Everyone agrees that an agency business plan is an essential business success ingredient. But most agency owners will readily admit that they are not good at planning. It takes just the right combination of energy, mood, tension and motivation to focus on the short term and long term issues to work out what has to happen today, next month and next year. Very often, you get side tracked with the issues of the day; get confused between urgent versus important and the planning never gets finished.
We know both intuitively and in the context of our professional lives how important having a plan is and that we need some sort of ‘game plan’ for actually accomplishing our goals. When it comes to planning in our businesses, often we think in terms of a formal business plan and the huge effort that that is. “If only I had the time” you say as you put out another fire.
Then there’s the notion that until it’s perfect we can’t use it or share it with the leadership team or the agency at large – in case there is something we may have overlooked or not given enough thought to.
Well, you don’t need a business plan in the sense of the formal document that goes by that name when you do a Google search and download another irrelevant template. What you do need is a way to marshal you thinking, focus on dealing properly with the right stuff and get it concisely written up so that you can communicate your thoughts with others in your team and keep the business moving forward.
Keeping it short
You don’t need reams of verbiage that no one reads or understands but you do need the essentials. There are several aspects that need absolute clarity and some that need proper definition within the context of your business. Having this stuff documented will provide useful reference material so that you can confidently delegate and your people can get on with their jobs in the context of true teamwork.
So a perfectly valid and workable and indeed preferable agency business plan can and should be no more than between 2 and 4 pages in length. If it’s longer than this, you haven’t done enough thinking – of paring things down to their essentials and generating the kind of sharp clarity that business success is built on. This process turns a bloated ‘dust collector’ into a valuable business tool that will set you up for the success you are really after, and serve as a tool to be used over and over.
Understand the process
You need to understand the process clearly. If you start out trying to get a 2 – 4 page agency business plan done, there will be just too little value there for it to be worthy and you will be back at square one. You need to work through a lot of stuff to be left with the right 2 – 4 pages worth of information that will be the key to your business success.
Through all of this it’s crucial to stay focused on all the thinking to the point that it’s all done. Getting only part way through the work is will rob you of the clarity and confidence that is at the heart of business success.
It’s not hard to see that there are two linchpin points here:
- Having the discipline to keep focused on the planning effort for the time that it takes to get through all of it and get it finished, without being distracted and losing interest in the face of more exciting projects or more pressing distractions
- Getting through the thinking sufficiently rigorously so that your final 2 – 4 page plan meets the mark.
Getting Outside Eyes’ (OE’s) is how you can make sure this gets done, and here’s why:
- OE’s will keep you accountable and make sure you persist until it’s done, even if there are interruptions or roadblocks.
- The right set of OE’s will speed your progress through the process by cutting through, and getting you to focus on things that are confusing your thinking or that are just plain wrong
- OE’s will play an important role as devil’s advocate and ask you questions about your thought process and some of the hard questions you are missing
- OE’s will see things that you don’t
- The right set of OE’s have specialist knowledge of your industry and business profile, and have done dozens and dozens of these before.
Feedback is your friend
Just like successfully planning your dream house with an architect only works as a collaborative exercise, so is getting the best plan for your business. Feedback is the key. You don’t want to get to stuck on your own ideas, in a case of one person groupthink, just in case you are missing something crucial or you have the wrong end of the stick on something. You need to seek out candid feedback from someone who really knows and that you are prepared to listen to, otherwise you risk ending up being an emperor with no clothes.
Other benefits that you probably haven’t thought about:
- Amazing peace of mind. When the plan is finished and in motion, the notion that you truly are on the right path removes a lot of anxiety from your life and helps you to focus more effectively on execution.
- Credibility and confidence from your team. There is nothing quite as unsettling for your team members than knowing that the business that they are working for is effectively a rudderless ship. When everyone knows and understands the plan and their role in it, you are able to get higher levels of accountability and teamwork working for you.
- Less work for you. Without a plan, team members need more instruction and management, inevitably placing an added burden on you
- Measurable milestones. A good plan will set out the milestones on a quarterly or even monthly basis. Taking timely action in relation to these is the sure way to ensure that your goals are ultimately achieved
The Outside Eyes Agency Business Plan is a dependable way of developing a robust and achievable plan for your agency and put you on a path to real success,