"The value of a (business) plan is the decisions it influences..."
Stanford Professor Emeritus, James March
Quoted by Tim Berry in Hurdle
"He is obviously a genius. He agrees with me."
Steven J Roy, after a wine tasting...
Hurdle emphasizes creating and implementing a working business plan-something quite different from the sterile, academically-correct document many business plan guides espouse.
Hurdle provides excellent introductory coverage of
* Cash flow planning and its relation to profit planning;
* Goal setting, milestones and accountability; and includes
* A section on capital sources that is as realistic as it is informative. (What are a startup's chances of getting venture funding? Slim to none.)
Hurdle also includes the only presentation of variance analysis I`ve seen in a business plan book.
It has always baffled me why business plan authors/instructors think it is absolutely necessary to know, to at least four significant decimal places, that your company controls a miniscule share of a very large market. Apparently, Berry (A co-founder of Borland International) has felt the same befuddlement.
Hurdle spends few words on how to correctly quantify, e.g. your market share. It says a great deal about how to present what is useful (or practical) to your plan's intended audience. If you follow Berry's guidelines, you won't produce a "plan" that gets shoved into a drawer and remains there,testimony to your prowess with internet searches, word processing, and spreadsheet software and a memorial to your ability to follow meaningless instructions. Instead, you will learn about your business and convey that knowledge to your audience.
Formally, Hurdle consists of seven sections, two sample plans, a workbook, glossary, and index. Each section begins with observations that underscore practical applications for the material that follows:
* Part 1: Fundamentals "As you start the planning process, begin with a general view of the whole project. Review your goals and consider your options."
* Part 2: Tell Your Story "A standard business plan includes company background information,history, and basic descriptions."
* Part 3: Gathering Information "A good plan will include information about your market, your customers, and the business you are in."
* Part 4: Forecasting "Forecasting is more art than science, a combination of good research,logic, simple math, and educated guessing. It's hard to forecast, but it's harder to run a business without forecasting."
* Part 5: Financial Analysis "The financials aren't as hard as you think, particularly if you have the patience to follow the steps. A good plan includes sales, cash flow, profits, and related financials."
* Part 6: Strategy and Tactics "Strategy is focus. You also need tactics to implement the strategy,and tactics require concrete milestones and well defined management accountability."
* Part 7: Following Up "Ultimately, the impact of your plan depends on how you manage and implement it, how it's presented, and to whom."
If you have time to read only three chapters, make sure you read:
* Chapter 3: The Mini-Plan (The only place, other than my own practice, that I have ever encountered this extremely useful shortcut.)
* Chapter 19: Plan for Implementation (How to breathe life into your plan and sustain it.)
* Chapter 20: Print and Publish (The importance of letting other people know what the goals and expectations are.)
Hurdle is also a life raft cum life support system for Palo Alto Software's very affordable business plan software, Business Plan Pro (now in its eleventh incarnation). I have not reviewed the software.Manifesting my preference for doing everything the hard way, I customize my own. To test drive the software go to Palo Alto's website ( http://www.paloalto.com/ ).
While there, review some of their other software and publications. The advertising copy for one publication (Berry's The Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan) is a near-perfect synopsis of Hurdle:
... plan for your company's sake, not for planning's sake.
... block all thoughts of overwhelming, traditional, formal, cookie-cutter business plans and embrace an easier, more practical, modern business plan--the plan that evolves with your business and allows you to start building your business now.
Open the next page to download PDF.