Business Plans are an essential part of any new venture. But, what happens once you get into the execution stage…. At that point, almost all go by the wayside. Some are dusted off and reviewed annually, but most are not.
The initial development of a business plan is usually dominated by a very small number of people (sometimes just one). The process often feels more like dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s in order to satisfy some expected template than it feels like truly building a roadmap for success.
In my most recent ventures I decided to leave all that behind. Not the concept of a plan, but the approach to building it. In this age of web2.0/collaboration, it makes a lot more sense to have a living business plan.
There are tools to help with collaborative business plans (eg. PlanHQ). Call me old fashioned, but I prefer free-form. Because every business is different, using an application seems like working the idea to fit into the software rather than describing ways to help the idea take flight. My latest business plans are being managed on a wiki (Google Sites). Everyone on each team has access and is expected to manage the plan. We can link in spreadsheets, and documents, and presentations.
Those of you who are familiar with deploying wikis know that just because anyone CAN edit something does not mean that they DO edit it. Not much difference when it comes to doing a business plan on a wiki. In order to ensure that everyone regularly uses the wiki, you should publish elements of your business activity on the wiki and ONLY on the wiki rather than through email and emailed documents. Examples of content that can go on the wiki includes:
- status reports
- feedback on any team document sent to you
- creative designs
It is always a natural tendency to get mired in todays’s challenges. Using a wiki does not change that tendency. But, if the plan is a click away and you are constantly drawing people back to it, hopefully you and your team will occassionally to re-check and update the plan.