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4 Signs Your Business Plan Needs Updating

December 23, 2014

You can’t just set and forget your goals for your company. Our experts explain how to keep your plan fresh

elcome to Advisory Board, a new weekly department in which a panel of experts—made up of entrepreneurs and professionals—answer questions you have about how to run your business better.

This week, a reader asks:
“I first drafted my business plan three years ago, and haven’t done a lot with it since. I’m worried it might be outdated. How can I tell if it needs an update?”

Here’s what the experts have to say:

“It is time to revise it. If it was written three years ago it is totally out of date. A business plan is a living document and should be updated on a regular basis, no less than quarterly, in my view.”
John Wilson, founder and CEO, CEO Global Network, Toronto

“You know by the fact that you wrote it three years ago. I can think of no business that remains static for that period of time, whether you’re writing code or fixing bicycles. And even if your company didn’t change much in that time, your competitors likely did, and that alone is reason enough for a new plan. Top that off with changes in the means of production, evolving customer preferences and systemic factors like the economy and currency exchange, and you have a veritable vegetable soup of constantly changing conditions. A reassuring check would be to carefully revisit the assumptions you made in your SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). If any of these have changed, then it’s time for a rewrite. I wish I could think of one time where I wrote a business plan that was so prescient that it didn’t look like a work of fiction three years hence, but alas!”
Randall Litchfield, CEO, Inbox Marketer Corp., Guelph, Ont.

“Your business plan should be lightly ‘revised’ all the time. There are a couple of operational questions to consider, though. First, are you actually executing the business plan as you set it three years ago? My experience is that most companies have bigger business plans than they have resources to execute, and, as such, many business plans I see aren’t followed to a T. Second, are you actually achieving your business objectives as defined in your three-year-old business plan? Things never go exactly as planned. Even if you are exceeding the performance you set out to achieve, your plan can probably be refocused so that you can do even better. Finally, I differentiate a business plan from a mission, vision and values statements;‹ some do not. In my view, a company’s mission, vision and values should rarely change. But they should be actively monitored and managed to ensure your business plans are consistent with them.”
Charlie Reid, Charlie Reid & Associates, Kingston, Ont.

“I find the business plan should be reviewed on an annual basis, as you align your goals to ensure it fits with your strategic and business plan. I keep a one-pager of our strategic plan handy at all times, so I can ensure all material activities and decisions are aligned with our strategic intent.”
Phoebe Fung, proprietor, Vin Room and VR Wine, Calgary

Source: Profit Guide

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