You may have heard it said that a Business Plan is a waste of time.  You spend days putting it together, weeks getting it agreed, and it ends up gathering dust on a shelf somewhere – eventually seeing the light of day only when the bank asks you for one to back up a loan application, 5 years afterwards…

Sadly, there’s more than an element of truth about that.  Conservatively, I’d reckon that about 75% of business plans are rarely referred to after the heady first few weeks after they’ve been written.  Is that because the business owners or the plan authors are bad business people ?  Not a bit of it.  It’s much more likely that it’s the way the plans are written which is bad.

What do I mean by that?  How can you judge a business plan to be good or bad ?

Let me use two recent examples to illustrate.  The first was a well-written, well-presented 20+ pages of great commentary on the business opportunity, the market, the product offer, the people involved.

The second was just under 2 pages of bullet points, a couple of tables and a bunch of numbers.

In the first, in among all the words, there was not one single commitment to action that the business owner or their team could carry out.  In the second,  I could count more than 15.  In the first, there was a well set out table showing historical financial figures.  In the second, there was a detailed summary of the key numbers, how they would change over the plan period (3 years) and what actions would be taken which would lead to that result.

Looking into my crystal ball, I can foresee one plan warming that shelf three months down the line.  The other – well, that will be on the wall in the MDs office, it will be broken down into departmental 90 day plans, performance against the plan will be being reviewed every month.

So go ahead – dig out the last Business Plan you did.  Firstly, check the date – this year, last year ?  Even earlier ?

Now, highlight the commitments to action that you could start enacting tomorrow, and count them.  As a rule of thumb, make sure there are a minimum of 6-8.  If there are not, you have a choice … you could revisit it, ‘action’ it up and help it change your future.  Or alternatively make space on that shelf and carry on as you were…

Graeme Crosbie


I was introduced to Level Up through a local business networking group about 18 months ago.  Transitioning from an HR career to Executive Search in 1997, I set up my own partnership over five years ago.  Although loving what I do, I couldn’t help feeling that we needed a bit of a refresh and have more focus on why our offering was different in a very crowded marketplace.

As an HR professional by background, I have met many business coaches; some better than others.  Although admittedly a little sceptical, I met Graeme Crosbie for coffee and soon felt that he ‘got me’ and understood why I was at a crossroads. We talked about how we might work together and what his kick start programme could offer. 

Having spent my whole career In the corporate world, I found I missed having a variety of people to brainstorm with.  Graeme has proved to be a strong business mentor.  The fact he also had a corporate background and had not worked with any other search firms proved to be a real asset.  He challenged my thinking and assumptions; we went back to basics and talked extensively about business and personal goals and how these could be achieved within realistic timelines.  

The kickstart programme was extremely useful.  For the first time in years, I found I actually dedicated quality time to thinking about what it was I wanted Theron to be.  We focused on what actually made us different; I stopped apologising for being a “small boutique” but learnt to embrace the good things about offering a bespoke, personal service to a few quality clients.  Of course I already knew the theory, but having to articulate USP’s and strategy to someone else makes it more ‘real’ and something you do as opposed to just having good intentions and never getting round to it because work takes over.  

Apart from growing revenue, we have had many successes including the redesign and relaunch of the website with genuine USP’s; extending our client base; recruiting a new Partner and maintaining focus and momentum.  

We are now on an Ontrack programme; meetings are less frequent, but they prove a useful medium for staying focused and doing the things I committed to do.  Some things continue to stay at the bottom of the pile, but I’m not sure that will ever change.  

Some of my network did not understand why I needed to see a business coach, especially with my background.  I have found it incredibly refreshing, not least because Graeme has helped me to look at things differently and has help me to add real value to my business.  I would absolutely have no hesitation in recommend him to other business professionals but only on the basis you want to take a cold hard look at yourself and realise that growth and change will only happen if you want it to.  Graeme can help, challenge and give an alternative perspective, but it’s down to you to do it.  

Fiona Makowski Managing Partner, Theron LLP March 18, 2018