The flippant answer is, “As much as possible”, of course, but small and medium business owners and entrepreneurs are, by nature, action people. They want to get on and run their businesses. So, although they recognise the importance of planning, their time and patience is limited.
Well, the good news is that you only really need one plan – the business plan or strategy. Everything else is just a branch of that plan. The most important thing about that plan is setting a clear objective. Once you have that goal agreed and you know where you want your business to be in say, two or three years, then everything else in your plan should be focused on achieving that objective. Any other ‘plans’ should only be tools to help get there. A marketing plan, an export plan or communications plan are just steps to help you get to that one big, awesome objective.
If I’m working with a client on a business plan, if, at the first session all we do is agree a big business objective, I’m happy. Because we are 90% of the way there. I often say, “Write that on a big sheet of paper, and stick it on the wall opposite your desk”. All the rest is process, and common sense.
If I’m making a journey from London to Manchester, the most important thing is knowing my destination. I don’t need to plan the journey in excessive detail – I may need to make decisions whether to go by train or car, and roughly which route, but those are just tactical steps. And if perhaps I had planned to go by train and then there is a rail strike, I just amend my tactics. My destination has not changed and Manchester is still in the same place.