Anna Verghese looking through a window.

At Tabono we get a lot of questions about business planning. Do you need a business plan? What do you need one for? And when you’ve got one, what do you do with it? How do you actually use a business plan?

Yes. You heard me right. How do you use a business plan? And no. It shouldn’t be a document that you write because you think you should. Then it just gets put on a shelf or filed away, and it’s main function is gathering dust. But despite the best of intentions, it’s so easy to let that happen, don’t you think?

So what do we do about it?

Review and reflection

Earlier this week we held our usual end of quarter (and half way point of the year!) business planning session – called You and Your Business. In it, we follow the same format every time. We reflect on what has gone by in the previous quarter, and review the goals that we have, and haven’t, achieved. Then we consider what lies behind our progress to date, and of course what we’ve learned along the way, before spending time planning for the next quarter and the remainder of the year. Finally, we commit our actions to our diaries and actually plot out what we will deliver on what days. This process holds us accountable, and by doing so, progress becomes far more likely. We see it in our clients, as they move from one quarter to the next.

But what about our own business? If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering whether we practise what we preach…. And the answer is that yes, we do! But we take it a step further and repeat this business planning process on a monthly basis.

In the spirit, then, of practising what we preach, what have we learned from Q2 of this year? How do we use our business plan?

Using a business plan… with a fresh perspective

We have a very detailed business plan. But it’s written with the full expectation that it will change. By the same token, I’ve always acknowledged the importance of being open to change, and this includes getting a fresh perspective on things. Often, having someone look at your business with fresh eyes can open up opportunities and improvements that haven’t even occured to you. It can be something as simple as getting someone to proof-read a document you’ve written, or working with someone to get their external perspective on a strategic plan. Either way, getting someone else’s view point can be hugely beneficial.

If you already work with us or have been following us for a while, you’ll know that providing this for others is an important part of what we do. However, it’s also important for us to seek external input too. So in this last quarter, we’ve been using our business plan as a starting point to seek advice and input from others. Among others, we’ve been lucky enough to work with the Thames Valley Berkshire Growth Hub to reflect on our own business planning and strategy, and are excited to implement the results!

… with people at its heart

The women in business that we work with are at the heart of what we do, and as things start to open up again, it has been so wonderful to get together with some of our members and clients in person! Starting to run some of our events on a face to face basis once again has really meant so much to us. We’re also grateful that our regular networking and coworking venue in Marlow – Cote Brasserie – has welcomed us back with such open arms.

But in terms of actually usines a business plan, this point is more about revising our audiences and reflecting on what they actually want to hear or receive from us. It’s all well and good to put together what we think is a good offering, but if it doesn’t work for our audience, our plans just aren’t going to yield the results we’re looking for. So this quarter we ran a survey of our members, and we’ll be sharing the results soon!

… and for the future

We always end our planning sessions with an eye on the future. Where are we headed in the next one, three and even five years? And how will the quarter just gone, and the quarter to come, help us along the way? Where are we financially? Are we meeting our targets and what’s the likelihood of meeting (or exceeding!) the next one? And most importantly, can we be more ambitious?

It’s so important to ask yourself these questions – not just once in a while, or when you remember to, but regularly. If you don’t, how will you learn what’s working and what’s not? How will you know how much impact a particular activity has had on your business? And how will you know whether your business is actually growing, or whether you’re able to invest in that bit of kit that you’re desperate for?

In addition, being able to use a business plan to ‘showcase’ your business to external people – to show them your vision of the future – is really important. For example, a potential partner or investor. It’s one thing to be able to say how your business is doing today but these kinds of people want to know about the potential as well, and what you’re likely to be able to achieve in the future. We’ve used our plan for exactly this recently, and by presenting a coherent, well researched and well costed plan, we were able to gain their interest, validation and support.

So there you go. Our business planning lessons from Q2 of 2021. Plan with a fresh perspective. Plan with people at the heart of everything you do. And plan for the future.

What about you? What are your business plans, and do you reflect and learn from the progress that you make (or don’t make)? If this is something you struggle with, why not let us help? We offer face to face business coaching for women in the Maidenhead and Marlow area, but can also support you virtually, wherever you are in the world! You can also read more about starting and planning your business in our Definitive Guide.