Our answer is the process that is used for business planning.  A great template or document structure doesn’t provide all that is needed in business planning.  The business planning process requires a holistic perspective on strategy development and document creation. 

A business plan is merely a communication of your business strategy, proposed actions and their financial implications.  The business planning process incorporates the development of these strategies and actions.  It converts the results of these strategies and actions into financial implications, in terms relevant to an investor, partner or finance company.  The difference between quality business planning and poor business planning is the lack of use of a structured process. 

When developing a business plan it is critical to ask the questions that your target audience would like to know.  This “Question Based” approach to business planning ensures the questions your target audience needs answered are covered throughout your documentation.

The business planning process is about far more than just the business plan document.  The process should facilitate structured development of your strategy, and then break the strategy down into a series of actions.  After years in Strategy consulting, we have realised that the key to this process is asking the right questions.

To improve the business planning process, we believe that it is critical to start asking the right questions.  This is the approach that consultants will typically employ.  By asking the right business planning questions, inconsistencies can be highlighted, before the business planning document is developed.  These questions enforce internal consistency between the core elements of the business plan: strategy, action, and financial implications.

Questions enable you to manage your business planning process at a higher level.  Rather than being distracted by the detail of the plan, you are free to develop your strategy, plan and financial implications without generating inconsistency between elements.  Prior to committing pen to paper, start by considering the questions that your target audience might have in their mind when reading your business plan.  After dealing with hundreds of Venture Capitalists, investors, grant providers and banks, we have developed a strong understanding of the questions they have in mind when reviewing a business planning document.

Whilst most people start by writing their business planning document, we recommend that this is the last thing you should do.  It is the end point of the business planning process.

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