Detrimental business advice

A day or so ago I answered a question on LinkedIn and I’m guessing that the asker didn’t like my view as the question no longer seems to exist. ┬áSo, for those of you who are unafraid of reading a disruptive viewpoint, I offer my deleted answer.

At the risk of being contentious, I think that Business Plans are among the most detrimental things that the corporate world has imposed on SMEs.

Business plans are a means for funding to be sought from investors, bankers and so on. For banks, Business Link etc to be advocating their use within businesses not specifically seeking funding is a lazy, cookie-cutter approach that is having a negative effect on millions of businesses.

What is required is not a dry, static Business Plan that sits in a drawer until next year, assuming that the business owner felt motivated to actually complete it in the first place, but a dynamic Learning Plan that forms part of an ongoing, disciplined approach to running a business. It is not a document, but a constantly evolving spreadsheet, highlighting the things that the management doesn’t yet know, what their best guesses are and how they are measuring these.

It’s time that we moved on from the stereotypical idea that corporates and bodies such as Business Link hold all the answers and the owners and managers of SMEs are somehow second rate. Corporates, by their nature, require tight systems so real innovation is really complex to achieve… very few do. Smaller businesses innovate every day and the people that work in them have a grasp of so many roles that would make a corporate manager’s head spin.

So I agree that resources need to be allocated, opportunities and problems foreseen, market research undertaken and particularly that focus is key. But let’s see Business Plans for the dry, static bankers’ comfort blanket that they are and start advocating and using more contemporary, dynamic business planning tools.

In case you think that I’m advocating some proprietary tool, I’m not. The price is the same kind of hard thinking required for a Business Plan. The benefit is a tool that actually helps you understand your business and allows you to run it more effectively.

One last thing that is not unrelated to this topic. The owners of small businesses are truly amazing people and are key to the economic revival of this country: let’s start treating them that way.

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