Business Plans Are Useless…

On May 15, 2010, in Business, by John Tree

In the words of General Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Plans are useless, but planning is everything.”

This seeming paradox is loaded with wisdom, and provides a key glimpse into the genius of our former President, and Commander-in-Chief. Through this short quote, he gives us the very essence of a vital foundational skill that all business owners and managers must have to succeed over the long term.

Short term success is fleeting, and may have been achieved without a strong plan in place. It could have resulted from a little luck, good timing, and the stars and planets lining up just in the right orbits. But long term success – that day-in and day-out success repeated over a sustained period of time – is only going to result from thoughtful, strategic planning.

There are so many Entrepreneurs and Business Owners who rush in to business without a plan at all! The sad truth is that a lot of new businesses fail, for a variety of reasons. It could have been that the owner/manager didn’t properly identify the target customer, or the unmet need of the customer, or any number of things. But I bet one thing is for sure: they didn’t have a strong plan in place. Chances are, they didn’t even have a plan at all! Or at least not a written plan. After all, many people believe a business plan is boring, and painful…

And here’s the whole point of this article: It’s not the “plan” that you have that is going to determine if you succeed or not. It’s the planning process that is important! That’s because the “plan” is probably out of date by the time you actually need to use it: circumstances will have changed, competitors may be different, the economic conditions are no longer the same, etc. Naturally if you didn’t have a plan at all, of course, you just end up reacting every single time to whatever “crisis of the day” you’re facing. That’s not good. Not having a plan means you have to just make it up and “fly by the seat of your pants” each time. That’s exhausting, and it certainly decreases the odds of your success.

But even if you did have a plan, you might not be able be able to weather the crisis or challenge – especially if the “plan” that you had wasn’t really created and “owned” by you. If you just downloaded a template off the internet and shoved some words into each of the fields in order to create some nice looking “business plan” to show to your relative that you plan to hit up for an investment in your business, that’s not good… Chances are you did not learn HOW to plan, but only created a document that sits on your shelf and collects dust. Also, if you paid someone else to create your plan for you, you would likely not be in a position to critically evaluate the plan, or modify the plan as needed. Without a strong understanding of the fundamentals of strategic planning, you wouldn’t know if the plan being created for you was good or not. You would just have to take it on faith from the “expert” you hired to write your plan.

And going back to General Eisenhower, your plan is useless. But if you know HOW to plan, you would be able to adapt, change, and overcome any obstacles you’re sure to encounter along the way. That is the key, and that’s why your plan is useless, but planning is everything!

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