A Strategy Worth Repeating: Revisit Your Business Plan Often

Published on: 
05/01/2014
Clearing off your desk is so satisfying. You have a whole stack of motions to file, messages to answer, and issues to address. Each time you finish a task, you can cross it off your list, giving yourself a sense of accomplishment.

At the end of the day, a clean desk means that you have put to bed a number of projects and can move on to other things the next day.

A business plan, though, is not like an ordinary task or project. It is an undertaking that you can never entirely clear off your desk. Rather, a business plan is ongoing.

I have written in the past about the importance of a business plan, but the topic is so critical to business success and so continually timely that it's worth discussing again.

A plan is a scheme or program for making or doing something. It is a detailed method, formulated beforehand, of proceeding on a course of action.

In the case of managing a law practice, the plan is appropriately called a business plan or plan of operation. Business planning is an idea and an action that can be accomplished regardless of the nature of the substantive area of your practice. The process applies to transactional work as well as a contingency practice such as personal injury or debt collection.

Most business plans are too complicated and too intimidating. That's why they are rarely used or read. A plan that is not used is no plan at all.

The most difficult part of creating any plan is getting started. What information is required? How do you proceed? Below is an overview of the five essential business-planning steps:

  1. Prepare and agree to plan.

    In a law firm, it's important that all the key players agree on the direction of the firm. If the partners are not clear about the overall goals, as well as specific objectives and strategies, the planning process is bound to be sabotaged and of little use. Partners need to "buy in" to a plan. Solos are not immune from this requirement, either. They must get a spouse or "significant other" to accept the general direction of the firm. That's why the first element of any plan is to agree to make and abide by the plan.

  2. Identify goals.

    If you do not decide what type of practice you want, you will wind up with one that simply reflects whatever walks in the door. Serendipity or whim may lead to success — but probably not. You need to decide what you want to be and what you want to do, both professionally and personally.

  3. Create the marketing plan.

    Since your practice is dependent on clients, getting them and keeping them is obviously critical. A marketing plan helps you to see who these elusive people are and how to attract them to your door. Marketing is absolutely crucial to any business, and law practices are not exempt.

  4. Create the financial plan.

    The financial plan is the culmination of all your earlier information gathering, thinking and planning. The financial plan is the statement, in financial or monetary terms (the language of business), of your dreams and goals.

  5. Evaluate and revise.

    Good planning is not static; it is meant to be a guide that you can judge actions or outcomes against. If you begin to notice that a certain aspect of a plan is not working or needs some adjustment, change it.

The beauty of a flexible plan is that it can be revised to better reflect the reality of your specific situation and to help you get to your desired outcome. As already noted — but it can't be stated too often — planning is an ongoing process.

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