My MasterPlan

Success Simplified.....Because Planning Is As Simple As You Make It

The Six Ps

I’ve seen various versions of the six Ps over the years. Some are five Ps, some are seven Ps. Ranging in both specificity and respectability. I’ve seen consultants and politicians claim credit for these helpful little acronyms. But it was friends and acquaintances from Her Majesties Armed Forces that first introduced me to their six Ps:

“Prior Planning Prevents P*** Poor Performance”

I often wonder if it’s this very association that gives planning such a poor reputation in the modern business world. Visions of a red-faced Commanding Office shouting across a parade ground. Who wants that?

But if you’re running a business, planning can be kind of important.

In August 2021, CBI Insights published their top 12 reasons why start-ups failed based on their research of over 100 failed start-ups. At least four of those reasons can be attributed directly to lack of planning:

  • Ran out of cash                                 38%
  • No market need                               35%
  • Flawed business model                 19%
  • Pricing/cost issues                           15%

Now I’m not suggesting for a minute that when you first start a business you should have it all figured out. Some of the world’s most successful businesses started without a plan. Facebook started as a student networking site. Google started as a graduate school class project to make a better search engine. In fact, some might argue that a Business Plan can hinder creativity, certainly when a Business is in its start-up phase.

Then again, is that really true? Or is that just the story we tell ourself when we’re trying to justify why we don’t have a plan?

No-one said your plan has to be a straitjacket!

Bear in mind, the value isn’t really in the actual plan, the document you produce. The value is in the process of planning. Stopping on a regular basis, stepping back and actually looking at what you are doing. Being ready and able to change course if needed. Nothing says you can’t scribble all over your plan. Make notes in the margin. Completely re-write it if you need to.

Look at those four reasons why start-ups failed. Cashflow is the number one slayer of Businesses. If the Business can’t pay it’s bills, the Business is dead. There is no magic money tree. Hoping that money will appear in the Business bank account tends not to be a winning strategy. A certain amount of planning might be a matter of Business Life or Death.

How about ‘No market need’? Otherwise known as a solution looking for a problem to solve. It’s no good creating a clever app or gadget if it doesn’t actually solve someone’s problem. Perhaps if you had a plan, you might realise there’s no market for your product or service before you invest in developing it.

If anything was going to highlight a flawed Business Model, it must be the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m sure in the coming months it will continue to be cited as THE reason not to plan. “No-one had global pandemic written in their Business Plan for 2020”. I’ve heard it often and that’s actually pretty accurate. Except that in the majority of cases, the Businesses that are thriving right now are the ones that actually stopped, took stock and made a plan to change course, ‘pivot’, to re-write the Business Model. To go online where previously they were entirely face to face. And suddenly find they have a Global marketplace instead of the previous 50-mile radius around their home location. That kind of radical Business Model change rarely happens purely accidentally.

Finally, pricing and cost issues. How did you set your pricing? Was it as simple as looking at your competitor and shaving a quid off their asking price? It’s amazing how often that happens. But what if the cost of getting your product to market is more than the money the product brings in. Would you even know? It’s amazing how many businesses don’t actually know that.

If you don’t, maybe you need a plan. Otherwise, there’s a very real risk your business might just “shuffle off this mortal coil and join the choir invisibule” (to quote the legendary Monty Python’s Flying Circus).

If you are starting to realise you actually need a plan and you don’t know where to start, you could always click here to see how I might just be able to help.

The Story of Rosie – My First Plan

One of the many things that you may not know about me (yet) is that I’m a biker. I was brought up around motorcycles. As a young girl, I would ride on the back of both my mum and my dad, depending on who’s turn it was to ride the Norton whilst the other one had to slum it in the car.

So, it was inevitable that when the time came, I would want a bike of my own.

I was a teenager growing up in a Lincolnshire steel town in the mid 80’s. Money was scarce in the Thatcher Post Industrial Apocalypse world that this Northern lass was growing up in.

At the age of sweet sixteen, legally, I could have ridden a 50cc. The Yamaha FS1E (Fizzy) was THE bike of the era for that all important first year of freedom. But, for me, at the time, it might as well have been a Ferrari. Out of my reach, out of my league, out of my pocket money range.

Back then, the humble motorbike was still the regular commuter vehicle for the working man. 100cc and 125cc bikes were common place and relatively affordable.

Reality check. I’d need to wait till I was seventeen, when I might just be able to get a nice, sensible, basic motorbike on the road. For the first time in my life, I needed a plan!

First thing I figured was that I needed about £150 to buy and insure a rough-ish but running bike. Bearing in mind, my pocket money was 50p a week, I earned another 50p by doing some household chores, and a final 50p helping my dad out with his spray-painting business. On my weekly income of £1.50 it would have taken me 100 weeks to get the money together. 100 weeks, nearly 2 whole years. I’d have been nearer eighteen by then and my goal was my seventeenth birthday.

The initial plan would not achieve the end goal I had in mind. But it spurred me into action. Quickly I secured a Saturday job, working in Poundstretcher, and an ad hoc baby-sitting gig. Pretty much everything was cash-based back then. I had a plastic jar that had previously held hair gel sitting on my bedroom dresser. All of my hard-earned cash went into that jar.

After a few months I had over £100 saved up, and my nightly scouring of the Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph turned up a Honda CB100N for £75. It didn’t actually run, but seemed to be in reasonable mechanical shape. Trusting my motorcycling family, I sealed the deal and the bike came home with us. That winter, I worked through the wiring diagram to track down the electrical fault that stopped it running. I took the top end of the engine apart when it became apparent that there was an engine problem, I rebuilt the carburettor, reset the points and the bike came to life.

But when all was said and done, it was still a boring, blue, Honda motorcycle. It was transport, independence, but not yet the road machine of my dreams.

However, I had an advantage. My dad ran a spray-painting business. So, we took the bike apart, down to the last nut and bolt. Dad did the re-spray for me using paint that he had leftover from a job lot he’d bought when he started the business. The frame went from black to silver. And the petrol tank changed from blue to Metalflake Wild Rose Pink.

Rosie was born. She saw me from my seventeenth birthday, through my test, till I was nearly nineteen when I could finally afford a bigger bike.

Rosie taught me so much. She taught me mechanics and maintenance skills. She taught me the rules of the road. She taught me the pleasure and the responsibility of all of that freedom and independence. But she also taught me the power of a plan.

If you have a dream that you cling tightly enough to, you WILL make the plan that gets you there, the plan that makes the dream reality.

So what’s your dream? Can I help you get there? Drop me a line and say hello if you like. Together we can change the world, one dream at a time.

Resolutions – Who Needs ‘Em?

I’m writing this on the third of January 2022. According to 2020 research by Strava, 21% of the UK population made a New Year’s resolution last year. Nearly 14 million people. And nearly 6 million had failed them by Sunday 19 January. The day they labelled National Quitter’s Day.

There are usually 2 opposing camps when it comes to New Years Resolutions. Let’s start with the Optimists:

“Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right.”

Oprah Winfrey

“In our perfect ways. In the ways we are beautiful. In the ways we are human. We are here. Happy New Year. Let’s make it ours.”

Beyonce

“You’ll never get bored when you try something new. There’s really no limit to what you can do.”

Dr Seuss

Or how about the downright Cynical:

“New Year’s Day – Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”

Mark Twain

“You know how I always dread the whole year? Well this time I’m only going to dread one day at a time.”

Charlie Brown

“May the New Year bring you the courage to break your resolutions early! My own plan is to swear off every kind of virtue, so that I triumph even when I fall. “

Aleister Crowley

So, as a planner, what’s my take on New Year’s Resolutions?

Well to start with, a resolution might be a plan. For example, the plan to lose that pesky extra 2 stone in weight to be beach ready, just in time for the next pandemic lock-down. (And if by some amazing chance you happen to be reading this blog many years from now, look up ‘Global Pandemic 2020-20xx’ in your history files because I sincerely hope lockdowns will indeed be consigned to history soon!)

But a resolution might also be a habit that could lead to a plan – I stop burning the candle at both ends and start to get more than 5 hours sleep a night so that I can actually function on a daily basis.

It all depends on how you frame it.

As a planner, I have to confess there’s something quite satisfying about a planning cycle that starts are the beginning of the year and rolls out, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and end neatly at the end of the year……But life as a rule isn’t neat. It’s messy, convoluted, exciting, scary and unpredictable at times.

That’s actually ok!!!

No-one says that the plan you start the year with is the plan you end the year with. As I have said many times, the best plans are dog-eared, covered in coffee stains with loads of crossings out and notes in the margins. They live, they breathe, they evolve. But they are written down!

It’s the act of going through a planning process that has value. And that can start on any day of the year. If you’ve already failed your New Year’s Resolution to start 2022 with a Business Plan, why not see how I might be able to help? Please get in touch. What have you got to lose?

The ONLY Reason to Write a Business Plan

I read a blog today. 20 reasons why you need a business plan. It was an interesting read. A lot of interesting content.

Now, personally, I disagree with the premise. It doesn’t make the author wrong or me right. But I do disagree. I would love it if you would indulge me and let me explain why.

In my experience there is only one single reason to write a Business Plan. The ONLY reason to write a Business Plan, in my opinion is to grow your Business.

Now you might be growing your Business from start up, or you might be growing an existing Business. Nevertheless, you must be in the business of growing your Business. Otherwise, it’s not a Business. It’s a job.

There, I’ve put it out there. I’ve said it.

Interestingly, when a Business Owner sets out to write a Business Plan to work out and document how they are going to grow their Business, there are a lot of interesting side benefits.

  • Contingency. If you work out how you are going to grow your Business and you write it down you’ve done an important piece of contingency planning for your Business. If you happen to get run over by the proverbial bus tomorrow, it means someone else can step in and continue the task of growing your Business. Otherwise, there’s a real risk your Business will just die if it’s all in your head
  • Planning. In the act of writing a Business Plan, if you do it properly you will….well….plan. If you fill in a template, it’s words on a piece of paper. If you write a Business Plan because you want to grow your Business, you will go through a process. You will research and test your market, you will critically examine your product, your strategy, your business model. You will probably explore blind alleys in theory before going down them in reality. The process of planning creates a stronger Business that will grow faster
  • Value. A good Business Plan is actually worth money. If your exit strategy is to sell your Business, you only have a valuable Business to sell if it runs without you. So that means documented procedures to go alongside your customer database. And a good Business Plan can add actual cold, hard cash value to your Business when you sell it. Because you are selling a growing, viable Business that someone else can step in and run
  • Investment. If you are looking to attract funding or investment into your Business, you need a Business Plan. There’s no magic document, no template, no formula that will attract investors. If you document a clear, well-thought-out Business Plan that describes how you will grow your Business, then and only then are you likely to attract investors

There are lots of other side benefits – clarity, direction, creativity, understanding your customers. But they all come from one single process. Do some proper planning to grow your Business. Write it down. Everything else will follow.

If you think I can help with that, please let me know.

Too Cool to Plan?

Planning. It’s boring, right?

I mean, how do you want to be remembered? Spontaneous, free spirited, impromptu, flexible, creative. That all sounds kind of fun. That’s an interesting person, surely. The kind of person that gets invited to parties. The person who has a good time.

What’s the alternative? Planned, programmed, constrained, business-like, systematic, by-the-book. That all sounds a bit beige, safe, boring!!!!

Of course it sounds like that! That’s how we’ve been programmed. When you were at school, did you really want to be the class swot? Or was it about hanging out with the in-crowd? What about your career? That girl who’s set on making it through the glass ceiling by the age of 27. She’s scary right, so career focussed she’s missing the chance to actually live. We’re kind of lead to believe that’s not something to aspire to. So, we leave our options open, go with the flow, planning will restrict us.

How’s that approach to life working for you? Are you happy? Is it taking you to where you want to be?

Let me take you for a quick stroll down memory lane. One of my all-time favourite films. Julia Roberts sweeps Richard Gere off his feet. Remember her character, Vivian:

“I’m actually….no I’m not a planner. I would say I’m a kinda fly by the seat of your pants gal, you know, moment to moment. Yeah, that’s me…”

How well was that really working for Vivian? Yes, she ended up with the multi-millionaire. But it was very much a fairy tale story. And that was right at the end of the fairy tale. At the time the quotes comes in to play, Vivian could not pay the rent, was colouring in the heels of her boots with a marker pen and owning a small patch of sidewalk on a seedy street in Los Angeles, clutching a handful of extra strength condoms.

How does that compare with where you are right now? If you’re happy and you have everything you want in your life right now, I’m delighted!!! That’s how life should be. But for many people, that’s not the reality. That lack of plan tends to translate to lack of focus. Without a plan there’s much more chance that time will get away from you. That you’ll get lost down a social-media rabbit hole, that you end up binge-watching Netflix. That’s ok if it’s genuinely making you happy. But if you’re not happy with that, something needs to change.

There are alternatives if you’re willing to open your mind and consider them.

Planning doesn’t have to be so uncool that you won’t even contemplate it.

You don’t have to jump straight from Bart to Lisa Simpson. How about taking a first step? You could start by at least working out the destination. Start to plan what you REALLY want from life. You can still be flexible about how you get there.

There’s no point being so cool that you’re unhappy.

If you’re feeling brave, why not have a look at how I might help with that?

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