Why having a business plan is never enough

Who really knows where the market is headed?

All we can do is to make an assumption, or set out on a journey which we think will meet with the least resistance but give us the biggest return.

Of course a business plan never made anything, in the same way as the ingredients of a cake are simply that until brought together.

We all know that there are many facets to private practice where partners are playing catch up, and no doubt those looking in will say “Too little, too late”, but if you are going to create and spend time on business planning, then it has to mean something. [This can equally apply to companies but there GC may be furthered removed from the strategic direction of the business, and may be simply viewed as a cost centre.]

When it comes to the business planning process, it is important that you get everyone involved. Everyone who will be affected by the plan, and don’t be afraid to involve other departments. Just because someone does not work in your area of law doesn’t mean they can’t constructively contribute.

Have a template or guide by all means but don’t let that stifle creativity.

The exercise should be focused on the direction of the department, yes, but it should inspire, cajole, challenge, push and, dare I say, motivate those people to achieve their best. Business plans are working documents and should act as the touchstone of what you do on a day to day basis.

As far as I am concerned the only reason why great firms became great is because they had a vision for the practice and every day they set about trying to narrow the gap between their current position and where they knew they had to be. It wasn’t an accident or just good fortune. Unfortunately, most firms never have the self belief in the brand, their partners or their staff to act this way.

In the current market, the only way firms can grow is to take business away from their competitors. That being so what work have you done to understand their offering and connections? Cost becomes the weapon of choice but that is simply a road to oblivion. No one built a great business by being regarded as the cheapest.

I would encourage you to include a new section in your plans for competitors and to better understand their offering before you try to sell in your service.

Hopping back to the beginning. Business planning can become a closed loop. Don’t let it.

Try something different.

Think wacky.

Think irrational.

But above all else make it happen.

Let me repeat: make it happen.

Summary

Spend meaningful time on business planning.

Don’t be afraid to look outside for help. Accept that you don’t have all the answers.

Involve everyone.

Agree a time for talking and a time for doing.

Don’t work on or with an amorphous blob: does the plan pop, fizz and inspire? No, then go back and start again.

Business planning is not like painting by numbers. Sometimes you have to make it up.

Go to work on the business and not in it. Adopt a entrepreneurial mindset and stop thinking like a technician.

Have FUN. In my book, if it’s not fun it’s not worth doing.

~ Julian Summerhayes ~

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