What are the critical steps needed to achieve a successful business plan? This may come as a surprise to my fellow business consultants, but producing a successful business plan is not as difficult as people often think, so long as they follow a logical sequence. Here is my considered view as to the critical steps. 1. Understand what you are planning and why; 2. Define the activities of your organisation; 3. Outline the current position of the business; 4. Review and discuss the external market conditions, undertake and understand a competitive analysis, and define your market positioning; 5. Define your core objectives; 6. Prepare and articulate the strategy to attain and meet the objectives; 7. Identify and review risks and opportunities; 8. Prepare a strategy to deal with risks and exploit opportunities; 9. Refine the strategies into operational plans; 10. Prepare financial forecasts including revenues, costs, cash_flow, capital expenditure and assumptions adopted; 11. Finalise the plan; 12. Get it approved; 13. Use it; 14. Review it regularly and update as appropriate.
Another consideration. Should the business plan be a document that is focused on selling an idea for a product or service? For many years I worked in a company that did not want anything in a business plan that could be construed as showing a bias towards or against a project. The mantra was to only present facts in the business plan. The Operations Research Department was there to review the analysis as being unbiased. To handle the "what if" scenarios or sensitivity analysis we prepared a supplemental analysis documents which were mostly financial oriented. Personally, I like a factual approach and use the presentation of the final document to point out the conservative aspects of the content.