Want to know how often to review your business plan?
The short answer: you should refer to and look at your business plan every single day, and review and update the details in it at least quarterly.
Yep, I look at my plan daily, and sometimes more often than that. I have my online business planning tool set so that when I open my browser in the morning, it’s the first thing that pops up.
The first thing I do when I start work is I look at my business plan.
If you’re thinking, “ughhh but Amy, I don’t want to look at my business plan everyday”, I totally get it. A lot of people think, “I've done my business plan. It's done and dusted.” But unless you're looking at your business plan on a regular basis, there's no point in actually really having one.
Tip: Make your business plan something you want to refer to daily.
Let me explain what a business plan review actually looks like in practice and why you might want to make it part of your daily habits. Because you might not read your whole business everyday (that could take awhile), but you might pay attention to each section at different times.
I’ll run you through the four main parts, when to review them, and why writing and regularly reviewing your business plan is an essential activity for every business owner.
Part 1: The high-level overview
How often: daily The high-level overview is the section I look at most often. It’s my big picture part of the plan. Here’s what it includes:
- What I’m doing – the problems I’m solving
- Why I’m doing it – my vision
- Who I’m doing it for – their problems, need and wants
- My tagline – so I’m always focused on my business mission
- My sales and marketing strategy – the sales and marketing activities to focus on
- Finances – a summary of major income and costs
Your business plan overview is just that – a surface level overview. So you can review where you stand at a glance. It’s a quick way to remind yourself of what you need to focus on.
Part 2: The projects in progress
How often: daily and weekly This part of my business plan gets looked at daily, especially when I’m creating things in my business or working on a specific task. Sometimes I’ll leave it for a few days while I’m focused on client work and routine tasks. But whenever I've got projects on the go, which is pretty much always, I check in with this part of my business plan.
I find it really useful to refer to whenever I need to make a decision. For example, I might be thinking about registering a new domain name for my website (buying urls is fun, right?). But I can look at my plan and ask myself, “Do I really need this?”. Then I'll use my template to write a paragraph about the item and how it fits into my business. If I can’t think of what to write, I don't have a good enough reason for what it would mean to the business and how it fits into the bigger picture. Then I don’t buy it.
I’ve got the same rule for software programs and it stops me from spending all my money on Xero Add Ons! Because there are few things I love more than looking at all the latest software and seeing what I can implement to make my business (and my clients’ businesses) more efficient. But I know that it’s not efficient to add too many tools to the mix, especially if I’m not really going to have the time or patience to use them.
So this section is essential for keeping on track, focused, and making those day-to-day business decisions.
Part 3: The financial forecast
How often: Monthly I work on my financials and forecast at least every week or once a month. This was an area of real struggle for me.
My first couple of years in business I didn't make a profit because I was earning good money, but I was spending all of it. In the first year of running my bookkeeping business, I spent so much money that I actually spent about $30,000 of my husband's salary.
That was a big shock to me and I never would've picked up on that fact if I hadn't reviewed my finances and thought about how I could do things differently. Once I started to implement some different processes, and actually reviewed the numbers every week, I brought my finances under control.
You've really got to practice and discipline yourself. That’s why it’s gotta happen regularly.
Part 4: The benchmarks
How often: Quarterly This is the section of my business plan that I look at the least often. Benchmarks display data about similar companies to help you compare your business with what’s considered normal for your market. It’s a useful way to look at projections and add credibility to your plan, but it’s always important to remember that there’s no business out there exactly like yours.
So your benchmarks are only useful to a certain point. I only look at benchmarks when I do quarterly plans and reviews. It’s interesting to see how I’ve gone over the previous quarter and it’s a useful planning tool for the future. But it’s not something you need to get stuck into everyday or even every month.
Your business plan is a living document
A business plan is the perfect foundation for your business. Think about the foundation of the home you live in. You wouldn’t just wake up one day and decide to take out that foundation! And you certainly wouldn’t engage a builder who didn’t believe in foundations.
It’s there, underpinning everything you do in your home, adding strength and security. It’s the same with your business plan. You put it in place, and then you build your business on top of it… and it’s there every single day, holding your business firmly together.
What I’m saying is… your business plan is vital to your business! It’s something that you should think about (and live inside of) every day.
Challenge… are you living inside your business plan?
I want to know… do you look at your business plan everyday like I do?
Maybe you’ve got a business plan (and it’s not working for you), you're halfway through one. Maybe you've never started one or you're a bit sceptical and you don’t even know if you actually need one.
No matter where you’re at, I’d encourage you to think about what results you want in your business. What are your goals? What plans do you have in your head? Why haven’t you achieved them yet?
I want to challenge you to be your best in your business, and step out and start achieving your goals. A lot of the time, the first step is writing out your business plan. The next step is making sure you review it regularly.
Why put your business plan into writing instead of just keeping it in your head
Writing down your business plan will make it more powerful and real. But let’s get more specific. Here are 6 reasons why I always recommend you write your business plan down:
- Keep it real. Once you see things in black and white in writing, they’re much more tangible. Your written business plan can work as a reality check where things aren’t going as well as you thought they were.
- Spot gaps. When you write it down, you can see the gaps and holes that you hadn’t thought of.
- Be accountable and collaborate. Having it written down allows you to show it to others and be accountable.
- Create SMART goals. A written plan can be broken down into steps and scheduled into your calendar. This makes it far more likely that you’ll achieve it. (Like the classic S.M.A.R.T goals = Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant & Timely)
- Measure your progress. When your plans are written down, you can review them and see your progress. This is especially useful if you’re a type-A personality like me. You tend to be hard on yourself, easily forget how far you’ve come or feel like you’ve been unproductive even when you haven’t.
- Free up your brain-cells. Having your plan written down actually (and literally) frees up your headspace so you can use your mental energy for other more important things. (Like remembering what those other more important things were in the first place… um… what was that thing again? Lol.)
- Preparing for the future. And let’s not forget the importance of preparing for the future. Keeping your business in your head is not good business practice for so many reasons.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What if I got very sick and I couldn't run the business?
- What if I died?
- What if something happened where I couldn't run my business anymore?
- What if someone else had to take over really quickly and run it?
- Or what if I needed to wind it all down? Would anyone have an idea?
My business plan is my succession plan or exit plan, to be able to sell the business one day, it's all there in writing that I can hand it over to somebody else. It's hugely important. It’s almost as important as having a will.
So what's the next step? Would you love to free up your brain-cells, prepare for the future and spot gaps in your business? Join me online for my free Business Planning training.
Learn more about the savvy Bookkeeping Business Plan
Join me for the Business Planning Basics webinar. It's FREE!
During this 35 minute webinar presentation, you will learn;
- why it’s important to have a written business plan
- what’s involved in business planning
- which is the best stage of business to start a business plan
- why more people don’t have business plans
- how to get started with your business plan
- and earn a CPE point (happy dance!)
Find out if a business plan is right for you – book in for the webinar, or watch an instant replay now.
That's our take for when to do a business plan review.
Now over to you…
If you take one thing away from this post, it’s that you need to take your business plan seriously. This isn’t a fad. And it’s not about getting a business plan done because it’s what someone told you to do. Or because it’s a “cool” thing to do (but seriously, people with business plans are known to be at least slightly cooler that those who don’t :-P).
Stop and think about it and realise the impact a written business plan could have on your business, especially when you review it every single day. Get that information out of your head and put it into a tangible plan. Figure out where you want to go, what you want to do, and actually make it happen!
I’d love to know your thoughts on this… do you have a written business plan? If so, how often do you look at it? Feel free to leave me a comment below!
PS: I can't wait to see you on the webinar >>
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