even ten year business plans that would include page after page of gathered data, graphs, and plans for how the business would be operated successfully. Some business plans were so long and elaborate that it made you wonder whether or not anyone ever read them. They often, quite frankly, were never implemented once the business opened. Business plans were often a requirement to get financing for start-up businesses, and banks demanded they be a part of any business loan application. Many never questioned their real value. We just kept printing them out like some inflated college essay.

Why Business Plans May Be Ineffective

Business plans began becoming increasingly ineffective when markets, marketing, and technology were changing faster than the plan could be altered. A business plan that may have included the use of billboards and print advertising ten years ago would need elements of digital marketing and social media today. Smartphones, the internet of things, SEO, influencers, and viral videos were barely a thing a decade ago. Many also view a business plan as busy work, intended to demonstrate competence but not to prove a solid foundation for a viable business. Yet many financial providers continue to require them and new enterprises keep generating them.

A Better Idea

More modern, forward-thinking business plans are significantly more compact and, rather than long dissertations about market share, are likely to include more benchmarks and sales goals. They may include easy-to-read graphs and customer personas. It is a simpler, more direct way to put the focus on what’s really important and, just as importantly, it can be easily adjusted for changes in the marketplace and technology. Many now believe it is more desirable to have a brief sheet or two of goals, deadlines, and innovative use of technology than a multi-page thesis. One or two-year plans and goals may be more important than a five or ten-year business plan that can quickly become obsolete.

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