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10 Business Plan Benefits You Might Be Forgetting

Too many people don't bother to write a business plan because they think it's too hard or unnecessary unless you’re looking for funding. That's a shame. These myths keep a lot of people from the benefits of planning.

If you're still skeptical, here are 10 benefits to business planning you shouldn't be overlooking:

  1. You'll stay on strategy. It's hard to stick to strategy through the daily routine and interruptions. Use a business plan to summarize the main points of your strategy and as a reminder of what it both includes and rules out. 
  2. Business objectives will be clear. Use your plan to define and manage specific measurable objectives like web visitors, sales, margins or new product launches. Define success in objective terms. 
  3. Your educated guesses will be better. Use your plan to refine your educated guesses about things like potential market, sales, costs of sales, sales drivers, lead processing and business processes.
  4. Priorities will make more sense. Aside from the strategy, there are also priorities for other factors of your business like growth, management and financial health. Use your plan to set a foundation for these, then to revise as the business evolves. 
  5. You'll understand interdependencies. Use a plan to keep track of what needs to happen and in what order. For example, if you have to time a product release to match a testing schedule or marketing to match a release, your business plan can be invaluable in keeping you organized and on track. 
  6. Milestones will keep you on track. Use a business plan to keep track of dates and deadlines in one place. This is valuable even for the one-person business and vital for teams. 
  7. You'll be better at delegating. The business plan is an ideal place to clarify who is responsible for what. Every important task should have one person in charge. Your plan keeps track. 
  8. Managing team members and tracking results will be easy. So many people acknowledge the need for regular team member reviews and just as many admit they hate the reviews. The plan is a great format for getting things in writing and following up on the difference between expectations and results with course corrections.
  9. You can better plan and manage cash flow. No business can afford to mismanage cash. And simple profits are rarely the same as cash. A cash flow plan is a great way to tie together educated guesses on sales, costs, expenses, assets you need to buy and debts you have to pay. 
  10. Course corrections will keep your business from flopping. Having a business plan gives you a way to be proactive -- not reactive -- about business. Don't wait for things to happen. Plan them. Follow up by tracking the results and making course corrections. It's a myth that a business plan is supposed to predict the future. Instead, it sets expectations and establishes assumptions so you can manage the future with course corrections. 

You don’t need a big formal business plan to reap these benefits. Instead, think of your business plan as a collection of lists, bullet points and tables. Think of it as something that lives on the computer, not on paper. It's just big enough to do its job.
 

The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

Tim Berry is the president of Palo Alto Software Inc., based in Eugene, Ore., which produces business planning software. He is also the author of 3 Weeks to Startup and The Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan, published by Entrepreneur Press.
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