A practical approach to developing a business plan: Dr Santie von Below 

Assert Media Session 

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When you have a plan, the vision becomes clear. 

WHO IS DR VON BELOW

Dr Santie von Below with Assert Media

Dr. Santie is a fintech consulting founder with 30 years of experience providing strategic decisions and directions for SMMEs. She has facilitated numerous business plans and is fully vested in leadership and team development. Dr. Santie presents workshops in strategic management, leadership, entrepreneurship, and cultural diversity management.

She has a strong academic background, has published in her fields of expertise, and received her doctorate in strategic leadership with a specialization in global consulting from Regent University in 2019. Married since 1992, she is the mother of five adult children and enjoys tennis, gardening, and playing the piano.

In this session, we engage her to share her insights on the relevance of business plans to anyone looking to achieve business success.

Contemplating the importance of a business plan. 

We will not be assertive or know what we stand for if we don’t have a plan. I always go back to a childhood story, Alice in Wonderland. Alice was dreaming and meandering on a path, looking left, looking right. She met the Cheshire cat, who asked her, “Where are you going?” Alice asked, “Which way should I go?” The cat said, “That depends on where you are going.” “But I don’t know,” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” replied the cat.

Sometimes we are dreaming, not paying attention to the direction where we are going. We’re uncertain which way we should go. If we don’t know where we are going then it doesn’t matter which way we go.

Why then would we want to have a business plan?

If you see an architect’s drawing of a house, a garden, trees, and an image of the finished product, what comes to your mind? How does that relate to a business plan? Think in terms of your organization, your company, or your project. Do you think there’s a correlation between this architectural drawing and the image of the house?

Imagine building a house without a plan – it would never match the picture in your head. That’s why a business plan makes your vision clear.

When there’s no plan

No plan? Expect confusion, conflict, and sadness when your dream doesn’t become reality. If you care about your project or business, put in the daily effort to make a plan. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it gets everyone on the same page.

A plan is essential for collaboration. Without it, your team is in the dark, and important stakeholders won’t get involved. You might be surprised by how many people it takes to make things happen. Think about all the stakeholders in your business – suppliers, shareholders, maybe even head office.

Why make a business plan?

  • Find your team: A plan tells you who you need to work with for success. That’s true whether you’re starting a business or already working in one.
  • Make good decisions: A plan is your roadmap. Without it, there will be no budgets or control. Things can get messy. A plan saves money and helps you use resources wisely.
  • See your goals clearly: What does success look like? A plan outlines your desired outcomes.
  • Measure what matters: You can’t hit a target if you don’t know what it is. A plan lets you measure progress and celebrate your team’s wins.
  • Build a positive workplace: A good plan prevents a toxic work environment. It sets a proactive tone and helps everyone work together towards shared goals.
  • Lay a strong foundation: Just like a tall building needs a solid base, your business needs a plan for progress.

Already have a successful plan? 

Perfect. That shows the power of planning. Take time to assess what works, what doesn’t, and where you want to go next. A plan is always worth the effort.

Empowering aspects of creating a formal business plan

Sometimes we miss things during planning – maybe we forget about risks, necessary resources, or even what our stakeholders want. Imagine how Coca-Cola focuses on water conservation – they realized how essential water is for their business. We can all learn from that. A good business plan helps us be a strong team invested in shared goals.

What IS a business plan? 

It’s a formal document outlining your vision, mission, market, goals – everything that makes your business tick.

“Formal” means treating it with respect. A sloppy plan shows a sloppy business.

But even if you’re starting solo, a plan makes it real. Think of Susie, our bead artist. The moment she gets that file and writes “Susie’s Beads” on the first page, she’s no longer just dreaming – she’s a business owner. That confidence boost is huge. She can plan her time, create her jewelry, expand her product line… all because she started with a formal plan.

Even if you don’t have a computer yet, write your plan by hand. It still counts. A plan is a plan, and it’s the first step to making your business dreams a reality. You can do this.

Who makes the plan?

The responsibility for the plan lies with the founder, owner, or senior management. If they don’t take ownership, they’re setting themselves up for failure. So, welcome to the business planning club.

But what if your plan didn’t work? Or you’re just starting out? The best time to review your plan is anytime things feel stuck, but definitely before your next financial year. I do mine every March. For smaller businesses, you should be updating your plan constantly. Keep it visible, like this ring, “file”,  so it’s always on your mind.

Remember, your plan should be for a specific time period. The more unpredictable things are, the shorter that period should be.

Who’s responsible for putting the plan together? Founders, owners, senior managers, or directors (for big companies). But here’s the key: the plan starts with customer needs. Get that information from your frontline staff, because customers are the ones who pay the salaries. Involve your whole team in this process.

Your business plan is meant to help you dream, create a better future, and maybe even inspire you to help others. Don’t be afraid to clean up, fix things, or try something new.

Why bother with a business plan? 

Because your work matters. It should make a difference for both others and yourself. Maybe it even sparks a new project to help your community.

Do what you love/research (Get your business plan)

To make your plan a success, start with market research. What do customers need? For small businesses, don’t forget the founder’s skills and passion. Susie shouldn’t start a bead business if she hates jewelry. Think about what you love – maybe it’s baking or gardening. In bigger companies, analyze your data carefully.

Think outside the box. How can you solve problems and try new things? Maybe your restaurant needs an exciting new hamburger to stand out. Get your team involved – ask for feedback and ideas.

Don’t be afraid to dream big. I get so bored with coffee shops that only have the same old cakes. What about something unique? Be creative, even with simple things like a new topping for your hamburger.

Remember, your business plan should answer: Who, what, where, when, how, and why. This is your roadmap to success.

Answer the questions/do something different (Get your plan)

Your business plan answers: who, what, where, when, how, and why. Get those questions down, and you’re almost done.

Don’t forget to be creative. Like those restaurants that change up the plating, or the coffee shop that used grated carrot on their cake – it makes such a difference. Sometimes, creativity can even save you money.

Look at the big picture. That bakery started with the farmer planting grain. Your plan starts with resources, then products, then happy customers, and it all builds a sustainable business.

Think about your area. What resources do you have? Even with a little money, you can get started. Sell hamburgers, grow veggies on your roof…there’s so much potential. Even if you don’t run the business, you can help – wash dishes, slice onions – and be a part of the team’s success.

So, your next step is simple: Start planning or revise your plan today. If you want help, I offer coaching and a supportive cohort. This isn’t an expense, it’s an investment in your business future. Contact me, and let’s get started.

Questions for Dr Santie (And her answers)

Q: People are often afraid to start a business because they fear failure. How can they overcome this?

A: I totally get that. Here’s the thing:

  • Start small. Less risk, less fear. Sell one cake, not a whole bakery.
  • Collaborate. Working with others reduces your fear.
  • Get help. Coaches, consultants, groups–they’ll show you you’re not alone. It’s like having your first baby – scary, but millions have done it before you.

Q: You mentioned starting a business with very little money. That seems impossible for many of us focused on big goals. Can you talk more about those baby steps?

A: Absolutely. I love the electric kettle example. Someone helps entrepreneurs by giving them one kettle to sell, then two, and so on. It builds businesses. My focus is the same: start small, build confidence, take that leap of faith.

Q: It sounds like you’re also a bit of a motivational speaker. That line, “no use putting people in trees, teach them to climb” is so powerful.

A: Haha, you’re right. I believe in building people up. That’s why I want to do a cohort, where you bring your project and we build it together, step by step. The idea is for you to learn the skills to then go out and help others too. Working together, we can make sure no potential gets left behind.

Q: Could a business plan bring hope?

A: 100%.  The Xhosa word “tempa” means hope, and that’s what a good plan can give you. Hope for a better future.

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