How to Beat the Business Plan Blues - FP Advance

How to Beat the Business Plan Blues

BY brett

How to Beat the Business Plan Blues| FP Advance

Get with the plan

In my experience some of the world’s best Financial Planning firms are based in the United States.

Bob Veres of Inside Information says, “There are a handful of wealth-management firms that are informally competing to be the best managed firm in our profession, and Roy Ballentine’s Ballentine Partners, in Wolfeboro, NH and Waltham, MA is certainly high on that list. Ballantine is one of very few founding advisors who has managed to move out of the day-to-day management of clients, rainmaking and CEO-ing activities to other roles in the firm.”

In the October edition of Inside Information Bob reported on Roy’s presentation at the Insider’s Forum conference in Nashville. Roy suggested that everybody ask themselves seven questions about their current plans:

  1. Have you defined a goal, one that you can clearly articulate and are fully committed to now?
  2. Do you have a concrete, actionable plan to meet that goal?
  3. Is your plan written down in a comprehensive manner?
  4. Does your plan include a timetable? And a financial projection of some sort?
  5. Have you shared your plan with the senior members of your firm; or, better yet, your entire team?
  6. Have you developed metrics that you use on a regular basis to measure your progress toward your goal? Or, asking this another way: how are you keeping score?
  7. Are you satisfied with your progress?

How would you score out of 7? How many of these questions could you answer ‘yes’ to?

Some of us don’t like to plan

It’s tempting to skip the detailed planning work. Why?

Firstly, because it’s difficult. When you start asking yourself to come up with a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG), in most cases, the answers don’t just fall out easily. Finding a goal that is big enough, and that has real meaning to you, is challenging.

Secondly, because it’s overwhelming. We don’t do the planning work because it reveals the enormity of the task ahead. When you set a BHAG it might reveal an almighty gap between where you are now and where you’ve just said you’d like to get to. That can be a bit scary and sometimes, if we’re not careful, leads to analysis paralysis.

Thirdly, because you might have to make sacrifices. Getting real about what we’re trying to do often shows us that other goals or things we think are important to us might have to be given up. We have to admit we can’t do it all. Failing to plan properly allows us to continue to believe that we’ll somehow magically fit it all in.

Break It Down

To overcome some of these impediments to planning, the best thing to do is turn Business Planning into a process. At FP Advance it consists of three major components:

a.) The ten-year BHAG

What’s the BHAG for you and your business?

There needs to be an objective that excites you and scares you in equal measure, and then a financial number to go with it. Don’t get too hung up on the veracity of the number. It’s just a rabbit to chase.

Don’t worry too much about the details of ‘how’ you’ll achieve your BHAG either. It kills the creativity.

However, do work out the five big steps you’ll need to take to get there in ten years time. Simply outlining those five big steps provides a series of objectives that you can break down further or chip away at in some of your shorter term planning.

b.) The three-year goal

Once you know your BHAG you can create a view of your business in three-years time. Three years out is like looking to the horizon. Five years out is too far in my opinion.

In three-years time pick a turnover number that you are 95% sure you can hit. While the 10-year BHAG number can, and should, be about 20% believable, the three-year number needs to be something to go after or smash through. If you set too big a target it’s possible to find yourself six to 12 months into a three-year goal knowing you won’t hit it. This leaves the whole team demotivated.

The second part of your three-year goal is to describe, in as much detail as possible, what the business will look and feel like three-years hence. When I’m checking in with clients at their quarterly review, it’s the progress toward this description that I’m most interested in, not how close they are to the financial number.


Because to create a great business you’ll need to do a lot more than just hit your numbers. You’ve got to be laying foundations for the future, and the descriptors usually capture a lot of that really well.

c.) The one-year goal

The last part of the business planning process is to set yourself a goal for 12-months time.

The financial target here should be 100% achievable in my opinion. This is especially true if you’re a business that has never really hit its objectives. You need to build the skill of being able to forecast accurately. When you can trust your numbers, you can make good-quality plans off the back of it. When your numbers feel pie-in-the-sky you can’t and your team won’t trust you.

A quality Business Plan becomes the written goal for you and the business.

Tell them, tell them again, and then tell them what you just told them

Once your Business Plan is created and you are happy with it, you can share it with your team; over and over and over again.

Share the business plan and your objectives until you’re sick of doing it. It’s only at that point that the people on your team will be starting to get it. Then you can share it some more.

Building Foundations

If you are going after some serious growth rates, then you better have specific plans for the new foundations you’ll need to be building in your business right now. It’s not enough to show 20% p.a. year-on-year growth rates and think “we’ll figure it out later.”

Maybe you can do 20% or more this year. However, backing it up year after year after year leads you very quickly to a point where ‘what got you here won’t get you there’. The later years of performance in your ten-year plan will only be achieved if you start creating new team members, skills and processes now.

What’s the lead time on finding and hiring new quality team members?

Or for you and your team to learn new skills?

Or to train and develop the next generation of leaders in your business?

Some of these things take years to deliver, and there can be hiccups along the way. Your business planning helps you see the work that’s involved, and gives the sense of urgency to help you get going now, today.

The truth is that all the great businesses I know have a plan for how they’ll get to some future destination. None of these firms are perfect, but they don’t need to be. They just need to plan, execute, learn, and repeat. That’s enough.

You can do that too.

Let me know how you go.

“To achieve great things two things are needed; a plan and not quite enough time.” Leonard Bernstein


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ABOUT BRETT DAVIDSON When you work with FP Advance you work with me, Brett Davidson, directly. My motto is ‘advise better, live better’ and I practice what I preach. I’m straight talking and get to the heart of an issue quickly. There’s no beating about the bush, just a focus on helping things improve. Ask my clients – what I teach works.