Not many of us would study an atlas, get in our car, and head out for Chicken, Alaska, without a map, relying solely on our memory to remember all the route changes. Yet that is the equivalent of what many businesses do when “driving” their businesses. The result is usually the same for both the driver and the business: lots of wrong roads taken and lots of wasted time, energy, and money — and lots of avoidable anxiety. For a business owner, a clearly written business plan detailing the route to be taken is just as critical to reaching one’s destination as is the map for the longdistance driver.

A well thought-out plan encompassing all aspects of the company’s operations, marketing, and financial goals offers a number of benefits:

  1. Written plans allow you to more critically evaluate the soundness of the plans. Weaknesses and strengths stand out better when put in writing – and subjected to rereading and rethinking.
  2. Written plans can be more readily shared with and more certainly understood by others in your company who will contribute to the success or failure of your venture. Share the plan and solicit their comment and input. They are part of the convoy. Make sure that the route you plot is within their capabilities. It’s a good idea for them to be steering for the same destination along the same route!
  3. Written plans can clearly allocate responsibilities. No “I thought Joe was to do that” excuse later.
  4. Written plans are helpful – and often required — when seeking financing. The largest risk lenders assume when providing working capital is the company’s “ability to perform.” Plans provide the lender some assurance that the company is being managed and not just happening.
  5. Written plans provide you and your management team the ability to read “milestones” as you progress toward your destination and make necessary adjustments to the route (and, perhaps, even the destination!). Deviations from the plan will be more readily noticed; and needed changes, more apt to be the result of careful deliberation, rather than “quick-fixes.”

The last mentioned advantage is perhaps the most important. It usually takes months and, more often, years for a company to realize the desired return on its investment of time and money. By committing to the details of a written plan, top management can better assure that the firm will reach its destination.

In short, plan your route well, make sure it’s within your capabilities and capacities, keep the map at hand to avoid wrong turns, be willing to re-route if it makes sense, and keep your eyes on the road!

(Source: Charles Boyanton, SBDC International Trade Center Office)