Can writing a business plan actually be simple and effective at the same time? Is there a simple business plan template and process for using it that leads to acceleration of success, yet does not require more than 4-5 hours of effort to finish?
Here is the podcast of the interview:
Robert: Hi everybody, this is Robert with P5 Marketing radio and my guest today again is Dr. Stephie Althouse. Dr. Althouse is the CEO and founder of Top-Notch CEO. Welcome, Dr. Stephie.
Dr. Stephie: Thank you for having me on again, Robert. I appreciate it.
Robert: It's my pleasure. We're always learning about new ways to think about certain things and some great ideas.
And I think you've got a great idea to share with everybody today. Our topic is the simple business plan, and at the end, you're going to show everybody how to get a template for the simple business plan.
What is the simple business plan, and why is it different, and why is it so much more useful than the traditional plan?
But before we lose all of our audience because they don't want to think about business plans let me ask you what is the simple business plan, and why is it different, and why is it so much more useful than the traditional plan?
Dr. Stephie: Well, you said it, it's simple. It gets you into action. And it does so quickly and simply. And without having to go through a bunch of work. You know, for so many business owners it's really hard to stop when they're doing the work, working as hard as they possibly can, and to stop and take the time to write a business plan. That is, for many business owners, something they can't even imagine. So, the simple business plan is very quick to do. It really gets to the point very quickly. There's no theory in it. Yet it is proven to give fantastic results. So it's nuts and bolts; it's practical. It's everything that you want in order to accelerate your business massively without having to embark on some gigantic business plan writing exercise.
Why do you recommend to business owners they absolutely have to have a simple business plan in place?
Robert: That’s great news. So, I obviously I think we've answered a little of this next question but why do you recommend to business owners they absolutely have to have a simple business plan in place?
Dr. Stephie: Well, you just can't get to where you want to go without being extremely clear on where that is. So, what exactly that is. That requires that you need to take a little bit of time, not much, but a little bit of time, every once in a while to think about that and to work on your business and not just in your business. In a nutshell, it is about gaining clarity; I mean at a much higher level than the clarity that most of our listeners most likely already have. And from that, they derive operational direction day-to-day week-to-week and that really establishes the foundation for rapid success. So, we know that most business owners they don't have a business plan. As I said they dread the time, the effort, and the money associated with this.
Writing an extensive business plan that's the business plan that we've all seen, and we think we have to do that. Something like 20 maybe 40 pages long - or even longer. And that's usually what people do to get funding, and outside of that (need) they usually don't.
These plans are really not designed to run your business with. They're designed to impress investors and hopefully give you money for whatever you're working on. But outside of that they're not operationally very practical. So that is however what the simple business plan is for. We actually call that the business power plan because it is short and very powerful.
Robert: I mean I'm I think most business owners at their core understand they need to have some sort of a plan otherwise you can't even measure, right? So, I sort of threw out measurement but what do you think should be included in a business power plan or a simple business plan?
What do you think should be included in a business power plan? What does a simple business plan template look like?
Dr. Stephie: Well, luckily it's very simple. There are only five sections in the simple business plan; the simple business plan template we provide. We've used this with great success with our clients and frankly, many of our clients have who have used it have doubled their business in a short amount of time, often in less than a year. So, think of this as a self-contained powerful 2-3 page nuts-and-bolts business plan. It's a living breathing document, and really it has these five things in it:
- What do you envision?
- Why are you in business? So, what are you doing exactly? What's the problem that you solving for whom - but be able to say that in eight to 12 words and be able to say it in a way that excites you and that you could say it when someone's waking up in the middle of the night you'll be able to say that? That's the mission. Why are you in business?
- Next is what are you planning to achieve. What are your goals?
And, by the way, a twist on the simple business plan, the way we do with the Business Power Plan, is that we invite you to also write down your personal goals because they have to be in sync with your business goals. You don't live a business life and a personal life; you live one life and everything in it has to work together. That's at least my philosophy, and I'm sticking with that. I find that my clients really appreciate that because they realize that's true.
- The next section is strategies. How are how are you actually going to achieve these goals?
- And then the fifth one is finally what really makes it practical, namely now that you have written down your goals and your strategies based on your vision and your mission what are your actions? The business plan has a 90-day outline of your action plan. The reason for 90 days is because you can oversee 90 days fairly well. It's much harder to oversee a year or two or three or even five. I mean who knows what's going to happen a year from now. We want to look forward into the future, and we do that in the goals setting section where we think are further ahead. But as far as defining the specific actions we focus for the most part on the next 90 days, and we may set a few goals that go further than that. But in terms of finer detail, it's 90 days. And then as the month elapses you add another month on.
So, the simple business plan template is a living breathing organic kind of process that is going to lead you to succes?
Robert: So, it's a living breathing organic kind of process that is going to lead you to success over time?
Dr. Stephie: Yes. Over quick time actually. In fact, usually, as we do this, even in the second hour of putting this plan together, maybe even in the first hour, people have humongous "Aha!"s. When we do this together, or when you do this with someone who knows what they're doing, you will come to Aha's, most likely, that that may have been in the back of your mind but not on the front of your mind or the tip of your tongue or the tip of your brain or whatever the saying may be (smile).
Robert: I am intrigued by the concept. You and I have discussed a lot about this but maybe you could tell our listeners: Are there particular times when having a simple business plan and using a template like the one you're going to provide is especially important?
Are there particular times when having a simple business plan and using a template like the one you provide is especially important?
Dr. Stephie: Yes, absolutely. I mean, first of all, it's always important to have it because you know I mean anytime it wouldn't be important it doesn't matter how quickly you get to your goals.
Dr. Stephie: Then it won't matter. But other than that it always matters.
That said, there are certain times when it is especially important:
- If you're planning on business goals that are more than moderate then definitely.
- If you are embarking on a marketing campaign online, offline or both, that's very important to have it then.
- If you are managing hyper-growth which means your business is growing very rapidly and now you have to do things to make sure that your business can actually handle that growth, and that you're streamlining things and that you're beefing up the foundation for your business then is extremely important.
- Another time is when you're planning on succession and preparing for it.
- Or if you're preparing for selling your business.
Robert: Ok. I mean those are all very valuable. Maybe you could share a specific example of a simple business plan or a business power plan for somebody you work with.
Maybe you could share a specific example of a simple business plan?
Dr. Stephie: Yes, let's say if someone wants to grow their business and they want to intensify their marketing. And let's say they have been doing in-person, offline marketing. They have gone to networking meetings etc. etc. and now they want to actually work on gaining, as you call it, visibility online.
So, let’s talk about what you need for that. As we go through these five sections real quick I can explain how this actually feeds into creating a powerful marketing plan and marketing strategy that someone like you, for example, could actually work with your client on to make the online visibility happen. Does that sound like a good example to dive into?
Robert: It does. I'm all ears.
Dr. Stephie: So OK so let's play with that a little. The first part is the vision. The vision is what the business owner envisions.
There are things that you want to get out of that, those things that you want to achieve with that. Is this going to be a local business, a national or international business? How large? Do you have already some ideas about when you might want to exit?
And what's behind all of that? I mean some of the vision is maybe deeply personal and not something that you would put on your website; some of it you might want to put on your website. So, when I work with a client on that we really get into that and see what's there. Oftentimes I pull things out of them that they hadn't thought about for a while.
Then the mission statement is what might you say to the outside world in 8-12 words about why you are in business. What's your purpose? For example, we say that we're about “transforming talent into wealth for geeks” – Geeks being top experts. So it's tongue in cheek (the geek part).
Then from there, we set big goals. What are your revenue goals? What are your other goals?
Well, let me go back to the vision for a second. It's important, of course, for someone like you who's helping a client to gain visibility online - which isn't necessarily a completely simple thing to do. That's an understatement actually. You can speak to that more knowledgeably than I can. But having gone through it myself I know you know you need to be very clear on who your target market is, who your audience is. You call it the buyer’s journey. Who actually buys what from you etc. All that’s kind of part of the vision. Who you are serving, what problem you are solving, what the demographic is … maybe you can pitch in some more.
But having gone through it myself I know you know you need to be very clear on who your target market is, who your audience is. You call it the buyer’s journey. Who actually buys what from you etc. All that’s kind of part of the vision. Who you are serving, what problem you are solving, what the demographic is … maybe you can pitch in some more.
What I like about what the simple business plan template is that it helps people focus!
Robert: No, I mean I think you covered it. And what I like about what you have is that it helps people focus.
I think that's probably the most important thing. Focus on what they want to achieve, what kind of customers they want to have and what they're planning to achieve. Being very scattered makes it much more difficult to get your point across. So, I think that's one of the most important things that you do right early on in that process.
Dr. Stephie: Yeah. One of the things that you, of course, want to know when you put together an online marketing strategy for somebody, with somebody actually, is you want to know what they see as success and therefore what are reasonable metrics for that. If you don't say what actually are your goals and then you don't know whether you ever got where you wanted to go because you never defined what that it really looks like. That's in the goal section.
Dr. Stephie: And then the strategy. In this case, there's there's a marketing strategy in this particular example. There may be other things that are uncovered in the process of this, too.
I'm always a big fan of pointing out that you might not want to bite off too many strategies at one time because you've got to look at what is your bandwidth to actually do this. If you put yourself into a state of being overwhelmed where you can't live up to your own expectations you're not actually serving yourself very well with that.
Dr. Stephie: And so then from there it goes into an action plan. In the case of the online marketing, there're certain things that your company (P5 Marketing) does for the business owner. And then there're certain things that the business owner has to do, let's say write articles. That depends on you what sort of arrangement they have with respects to how much is done for them, with them, by them etc. And that's reflected in the action plan. So this would be an example.
Robert: Perfect. I just have to say that if more of our clients had done this work before they started to work with us they would be far more successful than they would be without it.
If more of our clients had done this work before they started to work with us they would be far more successful than they would be without it.
Robert: I think you know a lot of people know they need to do SEO. They know they need to do a web site. They know they need to do X Y Z. They don't have it as a strategy. It is a tactic.
And I think that with this process people understand what their strategies are and then when they go to work with an outside consultant they can clearly define what it is they want to achieve, how they want to achieve it, when they want to achieve it by, and they are having a much more complete conversation that empowers them to be successful. I would say that most marketing campaign failures or web bad designs or whatever you want to do have their roots in not having this kind of work laid out clearly for the supplier or the vendor.
Dr. Stephie: Thank you. And I think you're right! Just to point to our listeners, what is the difference really between tactics and strategy? That is something that I often run into people not being clear on. What is the difference? I would say that a strategy is a smart combination of various tactics that work together synergistically whereas a tactic is just a single approach for something. Let's say social media. I might use Facebook as a tactic but how is this really connected to actually creating leads and converting them etc. So how does this tie in with other tactics to actually form a strategy?
Robert: OK. I think we've laid out the case pretty nicely for that everybody should have a very simple, functional, working simple business plan. How long does it really take to create it?
Everybody should have a functional, working simple business plan. How long does it really take to create it?
Dr. Stephie: Here's the kicker. You are going to love this. It only takes about four to five hours. I want you to be focused during those four to five hours but only 4-5 hours. I don't know of any other business plan where you can really say that and have the level of success I cited earlier. This is the business power plan with the simple business plan template that we talked about here. That's what it takes four to five hours, focused.
Robert: Ok now I have a theory maybe you can help me with that. You can’t do this work yourself. There are certain things that you have to do with a guide or coach, a mentor, a sherpa, a trusted advisor, … whatever the words are. Is this one of those things?
I have a theory ... You can’t do this work yourself. There are certain things that you have to do with a guide or coach, a mentor, a sherpa, a trusted advisor, … whatever the words are. Is this one of those things?
Dr. Stephie: Well, yes and no. I mean you can do it by yourself and you get to a certain level with it. What you won’t have is the benefit of working with someone who actually knows how to extract your own brilliance out of your own head. We call it actually “Brilliance Extraction”. It's very hard to question yourself, all the way, the way that someone who knows how to do that can do.
Dr. Stephie: Even for myself. I do this work with clients all the time and yet it's very difficult to do this at the same level of quality and result for and with myself by myself because I'm too close to myself. I believe my own kool aid.
We tend to undervalue our own brilliance a lot of times and not even recognize it. Filling out the simple business plan template is is a process of distilling out the most valuable things out of the many.
And not only that but I think as top- notch top experts, geeks as we call them... We tend to undervalue our own brilliance a lot of times and not even recognize it.
Or we don't recognize which of the many things that we know is really the essence of it. And so a lot of this is - because it's only three pages long - is a process of distilling out the most valuable things out of the many. And that's very hard to do completely by yourself.
Robert: Perfect. I strongly recommend that everybody not do this themselves. I know I couldn't do this myself and we spent some time working on this and it was it was very, very powerful to get your input. Couldn't have done it without you.
But you do offer a template that people can use with whatever trusted adviser they would like to have. How can they get that template?
How can people get the simple business plan template?
Dr. Stephie: Well, you simply go to our website, TopNotchCEO.com/simple-business-plan.
Robert: Right. OK. I think we've laid this out for everybody, and I'm glad everybody got a chance to listen. We will be back. I have a feeling that the next thing to talk about is going to be brilliance strategy.
Dr. Stephie: Actually, one thing I want to point out is that we offer one-hour completely complimentary sessions. A certain number per month, usually around 10 a month. So, if you want one of those contact us through the web site and or call us at 760-707-9977 or the 844 number listed on the Web site (844-44-TNCEO or 844-446-236) and ask us for a complimentary session. We'd love to connect with you.
Robert: All right! Thanks, everybody. Thanks, Dr. Stephie. We'll see you on the next call.