I love a good writing exercise of any kind; I am especially fascinated by the challenge that comes from enshrining an organisation’s vision, mission, goals and operations within a business plan.
If you think about it this is often a process of translation: a business plan writer has to take ideas and frame them as tangible processes and measurable outcomes. Here are some things to bear in mind while you are undertaking that translation exercise:
Write using plain English: No weasel words please and leave out the jargon. Ask yourself if an industry outsider could comprehend the plan as easily as an insider.
Use templates but don’t be ruled by them: A huge array of resources are parked on the internet and available to us via a Google search. Some of this knowledge exists in the form of templates. I dearly love a good template, they provide an excellent springboard and framework on which to stick your ideas or even to guide your thinking.
But don’t be afraid to play with templates. Consider writing the way they suggest – as a challenge to your own thought processes – but then change to suit you. Change the vocabulary, the structure (and thereby the flow of ideas), leave irrelevant headings out and substitute your own. Do what is necessary so that your plan truly reflects your organisation and its culture.
Cross reference: The different components of a business plan should ‘speak’ to each other so that the plan is a coherent thing driving towards an end goal and reflecting a unifying vision. As you write different parts of the plan – financial, marketing, operational, legal, management – take the chance to review other sections of the plan and ask yourself if what you have just written will support or negate them. If you are overseeing a team of people who are developing the plan then this is an excellent chance to get them to consider, and understand, each other’s contribution.
Review and update: Good plans have a tendency to gradually start rendering themselves obsolete from the moment they start being implemented. This is because good plans set things in motion and affect the conditions they define and respond to; they create change.
When you write your plan build in a schedule to review your plan and design processes whereby you can harvest feedback and update your plan so that it can continue its work in creating, exploiting and directing change.
This article was written as an adjunct to my presentation on How to Make Your Business Plan into a Living Document at the 2016 Collins & Co. NFP Conference.