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My Business Plan is too Long!

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By Daniel Hoffman

We wrote a 105-page business plan this year.  The exercise was mostly a success in getting my managers to write out and share their thinking.  The entire company was invited to read the plan and review it, but very few actually did. Only a portion of the senior executives read each other’s sections.  The end result was an excellent roadmap, although I’m a fan of the Helmuth von Moltke the Elder quote “no plan survives first contact with the enemy.”

We cooked and ate the thing, but I’m not sure we digested it.

I just finished Marc Benioff’s Behind the Cloud.  Marc is the true leader of the SaaS movement, and in this very practical read, he lays out 111 tactics that led to Salesforce.com’s success.  Most of the stuff in this book now almost seems like conventional wisdom, thanks to the awesome Salesforce PR machine that has pumped wisdom out into the world consistently for 10 years.

But the chapter on creating “alignment” hit me.    Marc writes a one-page business plan, updated every six months.  His management team of 30 leaders, as well as a leadership team of 250, reviews the 1-page document, and eventually, everyone in the company has his or her own one-pager that aligns with the company one-pagers.  Marc calls it his V2MOM process for Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles, Measures.  This is truly a clever process, considering that he grew his SaaS company to $1 billion in sales in the time it took me to beat $30 million. Needless to say,  I pay attention to his stuff.

One of my other heroes, Verne Harnish, founder of www.eonetwork.org, also has a format for a one-page business plan, although his final product is more like 4 pages.  You can download it at http://mygazelles.com/myPage1.html,  and I’d recommend reading several of Verne’s explanations about the various sections.

Anyway, now that we have the long plan, I know it is time to do the more difficult  work of writing a short one.  I can’t help but think of Mark Twain, however, who said, “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”  Nuts.