The term “flying by the seat of your pants” originated during the early days of aviation. Aircraft initially had few navigation aids and flying was accomplished using only the pilot’s judgment. The term was first used in reports of Douglas Corrigan’s flight from the USA to Ireland in 1938. It was a dangerous practice that fortunately came to an end during World War II.

While start-up companies can operate well with a single visionary “pilot”, companies that are growing (or want to) to be midsized enterprises require formal leadership teams… teams that can run departments and functions that no one person could effectively navigate on their own.

If a company grows too fast without a “flight plan”, a CEO can easily drift off course towards a potential crash landing.

That kind of management can kill a company faster than aggressive competitors or cash flow troubles ever could.

Enter the written business plan that details each team member’s objectives and responsibilities...

When a leadership team is committed to a written business plan, each member will be assigned their part of the plan along with a specific role in accomplishing it.  The transition from a small business to a midsized company involves growing the role of the CEO as “chief idea generator and executer” to that of a “coach and the ultimate source of approval and accountability.”

But to be effective, the simple plan must be reviewed monthly with performance variances analyzed and needed course corrections made as part of the review process.

Such plans don’t need to be complex. Actually, a single page is enough for an operational plan versus one that is written to obtain financing.

What would be the components of a business plan on a single page?

  1. A VISION STATEMENT… what does the future look like for the company
  2. A MISSION STATEMENT… why the company exists and its purpose
  3. OBJECTIVES… defined and quantified goals
  4. STRATEGIES… the road map of what the company must do to meet its objectives
  5. ACTION PLANS… detailed documents that spell out what is to be done, by whom, and by when

Forward-looking companies will use separate One Page plans for each business unit. Again, they need not be complicated, with a single page being enough. Here’s a guide…*

  • Keep it SIMPLE-Identify the most important objective(s) that will move the company’s KPIs in the right direction
  • Be INTENTIONAL-Each leader’s focus and responsibilities must be clear.
  • Include GOALS-Each leader should be able to describe what “winning looks like.”  They know their responsibilities and the KPIs they have to meet.
  • Know WHAT MATTERS-Priorities should be clear.  Not every good idea can get implemented.  There are resource constraints faced by all companies.
  • Put it in WRITING-business plans should be written, approved by the team, and made “easily accessible.”
  • Review PROGRESS monthly-Keep your eye on what’s important and committed to.  Don’t let the urgent get in the way of the important.  If needed, parts or all of the business plan can be amended based upon changing internal and/or external changes since the inception of the Plan.

Start implementing your plans slowly, perhaps starting with the CEO and later departments or divisions.  Let the process and the outcomes speak for themselves and increase accountability for best results. By all means, if waters get rough. resist giving up on your written plans.  You and your leadership team will have come too far to revert to the old ways of doing business!

*Portions of this post were excerpted from Driving Midsized Growth: PEOPLE:  How the Best Midsized Companies Systematically Recruit, Develop, and Team their Talent, Robert Sher, Published by 1toPonder, August 2021.