Review of the Internal Business Plan Manual in the April 2002 issue of Women's Enterprise magazine -
Reproduced courtesy of WE-Women's Enterprise

Best Laid Plans - A British Consultant and Author Demystifies the Internal Business Plan
by Pat Kriska

Many entrepreneurs know their companies are not realizing their full potential, but they are so busy with the day-to-day business that they never stop to create a plan for the future. Today every entrepreneur creates a business plan at the start of a business, if for no other reason that the banker or investor requires it. Once the funding is secured the business plan often goes onto a bookshelf or into the desk drawer, never to be seen again.

In case after case, however, it has been clearly demonstrated that a company benefits tremendously from an internal business plan used to map and measure direction and growth. The biggest challenge for the entrepreneur seems to be taking the time to create that plan.

British consultant and author Francis Miller has devised a process for writing an internal business plan that makes the procedures virtually painless. He has demystified the development of the internal planning document with a well-written, easy-to-follow online manual. "I decided to focus the manual on internal business plans because it's such a neglected area," Miller says. "Most of the business plan resources focus on start-ups or on raising external finance, whereas most businesses need a plan to help them develop and grow."

The brilliance of Miller's approach lies in his ability to break the project into a series of exercises delineated with easy-to-follow graphics and tables.

In his book, The Internal Business Plan Manual: 7 Steps to Success, Miller contends that, in most cases, a full "standard" business plan is not necessary for the ongoing enterprise. "Many people think of a business plan as the 20- to 30-page document that you would show to an external investor and that puts them off. However, an ongoing business plan could be as short as two to four pages. I think it's vital to help people realize that planning isn't as difficult as they might imagine."

Miller points out that the entrepreneur may choose to focus on areas of the company that need development and omit the non-essential, thereby creating a plan that is a truly useful tool and doesn't consume too much time or too many resources to produce. "Internal business plans cost less", Miller notes. "Because they are shorter, an internal business plan will take up less of your time and, if you are involving a consultant, you will use less of their time."

Miller demonstrates his ability to take ideas that might seem complex to the uninitiated, or too time-consuming to ponder for the harried CEO with little time to think, much less write a business plan, and divide it into seven manageable steps. Miller further breaks those seven steps down into tables and graphics making it easy to see and understand quickly just what is needed to complete a particular portion of the plan.

"Internal business plan are action-orientated", states Miller. "The whole point of an internal business plan is to identify what action needs to be taken. A good internal business plan will identify who needs to do what by when and what resources they require. It should also be written in a format that makes it easy to implement strategies."

The first of his seven steps is "Develop Your Business Identity". In this section, the book addresses company vision, mission, values and standards. Step 2, "Analyzing Your External Environment", deals with a thorough analysis of the market, the competition, suppliers and other external factors such as political or economic issues that may impact the business. In this section, Miller includes a number of useful tables that help the entrepreneur visualize what is needed for thorough external analysis. Here he also includes a visual that is, in itself, worth the price of the book because it so clearly sums up the external factors.

Step 3 covers the "internal environment". This chapter helps the entrepreneur integrate the vision, mission, values and standards with the present business opportunity and analyze how the business is performing in all areas. In this step strategic objectives, key success factors and key performance indicators are identified.

Once these analyses are complete, the business is ready for Step 4, developing an "action plan" to realize the key success factors. In Step 5 the entrepreneur implements the business plan, followed by Steps 6 and 7, assessing progress and making adjustments, and finally, reviewing the plan.

Miller's website can be found at www.miller-consulting.co.uk. Here you will find links to information on both internal and external business plans and a wealth of useful resources. You will also be given an opportunity to subscribe to Miller's informative e-mail newsletter. Check it out. No matter where your business is located, you can benefit from this British consultant's insight and approach.

Pat Kriska is Associate Director of the BBA program and teaches entrepreneurship in the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

The Manual costs 19.95. For more information about it, go to the Manual page.



© Francis Miller 2001-2008