African American business woman at a meeting along with other colleagues

Many people think of a business plan as little more than a financial roadmap and often with a heavy dose of fund-raising. This activity certainly occupies an important function in the life of a company, but it brings a far larger benefit and purpose.

For one, a strategy plan helps you understand what your key potential clients truly want and will purchase from you. This saves you the time of experimenting and wasting precious time and money in the process. For second, it is an extremely useful barometer of how well you’re doing or aren’t doing. And third, it holds you accountable to a standard of performance.

CEO’s who object to self-assessment are usually the ones that end up on the short end of the stick. That’s because the market can tell you everything you need to know to be a success. I recall one client telling me that he didn’t want to ask his clients any questions because he feared that if they thought too hard about his company they might not want to continue with him. I told him that if that was actually true, which is highly doubtful, that he couldn’t get started fast enough and make the necessary adjustments to keep his business on a healthy track.

The most important aspects of a solid strategy plan can be broken into five parts:

Part 1: Know what you are and are not trying to accomplish. Be specific with goals, budget and set a timetable of three or five years.

Part 2: Know what makes you unique and what you provide that no one else can as well. Many refer to this as your Value Proposition. Knowing what sets you apart is critical. I would go so far as to say if you don’t have a particularly unique positioning you probably don’t enjoy much success.

Part 3: Spend money on professional marketing. Don’t use overused clichés and templates. They only position your company like a million others who have gone before you. Think of the leading brands. Do their company’s brands mimic others?

Part 4: Have enough money in the bank to fund one year in business. If you don’t have it, you probably should save your ideas for the world until you do.

Part 5: Pick your first employees from the top down. DON’T hire from the bottom first! This is the single-most devastating mistake companies make other than not having a strategy plan before they start a business, open a new division, etc.

If you include these simple five parts and are able to find ways to effectively implement them you have a much better chance of succeeding. And that’s obviously a whole lot better than the alternative.