Why Single-Use Business Plans Suck

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Many business owners believe that they need a single-use business plan. This is because, according to them, this type of plan will help them quickly and efficiently grow their company. However, these plans are not necessarily the best way to go about things.

Business plans can be a great way to start a business. However, they are not the best option for long-term success.

I joined a season-long NFL football pool with several pals in the early 1990s. The concept was simple: you filled out the complete schedule for the next year before the season began, circling the team you believed would win each game. Then you sat back and let the season unfold. You received a point for each accurate guess you made. The winner was the individual who had the greatest point total at the conclusion of the season.

This is more difficult than it seems. During the regular season, a lot may happen: players get injured, slump, or are punished for misbehavior, new stars emerge, teams have excellent chemistry or don’t, coaches inspire or alienate their teams. Everything changes, but your preseason predictions do not.

This is the almost twentieth time I’ve participated in this pool. It’s a long-standing custom among my friends and family, and the bragging rights aren’t insignificant. We still tell my friend’s father about the day my five-year-old daughter came in third place despite having chosen the winners based on the cuteness of the teams’ mascots (Go, Dolphins!) or the attractiveness of their city as a vacation destination (Yay, San Diego!).

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I’ve done better than others throughout the years, winning four or five times. But my excitement for the pool has waned, and sending in my selections next year will be a friendly duty rather than the enthusiastic gesture it once was.

The format of the football pool is problematic. There’s just too much at stake. I don’t have what I need to properly predict what will happen in week 16 no matter how much knowledge and research I have (far too much for an unpaid observer, let me tell you). I don’t need any more preseason data; instead, I want regular-season data.

I’m not the only one that thinks this way. Here’s a clip from ESPN.com’s Gregg Easterbrook’s yearly “poor predictions” wrap-up:

Six of the top ten teams in ESPN.com’s 2006 power rankings did not make the playoffs in June. Last July, “SportsCenter” had football analysts Mike Golic, Sean Salisbury, and Mark Schlereth work for a week on a comprehensive season prediction. Who do they think will win the Super Bowl? The Panthers of Carolina, who were unable to reach the playoffs. They predicted that Indianapolis would fall in the first round of the playoffs, while the Redskins, who finished 5-11, would place third in the league. Four of the group’s projected playoff teams (Atlanta, Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Washington) did not make the playoffs.

So, how does this relate to business planning? Nothing, ideally, except that many businesses still construct their business strategies as if they were football pools.

You’re familiar with the procedure. A business plan is required for obtaining funding, satisfying partners, or legally planning operations. A rush of activity results in a paper that meets the short-term goal. After that, everyone becomes preoccupied, time passes, and things change. It looks a lot like my pool in January by the time someone takes a new look at the plan. (“Did I really choose the Falcons? Michael Vick, on the other hand, is behind bars.”)

Tim Berry, our president, considers the “plan as you go” approach a superior model for company planning — and football pools, for that matter. To arrange your activities and get started, you’ll need a “preseason” plan. However, after you see how that element of the plan performs in practice, you can learn from it and adjust your strategy accordingly, so you’re not still selecting the Saints to win in week four after their offensive line has faltered and they’ve lost their first three games.

Your company strategy will be incorrect, as Tim constantly says. The importance lies in identifying where you’re going wrong and making the required adjustments to meet your goals in the long term. It’s referred to as the fantasy football model.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why you should not write a business plan?

You should not write a business plan because it is an impossible task.

Are Business Plans a Waste of Time?

Business plans are helpful for creating a business, but they are not always necessary.