I Was In Business for 10 Years Without a Business Plan

I’d just completed a speaking engagement for the American Advertising Federation in Madison, WI and a woman who had attended a social media training course I taught almost 10 years prior approached me and said, “Do you remember me?” I replied, “Yes, of course.” She said, “I’m surprised to see you’re still in business.”  I didn’t skip a beat and replied, “Of course I am.”

Several days later, I thought about our conversation and realized luck might be the reason I was still in business.

For over 10 years I ran my company and I didn’t have a written business plan. I didn’t have a written marketing strategy either. As a marketing strategist and business consultant that’s unheard of, especially since I often preached to my clients “you need a plan and you need to write it down!”

As I reached year 11, I realized my business was exactly where it was in year two. For years, I made changes within my company as I needed to, with no clear direction of where I wanted to go. Scaling was always difficult, I could never borrow money from a bank, and I was unable to keep up with rapid changes happening in the marketplace and on the web. 

I finally realized that I needed to take my own advice; I needed to develop a strategic business plan – one that would allow me to pivot with the growing web trends and rapidly changing technology.

Type of Business Plans

There are several types of business plans. Every business owner’s needs are different depending on where they are with their business.

#1. Feasibility business plan

A feasibility business plan is completed before the actual business plan. An established business looking to launch a new product, or a startup, can use a feasibility plan. A feasibility plan helps you and any potential investors determine if your idea is profitable and sustainable.

#2. Start-up business plan

The business plan for a startup company is the blueprint for the company’s development and operation; the plan is designed to ensure the likelihood of success. Startup business plans capitalize on a company’s strengths and reveals ways to minimize the company’s chances of failure.

#3. Strategic business plan

A strategic business plan helps companies track growth, establish organizational goals, and prepare for changes in the marketplace. A strategic business plan also helps companies establish the action items necessary to achieve organizational goals. 

#4. Growth business plan

Growth business planning is a strategic tool that enables business owners to plan and track an expansion in their company. It allows businesses to allocate specific resources toward keeping an expansion effort on target.

What Does a Business Planning Consultant Do?

There are many free templates and tools available to help entrepreneurs write various business plans; however, these are the critical items a business consultant can help with that software cannot:

  • Perform the market research you need to determine if consumers will purchase your product
  • Design surveys for the data collection you’ll need to write your business plan
  • Perform your competitor analysis – determining current and future competitors
  • Facilitate any necessary focus groups or listening sessions
  • Develop a needs assessment to determine the resources you need to complete your business plan
  • Vet additional consultants, like CPAs and lawyers, to help you complete your business plan

Eighteen years later, I can tell you honestly: it’s true. Not all businesses need a business plan. However, if you ever need to track your company’s growth, establish organizational goals, or prepare for changes in the market place, you’ll want to write one. And if you plan to ask a bank or investor for money, you’ll need one.