How to Approach a Business Plan Makeover

If you haven't revisited your business plan in this brave new real estate world, you're missing a great opportunity to reenergize your brokerage.

April 1, 2009

Here’s how to create a realistic plan that can adapt to market changes.

1. Don’t think of it as a one-time thing. Your business plan should be a living document, so start thinking of it that way. "Calling it a ‘plan’ implies it’s something you did 10 months ago and never use," says Tim Berry, author of The Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan (Entrepreneur Press, 2008). Instead, use the more active phrase "business planning," he says. "Business planning is like steering and driving. It requires having a destination and making course corrections."

2. Identify your top priorities. Everything in the plan should be assessed in relation to meeting your top goals. "Good business planning helps you sift through everything to make sure the most important things are getting done," Berry says.

3. Don’t get lost in minutiae. Many template business plans include descriptions of management team members. Do you need that? Not likely. "People are led to believe that a business plan has some sort of prescribed format and components," Berry says. "It should include only what you need to manage your company. It should be written in simple, easy-to-manage terms about strategy, steps, who’s doing what when, and who’s going to manage it."

4. Measure your progress. Ask yourself how you’ll know if you’re on track. "You want to be able to track progress against your plan—that means metrics," Berry says. Don’t just include annual metrics. Break them down by month, day, or whatever unit will be most helpful for evaluating your company’s progress.

5. Expect to make changes. "We’re all human, and we need the discipline of a review schedule so we actually do it," advises Berry. "My company is 21 years old, and we have a managers’ meeting every third Thursday of the month where we review our plan versus our actual results and revise as needed." When might changes be in order? If you happily find that one marketing program is outperforming your expectations, consider shifting resources to it from an underperforming program.