Why Your Business Plan Leaves You Cold and What to Do about It

Let’s get real. You aren’t motivated to build that business plan, are you? We know we’re supposed to write business plans. Yet, if you’re like 95% of entrepreneurs, doing that seems just like an exercise in futility. Your business plan doesn’t inspire you. In fact, it bores you or fills you with dread even to think about it!

Here’s the magic that’s left out of most plans—and specific guidance for you to put that magic into your plan, so you are inspired every day—not only to complete the plan, but to use it as a very personalized and specific guide to your success.

Managers: If you’re trying to get your employees to plan, you’ve got to read this article!

Why Are Most Business Plans Useless?

Unfortunately, when most people write business plans, all they do is fill in some blanks with ‘guess numbers’. The problem here is that numbers in blanks aren’t inspiring. They aren’t motivating. They don’t call out and suggest to you that you should look at those numbers once in awhile!

What Really Motivates Us?

If numbers inspired us, we’d all be gazillionaires. After all, we say we want to If numbers and money were motivators, our results would be different than they are.  The fact is that money, in itself, is not a motivator. It’s

What we want to do with the money

And that’s as individual as we are. Martin Luther King didn’t say, “I have a business plan.” He said, “I have a dream”. You must include the ‘dream’ part of your future in your business plans to make that plan useful to you.

Building the ‘Why’ Into your Business Plans

That’s the motivator. In other words, we have to have a big ‘why’. Most business plans don’t build in the ‘why’. That’s why they fall flat, and leave us cold. That’s why of us don’t want to go through the exercise of creating them. Managers always commiserate that they can’t get their employees to write business plans. You wouldn’t want to write a plan, either, if you know it wouldn’t help you with your business the next year.

The Tools to Find that ‘Why’

Most people think of business plans as projections of numbers. But, that’s not all there is to a real strategic plan. There are three parts of a business plan that provide that inspiration, that motivation, and that ‘why’. And, those are the parts of the planning process that are most frequently left out:

  1. Your vision—why you’re in business; how you see yourself after you retire
  2. Your review—what happened in your business that will make an impact on your business in the future
  3. Your mission—who are you in the business

In this article, I’ll tackle your vision, because it provides the major part of your inspiration and motivation to guide and drive your business.

Start at the End—Your Vision

The Proof that Vision-Guided Businesses Prosper More

A few years ago, business professors, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, studied very successful companies to find out the differences between ‘stunning’ (high profits and highly regarded), and other like companies who were almost as profitable, but not so successful). They published the results in the best business book I’ve ever read, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies.

What did they find was the common difference between the highly profitable and merely very successful?

A common vision and values shared by every person in the company.

Their conclusion was that the desire for profits isn’t the main driver for profits. The focused and tenacious vision, shared by all in the company, was the biggest determinant for profits.

Components of Vision

Your vision is made up of your core ideology and your envisioned future.

As you can see from the chart on the right, your core ideology is made up of your core values and core purpose. If you look at your life, you’ll see that the things that inspire and motivate you are the things that adhere to your belief system. That’s what this part of the vision statement says about you.

Your envisioned future is made from a vivid description of this future, and BHAGs—big hairy, audacious goals. Those are goals five years out, that you really don’t think you can attain.

The Power of BHAGs

Surprisingly, as Porras and Collins found, when companies stated these goals, they actually attained them in three years! (Inspirational goals that are congruent with your core values and core ideology are powerful motivators!).

What Vision Does for Companies

Here’s Porras and Collins’s function of a vision statement:

Provides guidance about what core to preserve and what future to progress toward.  Made up of core ideology and envisioned future.

How to Construct your Vision

Here’s an example of a vision of one of Porras and Collins’s featured companies:

“Our basic principles have endured intact since our founders conceived them.  We distinguish between core values and practices; the core values don’t change, but the practices might.  We’ve also remained clear that profit – as important as it is – is not why the Hewlett-Packard Company exists; it exists for more fundamental reasons.”

–         John Young, former CEO, Hewlett-Packard

How do you want to see yourself in this business? How do you want people to talk about you and your business after you retire? What values are most important to you? What ideology do you follow in your business?

Managers’ exercise. Here’s a great exercise for managers. To figure out what your core values are, imagine that you are opening an office on Mars. You can only take three employees with you on your spaceship. Name those three people. What are the core values of these people?

Looking back: Imagine you are at your own memorial, watching from above. What are others saying about you? What’s most memorable about you?

Voicing those BHAGs

What is a great goal you would love to accomplish in your business, but really don’t feel it’s possible for you within five years? Write it right now.

Why We Don’t Reach Those Lofty Goals

Is that goal that’s been eluding you congruent with your core values? What I mean by that is, does that goal feel comfortable to you? For instance, if that goal is that you’ll make two million dollars, and you don’t like the feeling of that much money, because your values are aligned differently, you just aren’t going to reach that goal. That, I believe is the reason many of us don’t reach some of our goals. Those goals aren’t in alignment with our core values.

Here’s what great motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said about goal-value alignment:

You can’t consistently perform in a manner that is inconsistent with the way you see yourself.

Finding your Alive, Powerful Motivation

In my business planning system, I also provide another method to check your motivation.

I’m convinced that we reach or don’t reach our goals based on the intensity of our desire, driven not by cold numbers, but by the warm emotion of aligned values and inspiring goals. Yogi Berra said it well:

Life is like baseball; it’s 95% mental and the other half is physical.


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