02 Jun 2015 19:46 IST

Look at business as a journey

Without a proper business plan, you’ll be just wasting your time and resources

Learnings

(i) Put down a clear roadmap

(ii) Define your personal goals

(iii) Ensure perfect alignment between

business goals and personal priorities

(iv) Look at your happiness quotient

“You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.”

All successful people and businesses have a goal. No one can get anywhere unless one knows where one wants to go. Clearly many of us make plans for our businesses but they may be generally vague. We often set goals without timelines. What we are advocating here is something fundamentally different; to look at your business as a journey. Now before you make any journey you need a clear map. And building the details of the journey is what constitutes the business plan. Simple as the suggestion is, many entrepreneurs make the mistake of ignoring this basic pre-requisite and venturing with the “plan in their head”.

In simple terms therefore a business plan sets out where you want to be at a definitive future date (Mission); where are you today (Current Scenario); how do you get where you want to go (Strategy & Tactics); evaluate strategy and tactics (Business Tools such as SWOT, etc) and if you get to where you want how does it alter positively your environment – whatever or whoever that may be (what is frequently called a vision)

Strategy and tactics

There is an old Chinese proverb -- Vision without action is daydreaming and action without vision is a nightmare. Strategy without tactics is a slow route to victory and tactics without strategy is the noise before the defeat.

This is one of the fundamental mistakes that we made in our first avatar at Scope -– when we were an industrial market agency. We did not put down a formal business plan relying more on gut feeling and intution to guide us through. This was fine as long as we were close knit and small and we could share ideas and action programs across the table. But as we grew we found it more and more difficult to move in the same direction as individual aspirations overtook business priorities. Ultimately this ended up in all of us pulling in different directions. We did not make the same mistake in our second and third avatars and this stood us in good stead.

So in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I would spend six hours sharpening my axe.” It is therefore important to spend some quality time and resources on your business plan and here is a simple summary of what a business plan should contain:

Vision Statement

Specific Missions to alter the current state

Time Bound Goals

Resources Required (Human, infrastructure, marketing,

Financial, etc) to achieve the above

Specific Product / Service offering – what is the specific need that it seeks to satisfy and how is it unique. What is the value that you provide that others don’t

Evaluation of the market -- Size, type, growth

Evaluation of competition – profile of competitors, their offering, their USP’s and history, substitutes

How will you make, move or shake the market

Financial projections – both costs and revenues

Life goals

In addition, based on my own experience, I advocate the following for entrepreneurs: What is your life goal; how does your business plan fit into your life plan. Most often entrepreneurs have to trudge a long way before they achieve financial success so the only things that will get them moving is if there is perfect alignment between personal goals and business goals.

How do you define success and happiness; What constitutes success for you – is it money, happiness, balanced life, social contribution, health ?

How do you achieve work–life balance? How will you balance the needs of the business and the needs of your family. Many entrepreneurs are a financial success but a failure in all other aspects of their lives. Health is often ignored until it is too late.

It is also extremely important for entrepreneurs to think through right at the beginning some of their key personal issues as these will progressively gain importance as you go along. In the end, only you can define what success means; you don’t necessarily have to ape some other person. Money cannot by itself be the sole driving force for entrepreneurship; as Bill Gates said, “I don’t have any use for all this money; so I give it away”. But of course you need to make it first.

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