I’ve been roped into a discussion that I don’t particularly like, between different players and different options related to business planning. Pulling some loose ends together, the discussion goes all the way from doing it yourself with spreadsheets to coaching costing low thousands of dollars to online courses to consultants costing tens of thousands of dollars. Very confusing, very much needing sorting out. So here’s a list:
- The best business planning is what you do yourself. With the possible exception of the financial projections, the process is easily learned and what matters is the content, which is you.
- Spreadsheets can do your financial projections about as easily as word processing software can write your novel. Click here for more on that. If you don’t already know spreadsheets and the finance and math behind business projections, it’s dumb to try to do the whole thing yourself. There is good software available so you end up spending many long hours — 20, 40, or more — saving about $100.
- If you have the money and you want the luxury of guidance, coaches can be a great option. I myself love the idea of coaches because it implies you do it yourself, with help and guidance.
- Courses can get you a long way too. Check with local SBDCs, colleges, night school, junior colleges. Also, there are online courses, like Trump University and some others.
- If you have the money and want the luxury of having somebody else to do it, then a consultant is the high end. Make it clear to yourself and your consultant from the very beginning that it has to be your plan, not the consultant’s plan. Don’t think the plan does you any good if you don’t know by it heart, and believe in every word and every number in the plan.
- And in all cases, remember a plan is just the beginning. You have to track progress, review assumptions, check plan vs. actual results, and turn it into management.
- Also, the secret to success in business planning isn’t formatting, or editing, or presentation: it’s information you can track and manage with.