Thursday, May 31, 2012

I ain't no template girl.

The other day, somebody asked me for a planning template, to which I replied, no thank you.

The truth is, planning templates are available literally at your finger tips.  So fill your boots, I say, because there are thousands of them at your disposal on the world wide web.

But here's what the template experience looks like, in case you are wondering.

You sit down to your computer, cat at your side and best intentions.  You download the template and you begin.

The introduction tells you all about the benefits of the business plan - creating a clear path for the future, mapping out goals, objectives and targets and a sprinkle of initiatives, topped off by a healthy and satisfying budget.

The first section asks for your vision.  You stare at it, your fingers grazing the keyboard, in search of a thought. Something grandiose.  A cause worth fighting for. Something that will get you out of bed in the morning. Something in the neighborhood of Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy.

You google "Vision", and lines and lines of vision references pop up about how to create visions and great visions of our time. You read about them and their dreams, and you think, what the heck is mine? What does this have to do with cupcakes or fixing cars? Who needs a vision anyway, you say to yourelf. I just want to sell cupcakes or build cars.

It wants to know your Mission now.  What the heck is the difference between a vision and mission, you ask yourself.  You google mission.  A myriad of references pop up on your screen. Wikipedia says it is a grape, a practice, a statement and a style of furniture. Sigh.

Values.  That's easy. The top three that you heard your former boss talk about fall from your mind to your finger tips - honesty, integrity, respect.  Eager to fill in blanks, you go on.

Goals. Objectives. Measures. Targets.  What is the difference? How do I know, you ask. You walk away, frustrated.

Later, someone asks you for a business plan, and you say, "Oh, yea, we are working on it". The fact is, "we" are stuck and in "our" own way.

Here's the problem and the solution.

First, we think creating a business plan is a one time event. Business planning is a process. Rarely do we sit down and bang it out. There is work involved.

While a template tells what the components of a plan are, it does nothing more than that. Creating a business plan is not facilitated by a template. You actually need a facilitator - someone to guide the process, challenge your thinking, and help you in the documentation process.

Business plans are technical documents that represent your business mind. To put the best foot forward, I would recommend using a business planning facilitator who actually knows how to get from A to Z, from Aspirations to the bottom line and who can bring in experts as needed, such as accountants, lawyers and other professionals.

Your business planning facilitator should have a resume of having created actual business plans for numerous organizations. If you need a business plan, and you and your template are not getting along, give me a call. 

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