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Making a Risk Management Plan for Your Business
It’s impossible to eliminate all business risk. Therefore, it’s essential for having a plan for its management. You’ll be developing one covering compliance, environmental, financial, operational and reputation risk management. These guidelines are for making a risk management plan for your business.
Developing Your Executive Summary
When you start the risk management plan with an executive summary, you’re breaking apart what it will be compromised of into easy to understand chunks. Even though this summary is the project’s high-level overview, the goal is describing the risk management plan’s approach and scope. In doing so, you’re informing all stakeholders regarding what to expect when they’re reviewing these plans so that they can set their expectations appropriately.
Who Are the Stakeholders and What Potential Problems Need Identifying?
During this phase of making the risk management plan, you’re going to need to have a team meeting. Every member of the team must be vocal regarding what they believe could be potential problems or risks. Stakeholders should also be involved in this meeting as well to help you collect ideas regarding what could become a potential risk. All who are participating should look at past projects, what went wrong, what is going wrong in current projects and what everyone hopes to achieve from what they learned from these experiences. During this session, you’ll be creating a sample risk management plan that begins to outline risk management standards and risk management strategies.
Evaluate the Potential Risks Identified
A myriad of internal and external sources can pose as risks including commercial, management and technical, for example. When you’re identifying what these potential risks are and have your list complete, the next step is organizing it according to importance and likelihood. Categorize each risk according to how it could impact your project. For example, does the risk threaten to throw off timelines or budgets? Using a risk breakdown structure is an effective way to help ensure all potential risks are effectively categorized and considered. Use of this risk management plan template keeps everything organized and paints a clear picture of everything you’re identifying.
Assign Ownership and Create Responses
It’s essential to ensure a team member is overseeing each potential risk. That way, they can jump into action should an issue occur. Those who are assigned a risk, as well as the project manager, should work as a team to develop responses before problems arise. That way, if there are issues, the person overseeing the risk can refer to the response that was predetermined.
Have a System for Monitoring
Having effective risk management companies plans includes having a system for monitoring. It’s not wise to develop a security risk management or compliance risk management plan, for example, without having a system for monitoring. What this means is there’s a system for monitoring in place to ensure risk doesn’t occur until the project is finished. In doing so, you’re ensuring no new risks will potentially surface. If one does, like during the IT risk management process, for example, your team will know how to react.
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Free 5-year plan template to organize the planning process
As a business leader, you know the decisions you make today can shape the future of the company. If you want to control that trajectory, a 5-year plan template can be a useful tool. The right template helps you organize ideas, analyze data, and prioritize the goals you want to achieve — that way, you can create a framework that informs strategic decisions and guides your company toward its ultimate growth goals.
In this article, we’ll explore the parts of a 5-year plan template and discuss how to use it in your business. Then, we’ll dive into the ways you can integrate a 5-year plan into the monday.com Work OS to create a more efficient and powerful workflow.
Get the template
What is a 5-year plan template?
A 5-year plan template is a model document that helps you map out company goals and strategies for the next 5 years. Many templates contain a variety of common sections that you can edit to reflect the goals and needs of your business:
- Executive summary: Top-level overview of your objectives and strategies
- Business description: Mission statement, description of your products and services, and an introduction to your management or leadership team
- Market analysis: Data about your industry and target audience, trends, opportunities, and competitors
- Financial information: Historical revenue, expense data, and financial projections
- Plans and objectives: Goes into detail about your short and long-term goals and sets company priorities, discusses the goals you want to achieve, and explains the strategies and methods you’ll use
The right structure for your 5-year plan template depends on your company’s specific goals. If you’re going after investors, for example, a traditional structure can help you meet expectations. If the plan is mostly for internal use, you can be more flexible and still reap the benefits of the template.
Why use a 5-year plan template?
A 5-year business plan provides a structure to help you think strategically about your company’s plans for the next few years. Use the preexisting headers to guide your discussions and spark new ideas; you can also add new sections to tailor the content to your business. When it’s time to write, the template helps you organize ideas and format them into a usable document that can provide a slew of benefits for your business.
Guide business decisions
A 5-year plan clarifies your company’s priorities, creating a set of strategic objectives that serves as a reference point when it’s time to make decisions or evaluate opportunities. If your priority is to build brand awareness among Gen Z customers, for example, you might jump at the chance to establish a presence on the hottest new social media platform. If you’re laser-focused on building the best management team in the industry, however, it would be easy to see that your resources are better spent elsewhere.
In addition to serving as a guidepost for major strategic initiatives, your 5-year plan can inform business decisions of all sizes. Look to it when you’re:
- Making a budget
- Assessing the organizational structure
- Designing a marketing plan
- Adding or removing products and services
- Writing business policies
- Setting up a technology infrastructure
Enable strategic hiring and training
A solid 5-year plan makes it easier to anticipate upcoming personnel needs, so you can make strategic hiring decisions. If you have limited resources, the plan can also help you figure out which tasks require a full-time employee and which ones you can outsource.
Are you thinking about training your existing employees? To determine the courses and topics with the highest ROI, compare the skills and abilities of your workforce against the practical needs outlined in the 5-year plan. This process highlights skill gaps and exposes the most urgent training opportunities.
Stay focused on goals
A lot can happen in 5 years — managers come and go, market conditions shift, and unexpected events can arise out of nowhere. In the midst of all that change, a well-written 5-year plan is a constant. It keeps your team focused on the same long-term goals, regardless of turnover. This unified approach can ensure that you’re always making progress in the right direction.
Prepare for challenges
Writing a 5-year plan requires you to analyze the business and the industry. As you dig into available data, you gain a deeper understanding of your customers, operations, competitors, and the market itself. With that knowledge, you’re better positioned to anticipate potential challenges and roadblocks. Awareness is everything; it helps you spot early warning signs, so you can start preparing the company to adjust short-term goals and adapt quickly.
Build confidence among investors
If you’re thinking about seeking investments to fund business expansion, a 5-year plan is essential. A thorough, well-written document reassures investors that you’ve done your due diligence and demonstrates that your company is positioned to make a profit. A template can help you examine and analyze each part of the business systematically to ensure the plan addresses investors’ top concerns.
When you’re ready to grow, a professional 5-year plan template can help you woo investors.
What are some examples of 5-year plan templates?
No two companies have identical 5-year plans; the template that works best for your organization depends on the age of the business, the nature of your goal, and how you’re planning to utilize the plan.
A 5-year plan creates a roadmap to follow as you establish a startup, build an audience, and stake out a place in the industry. This type of template often contains lengthy sections about marketing, sales, and product or service development; it also tends to be heavy on research and analysis.
Growth and expansion plan
When your company has been in business for a few years, you might start to think about expanding. A 5-year plan helps you approach growth strategically; it’s a good way to identify the best opportunities and find ways to minimize risk. These plans often analyze competitors and discuss the costs and benefits of different growth options.
Whether you’re growing a startup or expanding an established business, a traditional 5-year plan contains a high level of detail. The one-page business plan version provides a quick overview — it highlights the most important points of each section. Instead of explaining your market research and explaining how they inform each goal, for example, you could note the key findings and include a prioritized list of goals.
5-year plan template on monday.com
Whether you’re creating a plan for an arts nonprofit or an engineering firm, the 5-Year Plan Template on monday.com can help you navigate the process. A color-coded header system enables you to organize and identify top-level sections. Within each one, you can add descriptions and build out a list of objectives, goals, manager profiles, financial projections, and other details.
The monday.com template adds an extra level of detail and functionality to your 5-year plan. For each item in a section, you can add a variety of columns that track the status of a project, identify relevant team members, designate a timeline, or set a budget. You can even add a column that links critical files to ensure easy access for all of your stakeholders. When you start working toward the goals in your plan, monday.com offers different Board Views , project management tools, and automations to streamline your workflow. Your template also integrates seamlessly with Work OS, an open platform that enables you to create and customize the tools you need to monitor and run your business.
A 5-year plan is just one of the documents you need to map out and execute a long-term business strategy. The template library at monday.com includes a variety of options to help manage your company’s growth and development.
Related templates on monday.com
If marketing plays a role in your 5-year plan, consider integrating the Marketing Plan Template into your strategic planning sessions. With sections for different projects and columns that enable you to assign tasks and monitor progress, it can also serve as a project management tool.
Manage the hiring goals in your 5-year plan with the help of the Recruitment Process Template . It tracks each applicant through the different stages of the process and enables you to track referral sources to inform your job-posting strategy. Status reports for interviews and hiring decisions ensure efficient communication between departments.
Frequently asked questions
What is a 5-year plan.
A 5-year plan is a document that outlines your company’s goals and strategies for the upcoming years. It also provides information to support the plan, such as a market analysis and financial projections.
What should I include in a 5-year plan?
When you’re writing a 5-year plan, include an executive summary, a description of the business, and an analysis of the market, company finances , competitors, and customers. Follow that up with a section that lays out the goals, objectives, and strategies your company will pursue over the next 5 years.
What are 5-year goals examples?
Examples of 5-year goals might include developing new products, expanding to a new location, or reaching new audience segments. You might also set internal goals, such as improving the company culture or building the most talented workforce in the industry.
Using the 5-year plan template for sustainable growth
As you navigate the strategic-planning process, a 5-year plan template can help organize your ideas and set thoughtful, research-backed goals. You’ll emerge with a document that guides business decisions and unites employees around a common purpose. With monday.com, you can incorporate the 5-year plan template into your Work OS to manage projects, set smaller goals, and track progress toward your high-level objectives.
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[Updated 2023] How to Write a Five Year Business Plan [Best Templates Included]
Achieving a set of goals is challenging.
Maintaining the motivation and productivity to achieve business goals is even harder.
In the words of Yogi Berra, a big-league baseball player-turned-manager, “Without a plan, even the most brilliant business can get lost. You need to have goals, create milestones, and have a strategy in place to set yourself up for success.”
This is why everyone in the industry — from an interviewer looking to hire top talent to an entrepreneur who accomplishes goals systematically — splits their business plan into five years. A five-year business plan not only extends a generous period to attain the set targets but at the same time keeps everyone on their toes, removing procrastination.
But writing a five-year business plan can get tedious, messy, and, sometimes, take forever to hit the right spot.
Therefore, this blog will cover the essential steps to help you write a tremendous five-year business plan.
Chronology of writing a spectacular five-year business plan
It is quite simple. You cannot achieve something great when you don’t know your priorities, objectives, ways, and timeframe to achieve those targets. It is essential to build a five-year plan for your business as well as the outcomes and expectations related to it.
But where do you start?
Here are the five sections you must include in your plan:
#1 A clear company introduction
A brief yet effective overview of your business, its market, team structure, roles and responsibilities, company offerings, and value proposition builds the foundation for your future endeavors. You use a company overview to set the right tone at the beginning of your business plan, as it serves as the base and a direction for your audience.
Related read: How to Create an Attention-Grabbing Company Introduction Slide in 10 Minutes
#2 vision and mission statement.
You have to ensure your employees, stakeholders, investors, and potential clients understand what your company is all about and what you stand for. Your vision and mission statement helps you with it. It enlightens the audience about your future plans - where you see your company in five years and the results you will work to achieve.
Related read: Top 10 Mission and Vision Statement Templates to Guide Your Organizational Culture
#3 target market and branding.
State who your company is looking to serve and why. Provide clarity on your target market based on psychographics and demographics. And do not forget to mention the size of your target market. You have to create a framework for making your brand visible exponentially and simultaneously create a lead generation and conversion strategy.
Related read: Top 30 PowerPoint Templates to Analyze Dominant Market Drivers
#4 product overview.
Set clear priorities based on the distinction between your primary and secondary products. You need to connect your branding around the product or service core to your company. This categorization will help you establish the revenue your products generate and the impacts they create. Further, it will help modify your plans accordingly.
Related read: Top 10 One-Page Product Overview PowerPoint Templates to Drive Sales
#5 swot analysis.
Measuring your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in the industry can help you successfully dominate the market. Therefore, your five-year business plan must include regular and timely analysis of all your business operations. There is no better way to meet targets than keeping a check on one’s activities. It will help you focus on the proprietary system of your company.
Related read: Top 50 SWOT Analysis PowerPoint Templates Used by Professionals Worldwide
Templates to nail your business plan.
Often we have countless ideas to plan our way to a successful business. But as the day-to-day grind starts, it is easy to get distracted from the end goal and stray from the path leading to our intent. We look for a north star to point us directly to our mission. So we decided to make your life a bit easier by providing our readymade and editable five-year business plan templates. You can access them below. Dive in!
Template 1: Five Year Business Plan Roadmap Template
Help your team stay on track with your future business ambitions by taking the assistance of our invigorating PowerPoint template. This content-ready template helps you visualize your work plan and present your vision impactfully. You just need to click the download link to start customizing it.
Download this template
Template 2: Key Poniters for Five Year Business Plan
Use this business plan template that includes vital pointers such as setting clear goals and objectives, conducting market research and competitor analysis, developing a comprehensive marketing strategy, creating financial projections, and establishing a system for measuring progress and adjusting your plan accordingly. By following a structured template and considering these essential elements, you can create a plan that sets your organization up for long-term success.
Template 3: Five Year Roadmap Timeline for Business Plan
Employ this professionally curated template to improve the success rate of your business. This template helps you track the progress of all your operational activities without any hassle. Also, our color-coded template makes it easy to comprehend and follow. So download this adaptable template to start adding your data effortlessly.
Template 4: Five-Year Business Plan Roadmap with Operations and Functions
You can utilize this template to articulate the workflow of your organization smoothly. This template allows you to write an attractive executive summary of your business operations and functions. Download the template and start assembling your key milestones immediately. Click the link below!
Template 5: Five Year Milestones Template
Outline the timeline for achieving future goals with the help of this template. Our experts have designed this PowerPoint template to help you summarize your vision, mission, targets, and timeframe in an easily accessible format. Grasp the attention of your employees and stakeholders right away by downloading this template.
Template 6: Five-Year Roadmap for Business Planning
A comprehensive plan of action displays confidence and foresightedness. Therefore, we have curated this content-specific template to help you create a strategic roadmap for your business goals. This template distributes the target phases based on yearly milestones, thereby making it easily understandable. Grab it now!
Template 7: Five Year Business Plan with Roadmap
Take your business to the next level with this five-year business roadmap with checkpoints. It includes sections for sales, product, operations, and targets set for different team members. It also includes timelines and checkpoints for processes and activities. Download this editable PowerPoint Slide now to streamline your business alignment.
Template 8: Five Year Business Plan With Financial Projection
Make your future financial outcomes expectations loud and clear by using this PowerPoint template. Represent your business planning elements creatively by employing this template. You can even highlight your company’s ongoing functions and practices in a structured way with the assistance of our entirely adaptable PPT template.
Template 9: Five Year Business Plan Implementation Roadmap
The success rate of business plans hugely depends on the plan of action, and this editable five years roadmap of the organization rightly serves the purpose. Encapsulate all the information related to the project in a well-structured manner to obtain maximum efficiency by incorporating this stunning PowerPoint slide. State the critical deliverable, steps involved, time frame, workforce allocation, and lots more in an easy-to-understand manner by utilizing this pre-designed roadmap layout. Download now!
Template 10: Five Year Business Plan with Risk Status
Select this PowerPoint template to predict your future growth. Using this PPT template, you can assess potential risks that can stunt your business development in the coming years. Revamp your venture by utilizing this template as a guiding star. Download it and start with your strategic planning right away!
Having a strategic roadmap for handling your business operations and objectives is the only way to go. You cannot expect high profit and returns on investment without having a clear outline for the next five years of your business. With our stunning templates, you will definitely look confident, assertive, reliable, and foresighted.
FAQs on Five-Year Business Plan
How to write a five year business plan.
Here are some key steps to consider when writing your plan:
Define your mission and vision: Start by articulating your organization's purpose and long-term goals.
Conduct market research : Analyze your industry, identify trends, and understand your target audience.
Evaluate your competition: Analyze your competitors' strengths and weaknesses, and determine how you can differentiate yourself in the marketplace.
Develop a marketing and sales strategy: Outline how you will reach and engage with your target audience and define your pricing strategy.
Create financial projections: Develop a comprehensive financial model that includes revenue and expense projections, as well as cash flow analysis.
Establish a system for measuring progress: Determine key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help you track progress towards your goals, and create a plan for reviewing and updating your plan on a regular basis.
What is a good 5-year business plan?
A good 5-year business plan is a comprehensive document that outlines an organization's strategy for achieving its long-term goals. Here are some key elements to include in a good 5-year business plan:
Executive summary: Provide an overview of your organization's mission, vision, and goals, as well as a summary of the key elements of your plan.
Market analysis: Conduct thorough research to understand your industry, target audience, and competition.
Marketing and sales strategy: Outline how you will reach and engage with your target audience, and define your pricing strategy.
Financial projections: Develop a comprehensive financial model that includes revenue and expense projections, as well as cash flow analysis.
Organizational structure: Outline the roles and responsibilities of key personnel, and describe how your organization will be structured to achieve its goals.
Risk management: Identify potential risks and develop strategies to mitigate them.
Performance metrics: Determine key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help you track progress towards your goals, and create a plan for reviewing and updating your plan on a regular basis.
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5 Essential Tips To Develop A Solid 5-Year Business Plan
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7+ SAMPLE 5 Year Business Plan in PDF
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1. it provides you with the opportunity to make positive changes in your life, 2. it has a significant impact on your ability to concentrate, 3. it contributes to your development, 1. it assists you in discovering more about yourself, 2. it aids in the development of long-term objectives, step 1: consider your professional objectives and make a list of them, step 2: make a list of your abilities that will assist you in achieving your career objectives, step 3: break down your ambitions into smaller, more manageable chunks of time, step 4: look for opportunities on a regular basis, step 5: continue to refer to your five-year strategy, share this post on your network, you may also like these articles, 8+ sample architect business plan in pdf.
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3 Year Strategic Business Plan Template and Examples
How to create a 3 to 5 Year Strategic Business Plan
Four Steps to Create Your 3 Year Strategic Business Plan
5 Year Strategic Plan Examples and 3 Year Business Plan Template
- Step 1: Set 3-5 Year Strategic Plan Targets
- Step 2: Determine 3-5 Strategic Ideas for Revenue Growth
- Step 3: Determine 3-5 Strategic Ideas to Increase Profit
- Step 4: The Process to Decide Your 3-5 Year Strategic Plan
- Tips for Running a High-Quality Strategic Planning Session
Check out what our expert facilitators can do for you.
Set 3-5 Year Strategic Plan Targets [Examples]
Set 3 year growth plans to define success before you start
Examples of the types of Targets and Visual KPI dashboards you will want to consider include the following:
- Profit (EBITDA)
You can add or subtract from this list to include the Targets that are most meaningful to your business.
The one growth Target that should apply for all businesses is Revenue . We challenge you to set a Revenue Target that will allow you to 2X your business over the next 3-5 years.
- If you believe you can grow at a rate of 15% per year, then you will achieve the 2X mark in 5 years.
- If you believe you can grow at a rate of 25%, then you will achieve the 2X mark in 3 years.
Be sure to include the year you that believe you will hit those Revenue Targets so that you can hold each other accountable. Strong 3 year strategic plans help you grow revenue and stay competitive and not caught up in the short term day to day management of your company. Download our 3 year strategic growth initiatives template.
Determine 3-5 Strategic Ideas for Revenue Growth [Examples]
Think of strategic revenue growth initiatives that can double your top line
Strategic growth initiatives and actions enable you to double your revenue (2x) within 3-5 years. These are often the base camps in the client's quest to reach the summit of Everest in order to achieve their BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal).
3-5 Year strategic plans do not come from Eureka moments. They are developed over time and should be reviewed every year at your Annual Planning Session. These 3-year strategic business plans help your company grow and sharpen your competitive advantage. It is this business strategy that sets you apart from the competition. We have an excellent blog on 3 year strategic plan example for you to get your creative juices flowing.
Download our free 3-5 strategic growth initiatives tool (template) to help you double your revenue with the proven Rhythm Systems process to improve organizational performance .
Determine 3-5 Strategic Ideas to Increase Profit [Examples]
Determine strategic profit initiatives to increase productivity
These are the strategic capabilities you’ll need to develop in order to support your growth and reach your 3-5 year Targets. These are usually operational in nature or related to your infrastructure and help you while scaling up.
Some examples of profit include:
- Leadership & talent growth
- New operating systems
- Opening more locations or a second office
These will be extremely specific to your company’s needs, vision statement and BHAG. Strategy validation is an important step.
The Process to Decide and Commit to Your 3-5 Year Strategic Plan
Choose the right strategic growth initiatives with our template to get you started
Download Strategic Plan Template Here
Brainstorm your top strategic growth strategies.
Start by brainstorming a comprehensive list of at least 20 potential ways your team can think of to increase revenue. Some ideas to jump-start the revenue brainstorming process are the following:
- What's my competition not willing to do?
- What do our customers hate but have to put up with?
- Do I have an asset or diamond in my backyard?
- What's the biggest barrier to entry for my prospects and how can I remove it?
- Are there opportunities to consider through partnership, acquisition or joint venture?
- What are some big ideas or opportunities we have discussed in the past, but not acted on?
Vote on the Top 5-8 Strategic Growth Strategies
Have the team consider each idea and vote on the top three they recommend investing time and energy in considering during your strategic planning session . Choose the top 5-8 ideas with the most votes.
How to Evaluate & Rank Your Top 5-8 Ideas
Evaluate and rank each of the top 5-8 ideas based on two scales, Revenue Impact, and Ease.
- Revenue Impact - On a scale of 1-10, what is the potential impact this move could have on revenue? A score of 10 would indicate that this move alone could more than double your current revenue.
Choose and Commit Your Top 1-3 Ideas
Select the few ideas you want to include in your 3-5 year strategic plan . Decide what to say yes to and what to say no to. Classify each idea:
- Strategic ideas for Revenue = part of 3-5 year plan; revenue growth
- Strategic ideas for Profit = part of 3-5 year plan; infrastructure, scalability, and efficiency,
- Idea Bench = Later, other Moves are more important
- Dead = Stop, losing move
These are the steps to identify the 1-3 strategic ideas you want to include in your 3-5 year plan. Now you're ready to begin the process of developing and implementing them.
Ready to make a breakthrough in your next strategic planning session?
Make breakthroughs in your strategic planning sessions with expert facilitators.
- Your 3-5 Year Growth plans and your Sandbox are related. The key question to answer when determining your Sandbox is “what market will you dominate over the next 3-5 years?” So make sure your Sandbox is large enough to support your 3-5 year Targets but concise enough to give you focus and direction.
- If your industry is growing faster than 25% per year, you will need to set a more aggressive Revenue Target. You never want to grow slower than your industry or you will be losing market share to your competition. If this is the case, you will need to set a target that is more than 2X your current revenue in 3 years.
- Here are more tips to facilitate a strategic planning session to get the most of your investment. If you need an outside perspective and experienced facilitator to run your virtual or on-site planning session, please schedule a time to learn more here .
3-5 Year Strategic Plan to Reach Your BHAG
Your 3-5 Year Strategic Growth Plan can be viewed as a base camp on the way to the summit of your long term goal. This can be used as a tool to align your company around a common purpose and closes the strategy execution gap . The summit is your BHAG (or Big Hairy Audacious Goal) which is typically measured 10 to 20 years in the future, which can feel like a lifetime in today's business environment. Your goal here is to set your Targets and identify the Strategic Growth Initiatives (Winning Moves) and Scaling Initiatives (Winning Moves for Profit) you’ll need to develop in order to hit those Targets and move in the direction of achieving your BHAG.
Typically, you will determine your 3-5 year strategic business plan as part of your Annual Planning session , which will include your goals and objective for the year as well as outlining opportunities and threats facing your company. We also have a great blog post on how to facilitate a strategic planning session to get the return on investment from your planning session. We also have a great virtual strategic planning post that provides great tips on running a virtual planning session.
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How to Write a Five-Year Business Plan [2022 Guide]
Learn why the traditional way of writing a five-year business plan is often a waste of time and how to use a Lean Plan instead for smarter, easier strategic planning to establish your long-term vision.
In business, it can sometimes seem hard enough to predict what’s going to happen next month, let alone three or even five years from now. But, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t plan for the long term. After all, your vision for the future is what gets you out of bed in the morning and motivates your team. It’s those aspirations that drive you to keep innovating and figuring out how to grow.
What is a long-term plan?
A long-term or long-range business plan looks beyond the traditional 3-year planning window, focusing on what a business might look like 5 or even 10 years from now. A traditional 5-year business plan includes financial projections, business strategy, and roadmaps that stretch far into the future.
I’ll be honest with you, though—for most businesses, long-range business plans that stretch 5 and 10 years into the future are a waste of time. Anyone who’s seriously asking you for one doesn’t know what they’re doing and is wasting your time. Sorry if that offends some people, but it’s true.
However, there is still real value in looking at the long term. Just don’t invest the time in creating a lengthy version of your business plan with overly detailed metrics and milestones for the next five-plus years. No one knows the future and, more than likely, anything you write down now could be obsolete in the next year, next month, or even next week.
That’s where long-term strategic planning comes in. A long-term business plan like this is different from a traditional business plan in that it’s lighter on the details and more focused on your strategic direction. It has less focus on financial forecasting and a greater focus on the big picture.
Think of your long-term strategic plan as your aspirational vision for your business. It defines the ideal direction you’re aiming for but it’s not influencing your day-to-day or, potentially, even your monthly decision making.
Are long-term business plans a waste of time?
No one knows the future. We’re all just taking the information that we have available today and making our best guesses about the future. Sometimes trends in a market are pretty clear and your guesses will be well-founded. Other times, you’re trying to look around a corner and hoping that your intuition about what comes next is correct.
Now, I’m not saying that thinking about the future is a waste of time. Entrepreneurs are always thinking about the future. They have to have some degree of faith and certainty about what customers are going to want in the future. Successful entrepreneurs do actually predict the future — they know what customers are going to want and when they’re going to want it.
Entrepreneurship is unpredictable
Successful entrepreneurs are also often wrong. They make mistakes just like the rest of us. The difference between successful entrepreneurs and everyone else is that they don’t let mistakes slow them down. They learn from mistakes, adjust and try again. And again. And again. It’s not about being right all the time; it’s about having the perseverance to keep trying until you get it right. For example, James Dyson, inventor of the iconic vacuum cleaner, tried out 5,126 prototypes of his invention before he found a design that worked.
So, if thinking about the future isn’t a waste of time, why are 5-year business plans a waste of time? They’re a waste of time because they typically follow the same format as a traditional business plan, where you are asked to project sales, expenses, and cash flow 5 and 10 years into the future.
Let’s be real. Sales and expense projections that far into the future are just wild guesses, especially for startups and new businesses. They’re guaranteed to be wrong and can’t be used for anything. You can’t (and shouldn’t) make decisions based on these guesses. They’re just fantasy. You hope you achieve massive year-over-year growth in sales, but there’s no guarantee that’s going to happen. And, you shouldn’t make significant spending decisions today based on the hope of massive sales 10 years from now.
Why write a long-term business plan?
So, what is the purpose of outlining a long-term plan? Here are a few key reasons why it’s still valuable to consider the future of your business without getting bogged down by the details.
Showcase your vision for investors
First, and especially important if you are raising money from investors, is your vision. Investors will want to know not only where you plan on being in a year, but where the business will be in five years. Do you anticipate launching new products or services? Will you expand internationally? Or will you find new markets to grow into?
Set long-term goals for your business
Second, you’ll want to establish goals for yourself and your team. What kinds of high-level sales targets do you hope to achieve? How big is your company going to get overtime? These goals can be used to motivate your team and even help in the hiring process as you get up and running.
That said, you don’t want to overinvest in fleshing out all the details of a long-range plan. You don’t need to figure out exactly how your expansion will work years from now or exactly how much you’ll spend on office supplies five years from now. That’s really just a waste of time.
Instead, for long-range planning, think in broad terms. A good planning process means that you’re constantly revising and refining your business plan. You’ll add more specifics as you go, creating a detailed plan for the next 6-12 months and a broader, vague plan for the long term.
You have a long development time
Businesses with extremely long research and development timelines do make spending decisions now based on the hope of results years from now. For example, the pharmaceutical industry and medical device industry have to make these bets all the time. The R&D required to take a concept from idea to proven product with regulatory approval can take years for these industries, so long-range planning in these cases is a must. A handful of other industries also have similar development timelines, but these are the exceptions, not the rule.
Your business is well-established and predictable
Long-term, detailed planning can make more sense for businesses that are extremely well established and have long histories of consistent sales and expenses with predictable growth. But, even for those businesses, predictability means quite the opposite of stability. The chances that you’ll be disrupted in the marketplace by a new company, or the changing needs and desires of your customers, is extremely high. So, most likely, those long-range predictions of sales and profits are pretty useless.
What a 5-year plan should look like
With the exception of R&D-heavy businesses, most 5-year business plans should be more like vision statements than traditional business plans. They should explain your vision for the future, but skip the details of detailed sales projections and expense budgets.
Your vision for your business should explain the types of products and services that you hope to offer in the future and the types of customers that you hope to serve. Your plan should outline who you plan to serve now and how you plan to expand if you are successful.
This kind of future vision creates a strategic roadmap. It’s not a fully detailed plan with sales forecasts and expense budgets, but a plan for getting started and then growing over time to reach your final destination.
For example, here’s a short-form version of what a long-term plan for Nike might have looked like if one had been written in the 1960s:
Nike will start by developing high-end track shoes for elite athletes. We’ll start with a focus on the North West of the US, but expand nationally as we develop brand recognition among track and field athletes. We will use sponsored athletes to spread the word about the quality and performance of our shoes.
Once we have success in the track & field market segment, we believe that we will be able to successfully expand both beyond the US market and also branch out into other sports, with an initial focus on basketball.
Leadership and brand awareness in a sport such as basketball will enable us to cross over from the athlete market into the consumer market. This will lead to significant business growth in the consumer segment and allow for expansion into additional sports, fashion, and casual markets in addition to building a strong apparel brand.
Interestingly enough, Nike (to my knowledge) never wrote out a long-range business plan. They developed their plans as they grew, building the proverbial airplane as it took off.
But, if you have this kind of vision for your business, it’s useful to articulate it. Your employees will want to know what your vision is and your investors will want to know as well. They want to know that you, as an entrepreneur, are looking beyond tomorrow and into the future months and years ahead.
How to write a five-year business plan
Writing out your long-term vision for your business is a useful exercise. It can bring a sense of stability and solidify key performance indicators and broad milestones that drive your business.
Developing a long-range business plan is really just an extension of your regular business planning process. A typical business plan covers the next one to three years, documenting your target market, marketing strategy, and product or service offerings for that time period.
A five-year plan expands off of that initial strategy and discusses what your business might do in the years to come. However, as I’ve mentioned before, creating a fully detailed five-year business plan will be a waste of time.
Here’s a quick guide to writing a business plan that looks further into the future without wasting your time:
1. Develop your Lean Plan
As with all business planning, we recommend that you start with a lean business plan. A lean plan is a simple, one-page plan that outlines your core business strategy, target market, and business model. It gives a snapshot of what you’re hoping to achieve in the more immediate term.
A lean business plan is the foundation of all other planning because it’s the document that you’ll keep the most current. It’s also the easiest to update and share with business partners. A lean plan will typically highlight up to three years of revenue and profit goals as well as milestones that you hope to achieve in the near term.
Check out our guide to building your lean plan and download a free lean plan template to get started quickly.
2. Determine if you need a traditional business plan
Unlike a lean business plan, a traditional business plan is more detailed and is typically written in long-form prose. A traditional business plan is usually 10-20 pages long and contains details about your product or service, summaries of the market research that you’ve conducted, and details about your competition. Read our complete guide to writing a business plan .
Companies that write traditional business plans typically have a “business plan event” where a complete business plan is required. Business plan events are usually part of the fundraising process. During fundraising, lenders and investors may ask to see a detailed plan and it’s important to be ready if that request comes up.
But there are other good reasons to write a detailed business plan. A detailed plan forces you to think through the details of your business and how, exactly, you’re going to build your business. Detailed plans encourage you to think through your business strategy, your target market, and your competition carefully. A good business plan ensures that your strategy is complete and fleshed out, not just a collection of vague ideas.
A complete business plan is also a good foundation for a long-term business plan and I recommend that you expand your lean business plan into a complete business plan if you intend to create plans for more than three years into the future.
3. Develop long-term goals and growth targets
As you work on your business plan, you’ll need to think about where you want to be in 5+ years. A good exercise is to envision what your business will look like. How many employees will you have? How many locations will you serve? Will you introduce new products and services?
When you’ve envisioned where you want your business to be, it’s time to turn that vision into a set of goals that you’ll document in your business plan. Each section of your business plan will be expanded to highlight where you want to be in the future. For example, in your target market section, you will start by describing your initial target market. Then you’ll proceed to describe the markets that you hope to reach in 3-5 years.
To accompany your long-term goals, you’ll also need to establish revenue targets that you think you’ll need to meet to achieve your goals. It’s important to also think about the expenses you’re going to incur in order to grow your business.
For long-range planning, I recommend thinking about your expenses in broad buckets such as “marketing” and “product development” without getting bogged down in too much detail. Think about what percentage of your sales you’ll spend on each of these broad buckets. For example, marketing spending might be 20% of sales.
4. Develop a 3-5 year strategic plan
Your goals and growth targets are “what” you want to achieve. Your strategy is “how” you’re going to achieve it.
Use your business plan to document your strategy for growth. You might be expanding your product offering, expanding your market, or some combination of the two. You’ll need to think about exactly how this process will happen over the next 3-5 years.
A good way to document your strategy is to use milestones. These are interim goals that you’ll set to mark your progress along the way to your larger goal. For example, you may have a goal to expand your business nationally from your initial regional presence. You probably won’t expand across the country all at once, though. Most likely, you’ll expand into certain regions one at a time and grow to have a national presence over time. Your strategy will be the order of the regions that you plan on expanding into and why you pick certain regions over others.
Your 3-5 year strategy may also include what’s called an “exit strategy”. This part of a business plan is often required if you’re raising money from investors. They’ll want to know how they’ll eventually get their money back. An “exit” can be the sale of your business or potentially going public. A typical exit strategy will identify potential acquirers for your business and will show that you’ve thought about how your business might be an attractive purchase.
5. Tie your long-term plan to your lean plan
As your business grows, you can use your long-term business plan as your north star. Your guide for where you want to end up. Use those goals to steer your business in the right direction, making small course corrections as you need to.
You’ll reflect those smaller course corrections in your lean plan. Because your lean plan is a simple document and looks at the shorter term, it’s easier to update. The best way to do this is to set aside a small amount of time to review your plan once a month. You’ll review your financial forecast, your milestones, and your overall strategy. If things need to change, you can make those adjustments. Nothing ever goes exactly to plan, so it’s OK to make corrections as you go.
You may find that your long-term plan may also need corrections as you grow your business. You may learn things about your market that change your initial assumptions and impacts your long-range plan. This is perfectly normal. Once a quarter or so, zoom out and review your long-range plan. If you need to make corrections to your strategy and goals, that’s fine. Just keep your plan alive so that it gives you the guidance that you need over time.
Vision setting is the purpose of long-term planning
Part of what makes entrepreneurs special is that they have a vision. They have dreams for where they want their business to go. A 5-year business plan should be about documenting that vision for the future and how your business will capitalize on that vision.
So, if someone asks you for your 5-year business plan. Don’t scramble to put together a sales forecast and budget for 5 years from now. Your best guess today will be obsolete tomorrow. Instead, focus on your vision and communicate that.
Explain where you think your business is going and what you think the market is going to be like 5 years from now. Explain what you think customers are going to want and where trends are headed and how you’re going to be there to sell the solution to the problems that exist in 5 and 10 years. Just skip the invented forecasts and fantasy budgets.
If you’re looking for a better way to explore your business’s future, you may want to check out LivePlan . LivePlan makes it easy to build and update your strategic Lean Plan, set milestones, and connect them to your financial statements. You can better plan for the future by exploring potential scenarios and easily update forecasts based on actual performance. Explore how LivePlan can help you more effectively manage your business while connecting your short-term plans to your long-term vision
Noah is currently the COO at Palo Alto Software, makers of the online business plan app LivePlan. You can follow Noah on Twitter .
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