5 times you should revisit your business plan

How many times have you created a business plan in January, forgotten about it by February and winged it for the rest of the year? We’ve all done it. Working to a plan can feel restrictive, and like something that bigger businesses should do. But us micro-businesses? Surely we need more flexibility and space to be creative? The key is using it as a living document, adjusting and tweaking regularly. So how often should a business plan be reviewed? First, let’s establish what it is.

What is a business plan? A business plan is a bespoke roadmap that keeps you moving towards the business goals you set out in your strategy. It’s agile and responsive, and provides a framework for your work as a business owner.

A business plan is not a business strategy. It’s the facilitator of your business strategy. By the time you write your business plan, you’ll already know what your services, pricing, ideal clients and goals look like. You will have done your market research and financial forecasting. Now it’s just a matter of identifying the projects that are going to get you to your goals, and breaking them down into actionable steps throughout the next 6-18 months (you can decide how much time you want to take!).

Why do you need to update your business plan regularly?

Keeping your business plan up to date is essential to its success, and ultimately the success of your business. Plans can go out of date quickly, and if you leave it too long, it will need a complete overhaul. Or, let’s face it, it’ll get forgotten until next year.

Let’s take a quick look at some things that have happened in the last 2.5 years that could have affected your business plan;

  • A global pandemic
  • Energy crisis
  • Brexit
  • Rising cost of living
  • A war
  • Social media marketing collapse

The world is an ever changing place. Industries are shifting. Markets are volatile. Customer behaviour evolves. Marketing platforms come and go. Opportunities come out of nowhere. Priorities change.

For all of these reasons (and more!) you should review and update your business plan regularly.

How often should a business plan be reviewed?

There’s no single correct answer to this, so let me offer some guidance and a framework.

I always advise my clients to do a detailed review and update at the end of every quarter. I’m talking about a full day of uninterrupted time dedicated to looking at your business performance, changes that impact your plan (like those mentioned above) and recalibrating your goals and actions.

This is supported by monthly 2-hour check-ins to ensure that projects are on track and any critical issues and opportunities are considered regularly so that action can be taken if needed. You can also look ahead to the following month and block out time in your diary to complete upcoming activities.

A 30-minute Friday afternoon/Monday morning check on the actions for the week will keep things moving along nicely.

That’s just 4 hours a month, and 19 hours per quarter make sure your plan is responsive and agile, and keep your business moving forward. Time well invested.

When should you update your business plan?

Having a regular review cycle embedded into your business is fantastic. But there are other triggers that should get you sat in front of your business plan.

An external event that impacts your industry or business

As already mentioned, the world has experienced a number of serious events within the last 2.5 years, all of which have had a profound impact on some industries and businesses. Keep an eye on what’s happening, and what’s bubbling, so that you’re ready to take action if needed.

A personal event that impacts your presence in the business.

For example, health, pregnancy, relocation, reducing hours, or starting another business. All of these would change your situation and require proactive management.

Changes in consumer behaviour

There have been a couple of significant consumer behaviour shifts in 2022 that have already impacted businesses; 

  1. The collective move away from Instagram. Many businesses were built for Instagram, and/or used it as their sole marketing channel, which has led to loss of income and instability this year as consumers are just not present in the same way as before.
  2. A shift from courses and memberships to done for/with you services. As consumers become more cautious about spending, they are looking for tangible outcomes from their investment. Gone are the days of holding multiple memberships, and buying all the courses to do something over time. Consumers want deep expertise and need to see results fast. Think project delivery services (brand design, copywriting, website builds, strategy creation, operations optimisation etc).

Things like this will keep happening, and mean you might have to reshape your strategy and adjust your plan to take advantage of new customer behaviours.

Changes in your business

Perhaps you hit your goals faster than expected and need to hire a team member, outsource activities or take office space. Or maybe an opportunity comes your way that’s too good to pass up, it aligns with your strategy beautifully and will accelerate your growth or open your business up to new communities. Your plan will need reworking to accommodate these changes.

What to do if you don’t hit a goal

Remember that 90% of the time, your deadline is arbitrary! ‘I want to hire someone in Q2’, ‘I want to launch a podcast in Q3’ etc, all without any real reason behind it. So you just need to adjust your timeline and continue working on the thing, if it’s still a valid part of your plan.

If the deadline was fixed for good reason, and not reaching the goal has very real consequences (i.e. you’ve quit your job to build your business, you’ve not hit your income target within 6 months and now you’ve run out of savings) then you’ll need a plan B. Review and replan, and consider the mitigations you can put in place. In this example, can you reduce your outgoings? Can you take a part-time or contract role to top up your income? Can you invest in marketing?

It could be that you didn’t hit it because it’s no longer a priority, so you didn’t spend time on it. If that’s the case, if you don’t need to do it, take it out of your plan. Working towards an unimportant goal is absolutely pointless!

There might be times when not hitting a goal requires further digging and assessment. For example, if it’s a growth goal and all of your indicators show that your growth has stagnated (or even declined). You’ll want to get to the bottom of that and see if you need to make any changes to your business and/or plan. Are your services right for your audience? Is your website performing well? What’s the ROI on your marketing activities? Etc.

Whatever the situation, don’t panic. There is always a way to work through it, and get to where you want to be. Things don’t always go to plan, and that’s ok. With an agile and responsive plan you’ll be back on track in no time.

Next steps

Business planning is the really unsexy side of running a business! If you’ve been winging it until now, or your plan is out of date, I encourage you to spend some time working on it. Get a solid plan in place and continue to review and adjust it as outlined in this blog.

If you’d like some support in reviewing, replanning or creating your business plan, our Unstuck service is for you! We can spend half a day together, working through your business goals and ensuring your plan gives you the direction and clarity you need to move your business forward. This blog explores exactly how a Business Strategist can be a force for good in your business.