Pop Quiz: Do You Know How to Start a Business Plan?

People often ask me how to start a business plan. Sometimes I’ll say it depends on you, your preference, and your style, so some people do a sales forecast first, some do a vision statement. But the right answer is that you start by scheduling your monthly review and revise meeting. That’s by far the most important first step. For everybody.

Each year, as you get ready to publish the next year’s plan, schedule the plan review meetings. Use some regular meeting schedule such as the third or fourth Thursday of every month.  All the managers committed to the plan will know way ahead of time so there are few reasons to miss a meeting.

Some excuses will come up. There will be events like trade shows or client events that some managers have to attend. However, with a preplanned schedule for review meetings, these problems won’t happen that often.

If your planning process includes a good plan — with specific responsibilities assigned, managers committed, budgets, dates, and measurability — then the review meetings become easier to manage and easier to attend.  The agenda of each meeting should be predetermined by the milestones coming due soon, and milestones recently due.  Managers review and discuss plan vs. actual results, explain and analyze the differences.

At Palo Alto Software, we review coordinated milestones once a week, Tuesday mornings, in about 20 minutes.  The monthly plan vs. actual review includes financial results and other measurables — product milestones, support calls, sales events, etc. — and takes just two hours a month.

It doesn’t take that much time, but there is very little in management more valuable.  It makes your plan a planning process.

This is one of the core concepts of my Plan as you go business plan method.

(Image: bigstockphoto.com page of the calendar) 


  • Anthony L. Testi says:

    Thinking out loud here, and I reserve the right to completely throw out these comments

    I wonder if the word ‘plan’ is fouling things up. For some people a plan is a static document. Something that is only useful when it is COMPLETED and is never used after it is completed. I know that is not what you are driving at. I kind of like the word ‘process’ but the phrase ‘business process’ has a whole lot of other meanings. ‘Business strategy document’ is better in my opinion. Or what about ‘Business game plan’?? ‘Business map’?

    Yes I am playing with words here, but sometimes the right words capture the underlying meaning better, or changing words ‘wash away’ the accumulated crud that the old terms carry.

    Anyhow not a deep analysis, just some ponders on this blog posting.

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