So, I am going to take a bit of a guess here and assume that you have a business plan. You wrote it because you were told to and now it sits in a draw or archived somewhere on your hard drive in the same state as it was when you wrote it 5/10 years ago? If I am right, then read on. If I am wrong, then you either don’t have one (what! No business plan!!! WRITE ONE) or you use it for its core purpose. To drive your business forward!!!

If it is the latter then congratulations – there is no need for you to read any further, unless you are intrigued… feel free, I would love to hear your thoughts. Either way these are my thoughts on how to use your business plan to make your business grow, improve and become the vision you intended when you started out.

STEP 1

Re-evaluate your business plan.

A business plan should be re-evaluated regularly – at least once a year. Your plan should be a statement of where your business is now, where you want to be and a strategy of how you are going to get there. If your business is growing, improving and therefore changing, the starting position of your business plan should also be changing to embrace these steps you are making.

Keeping your business plan up to date also gives it relevance. The business world moves fast, and you must keep up. You may be going in a direction you had not planned so re-evaluating this document keeps your vision on track.

STEP 2

Decide on your immediate priorities. Your business plan may be an indication of where you want the business to go but that is the long-term aim. You need to think more short term. What will make the biggest impact now and what is critical at this point?

If you are unable to decide or even think through your priorities clearly then try the MoSCow method. Must Do – Should Do – Could Do, Won’t do this time (can anybody see the Project Manager side of me coming out yet!). Now here’s the trick. Put all your priorities into the “Won’t do this time” column. All priorities will feel critical and you will find it hard to de-escalate the tasks.

In order to move it up the list your need to justify its existence. And I mean REALLY justify it. Will the business collapse without this action being taken or is it just nice to have? It can sometimes be useful to bring in a ‘critical friend’ at this point to question your decisions. Work through your list until you have them all roughly ranked in order of importance. KEEP THIS LIST.

STEP 3

Take the top 3-5 priorities and create an action plan. This should be in detail and cover no more than a month. What should you do in week 1, week 2 and so on. In the last column add any additional tasks that may need to happen two months onwards for reference only. Weekly tasks are important. It stops you putting things off to the end of the month when most businesses are often extremely busy. Also, don’t try to put too many tasks into each week, one or two tasks per priority maximum, otherwise you will overwhelm yourself with too much to do and the impact will be the opposite of what we are trying to achieve here.

STEP 4

At the end of the month – review it. Go back to your list and make sure the priorities are still the same. Don’t dwell on them – you will know if something significant has changed. If it has – change the plan. Have you completed all the tasks required? Is there anything in the last column that now needs to be actioned? If a priority has been dealt with, go back to your list and add the next priority to your action plan. Re-draft your action plan for the next month.

After several months you will see what progress has been made and a sense of how the business is improving. Sometimes you just need to take a step back and chip away at the changes you need to make in order to get real progress.

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