As a lawyer or accountant, why do you write a business plan? For internal budgeting or to grow your practice?

If you are a lawyer, accountant, or business adviser you will be familiar with business plans.  But why do you write a business plan?

In our experience it’s never a popular activity because:

1. Writing a business plan takes a lot of time, time that you’d probably prefer to spend doing something else.

2. Business planning is all too often a largely political process and far too inward looking.  You only do it because you want a stamp from your management committee so you can get on with your job.

3. It doesn’t actually do anything.  Once the plan is written it is filed away and rarely if ever checked …. it just doesn’t do anything.

In the last week I have talked to solicitors and accountants in 3 different firms about their business plans.  The picture was almost identical …

… Woolly plans that exist to ‘tick boxes’ internally so they could get the necessary budget signed-off.  Not one was an actual plan involving clear strategic choices that lead to actions that would enable progress.

5 tips to help you write better business plans

Here are 5 practical tips that will not only remind you why you write a business plan but tips that will also help write better business plans that lead to better results:

1. Begin with the end in mind

A plan should start by painting a clear picture of what success looks like, for example:

– Your department will be recognised as Tier 1 in the Legal 500.

– You want to organically grow departmental revenue by 20%. 

– Your specialist sector expertise will lead to you getting a speaking slot at this sector’s premier international conference.

2. Show who’s accountable

The only successful business plans are the ones that show exactly who is accountable for what.

This should be presented in concrete terms with no ambiguity and we’d suggest you use SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound) goals so there’s no confusion.

3. What gets measured gets done

Consider how you will check progress once your plan’s been implemented.  Here are 3 key checkpoints to build into your thinking:

– Set 12 hard targets (measured monthly or quarterly).

– Have a visual tracking system to monitor your progress.

– Make attendance at review meetings mandatory … if you cancel one meeting because of other commitments, others will feel they can cancel or not turn up to future meetings and your plan will wither and die! 

4. Set your objectives against the 4 pillars of any robust business (Finance, People, Systems/Operations and Marketing & BD)

5. Implementation over strategy

A strong business plan is as much about implementation as it is about strategy.  Given this, you need to address 3 big questions:

How will you get emotional buy in from your team to implement your plan?

Have you got the necessary resources to implement your plan?

What are the assumptions on which your plan is based?

If you would like help setting your BD strategy or ensuring your fee earners support the implementation of your strategy with viable/effective/measurable personal business plan, please get in touch

Published by sizetenandahalfboots

Douglas is a director of Size 10½ Boots, a specialist business development agency that works solely with the professional services, helping firms grow by winning more new clients and more work from the clients they already have. Although every project is different our work generally falls into one of three camps - strategic marketing support, BD training and 1on1 coaching and independent client research.

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