Business Planning Mistakes: How to Fix and Even Avoid Them

Success QuestionsIf you are a regular follower of this blog, you have heard it said time and time again, "If you want to get to where you say you are going, you must have a written plan," and nowhere is that more true than in your business. Now, given that we are edging closer and closer to the 4th quarter of this year, one has to ask the questions: Have you given any thought at all to planning for next year? Are you following the plan you have for this year or do you even have one? Are you feeling stuck or unsure about the direction you are headed?

If you feel the “Uh-ohs” creeping in, in response to those questions, don’t panic! While many people make mistakes when it comes to their business plans, they are easy to fix and can even be avoided altogether!

Business Planning Mistake #1:
Not having a written plan! It isn’t uncommon for businesses both large and small to operate without a written plan, and they say, “Well, I have a plan.” But that plan is in their head! Without a written plan they have nothing to keep them on track when circumstances and life take them over; they have nothing that shows their team what they need to do and why they are doing what they do; they are missing a key accountability tool! Don’t be left navigating your market without a plan!

Business Planning Mistake #2:
Working from a plan that is more than one year old. We live in a world of great change and if you are operating from a plan that was written or revised more than 12 months ago, you haven’t likely made the changes necessary to adapt to the change that affects your business, your team, and your customers.

Business Planning Mistake #3:
Not following the plan you write. More business plans than I care to think about end up serving as a doorstop. Seriously, I’ve walked into offices where the business plan is literally on the floor or on the corner of their desk covered in dust! Why do they write a plan and then not follow it? Many times the author of the plan doesn’t want their staff to know the plan is in existence because they are afraid of being held accountable for getting to where the plan says they are going. Don't be this person! Do what you say you are going to do!

Business Planning Mistake #4:
Not being specific enough. A business plan needs to be very clear in terms of what specific measurable results (SMRs) will be produced and the date by-when they will be produced, especially in stating the company objectives, sales goals, and margins. Without these specifics: a) it is nearly impossible to hold anyone accountable for reaching the objective; b) you leave too much room for assumptions and misinterpretation; and c) without specifics, you don’t know when you have reached your goal and are actually done! Don’t leave room for others to “interpret” your plan! Be specific in your objectives and the steps you are going to take in order to meet those objectives.

Business Planning Mistake #5:
Making unrealistic assumptions. In every business plan there is a certain number of assumptions that have to be made. However, in making those assumptions you have to be as realistic as possible. For instance, if you assume in your plan that your potential market will expand by 10% and it realistically will only expand by approximately 5%, your entire plan is based upon bogus numbers. What good is a plan if that plan is nothing but a fantasy? Make sure your plan is well researched and thought out! Know your market. Know your competitors. Know what is reasonable, but don’t use that as an excuse to not think big enough!

Business Planning Mistake #6:
Not understanding what the financials are telling you (and your investors). There is a reason why companies have financial officers to keep the company’s financial affairs in order. It simply takes a person with a head for financials to do them well. However, that doesn’t mean that the entire executive team doesn’t need to understand what the financial data is ultimately telling you and your investors! If you have to, ask for the financial information in terms that make sense to you. Don’t ever accept a financial analysis that you can’t explain to someone else!

As you can see, not one of these common business plan mistakes is insurmountable. Just be aware of their dangers and use these tips to avoid them. What’s next for you is just waiting for you to claim. So, have fun and go for it!

Clay Nelson
Clay Nelson
Founder/President at Clay Nelson Life Balance
Clay Nelson's background includes science, systems analyst, and business management. After 30 years of corporate leadership, Clay knows the key elements that make a business successful, and for more than two decades, Clay has been providing business executives and their teams, from all industries, executive business and professional coaching, mediation, facilitation, planning, system analyses and seminar leadership. Read More »


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