Building a Business Plan: How a Coach Can Help
Many of us have had that great idea –one we just know will make an excellent business. However, getting an idea to fruition is the real challenge. That’s where a business plan comes in.
“A business plan helps you make decisions about where to spend time or money,” says Helene Mazur, a business coach at Princeton Performance Dynamics in Princeton, New Jersey. Having a business plan helps companies focus on the big picture, rather than getting caught in the day-to-day minutiae. “If you’re only battling fires, you’re not being strategic, not thinking about the big picture,” Mazur says.
A business plan with specific goals is a great way to stay focused on the long-term success of your business. “It’s about really understanding where you’re trying to get to,” Mazur says. “It’s about thinking through all those big questions and getting the roadmap to get from here to there.”
The Elements of a Business Plan
A great business plan takes stock of where a business is currently, and where it would like to be. Mazur recommends setting a plan in three-year increments, a time frame that is short enough to be easily grasped, but long enough to effect real change. In addition to setting overarching goals for three years, Mazur also recommends that her clients set annual goals, for example, in terms of revenue or other growth, to support their progress.
A typical plan has financial, customer, systems and processes (which covers how the business will be structured and will operate), and learning and development goals. It should also include financial and marketing plans.
An Experienced Voice
Having a business coach can be instrumental in helping craft a business plan that will get results. While many people and companies write business plans to attract investors, the papers too often end up collecting dust on a shelf. However, a business coach can make sure that the plan becomes an active part of the company.
“We make it a living, working document,” Mazur says. That begins in the writing process, when a coach is able to ask questions and provide outside perspective. Later, the coach ensures the plan is followed and facilitates discussion about what is and is not working.
“For many people, the plan never gets executed,” Mazur says. “As a coach you can hold them accountable to what they said was important.”
Crafting a Business Plan
When she works on a business plan, Mazur has her clients follow specific steps. “The good part about putting the plan together is there is a process,” she says.
First, Mazur helps identify the vision and values for the business. A coach can ask specific questions to help a business answer what its public image should be, what values are most important, and other key questions.
Next, the business conducts internal and external assessments. External assessments consider factors like competition, trends and other topics that can affect business. During an internal assessment, the company evaluates what is currently working—and not.
The third and final step is to set goals: “We ask, what are my biggest opportunities, what critical strategic goals should I be focusing on in the next year?” Mazur says.
Along the way, coaches can act as a sounding board for their clients, and provide resources that can help them write a better plan.
A Business Coach vs. a Business Consultant
While a business coach and a consultant may sound similar, they are drastically different.
“I don’t come in with the answers for them,” Mazur says. A consultant evaluates a business and tells the owner what to do, while a coach asks questions that enable business owners to use their own expertise to craft a solution.
“There’s a big distinction between telling them and asking them when you’re putting a plan together,” Mazur says. “People build ownership when they come up with the answer.”
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