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Successful Business Plans: Test Your Assumptions

Too many organizations create a business plan as "bank bait" and then chuck it in the waste basket once the investment cash (or grant, for non-profits) flows in. This can severely hamper the success of a project, and burn the relationship with the lender or grantor.

The most important process in creating a business plan is the organizational conversations that are held while writing it. The key to it succeeding is treating it as a living document.

Those who fail to plan will plan to fail, but those who carve their business plans in stone are only writing their organization's epitaph.

Once the first draft of your business plan is written and you have your capital ready, start by testing the assumptions you have made. If you don't want to fail at the finish line, fail early, and fail fast. The faster you experience your small failures, the faster you can understand where your deficiencies are and fix them.

To keep refining your business plan, you need regular excellent communication. This is where crucial communication technology like conference calls comes in.

Create a courageous corporate culture

To succeed in business, we need to get comfortable with failure. We're all afraid of failure, but think about this. In ice hockey, Wayne Gretzky was the most successful goal scorer of all time, but he missed four out of five shots he took on net. Imagine working under all that pressure to perform and having to live with an 80% failure rate!

What separated Wayne from the pack was that he used every single failure to test his assumptions. "I thought their defense-men were slow, I guess not." Wayne would skate back to the bench after a missed opportunity, talk over what he could have done better with his line mates, and sometimes use the information to score a goal on the very next shift.

"You are completely guaranteed to fail on 100% of the shots you don't take." Wayne Gretzky.

How can you use the tears you shed over failures to water the seedlings of success? How can you keep the information flowing in your company so that you can thoroughly test the assumptions of your business plan?

Keep the information flowing

Constant communication is how. Professional sports make a good example of the importance of building team spirit with instant information.

Imagine sitting down with your "line mates" and comparing notes on which strategies are successful every few minutes! Teammates don't hoard information. If the opposing goalie is weak on the high blocker side, that information travels up and down the bench like wildfire.

In organizations, where everyone spends their day in a love-tryst with their computer, locked in separate cubicles and offices, or spread out half way across a city or continent, people need to take advantage of smart technology like teleconferencing to keep in touch.

Use communication technology

Email is good for sharing files widely at a pace where each person can open the file when they are ready. Texting is an excellent way of saying "I'm running 5 minutes late," or cutting through the "communication clutter" to get a small, time-sensitive piece of information. Neither are effective for directly testing the assumptions of business plans.

Slack is more useful for "failing forward." Slack is a new communication tool that calls itself "a messaging app for teams." Nothing less than "a messaging app for teams that put robots on Mars." While your project may be somewhat less ambitious, you might well find Slack to be a clean and simple chat room, non-invasive, but very good at keeping team spirit without interfering with workflow.

None of these communications can beat the staff meeting, which is still the best way to ensure the success of a business plan by regularly testing of assumptions. Staff meetings help you fail early and fail fast because participants not only share the information in real time; they can chew it over together. The only problem with staff meetings is the travel time involved in organizing them.

Conference calls eliminate that setup time.

Superior communication technology

Even if you work in the same building, conference calls are the best tool to breathe life into a business plan for three reasons:

  1. Conference calls provide the focus and interactive communication required to promote the information flow, analysis, and decision making you need to test your business plan's assumptions and create innovative solutions immediately.
  2. By saving money on staff meetings, they allow you to have enough staff meetings to communicate regularly enough to "fail forward" properly.
  3. The high audio quality of the telephone connection allows people to understand each other better. "Ear to ear" is just as good as "face to face."

"She shoots, she scores!"

Successful business plan strategy

Regular conference call staff meetings breathe life into a business plan by offering the high quality communication needed between staff to test assumptions and find creative solutions to succeed.

By strengthening team spirit through sharing information, teleconferencing can build a robust organizational springboard for individual staff to find their niche, and really shine.

After all, a team is made of individuals. They might be equal in value, but they all need their moment in the sun to help your business plan come true.

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