Are you Planning for Success?
OK, this sounds like a really obvious question … but let’s explore it a little deeper. Over the past decade I’ve literally spent thousands of hours with small business owners. Some have bricks and mortar businesses, some are 100% online and some are somewhere in between. The one thing that over 90% of those businesses had in common when I met them was that they didn’t have a business plan.
Now I must confess … I’m a bit of a planning nerd. I love planning, especially if I can do it with one or two mastermind buddies. But regardless of if you love it, hate it, or simply don’t feel you have time for it … I’m here to tell you that you need it. A bit like breathing, it’s not optional.
Operating a business without a plan is akin to playing a game of football without goal posts … you simply can’t win. It’s hard to know where to start and finish, what actions to take along the way, when you’ve achieved your goals, and when to celebrate success.
If you don’t currently have a business plan, that’s OK because I’m fairly confident you would have most of the ingredients ready to insert into a planning framework. Knowing where to start and what to include can be one of the major barriers to having a plan. The other perceived hurdles are that “it will take weeks”, and “It will cost a fortune to pay someone to write a business plan for me”.
So let’s discuss those hurdles first. The Time Hurdle … writing a business plan won’t take weeks. It won’t take days. It will take a few hours of dedicated focus. The other great news is that you don’t need a big budget to write a business plan. In fact I strongly recommend that you don’t hire ANYONE else to write your plan … it’s your plan and should be written by you. The process of thinking about your goals, writing down the strategies and actions, and getting clear on the outcome is part of the process. Outsourcing your business plan is like outsourcing your goal setting. You might like to invest in a good planning template to make the job easier, but apart from that there’s no need to spend money. I have a template that you can check out here, or have a look around and see what you can find that suits your needs.
So what should you include in the Plan? If you ask 100 people this question you could get 100 different answers, but this is what I like to include in my plan:
- Background Information on your business. This is particularly important if you need to use your plan to get funding, apply for grants, or meet with professional advisors;
- Market Research. Things like the problem you’re solving, your ideal customer, and even some competitor research if you have it.
- Your BIG goals … be as specific as you can here. I keep 12 month plans, and therefore I include 12 month goals, but if you like to plan for longer periods of time just break the goals down into 12 month chunks.
- Next I like to list the various areas that make up my business. Things like Governance; Products, Services or Apps; Human Resources (if you have staff or volunteers); Professional Development; Partnerships, etc.
- Your Strategic Direction(s) come next. This allows you to look at each of those areas of your business (item 4 above) and write your strategic objectives around each. A lot of people struggle to come up with these on their own, so I’ve included examples throughout the planning template. You could also google for ideas.
- Now start getting specific with actions required to achieve those strategic objectives. This is a brain dump of all of the things that would need to happen to achieve each of your goals & objectives. You can work backwards here. If the goal was to increase your database to 30,000 within 12 months, what would you need to have done by 9 months; 6 months and the 3 month mark? Things like creating lead magnets (free opt-ins like cheatsheets, infographics, checklists, “top 10 tips to sell your home faster” … that type of thing); facebook campaigns; and regular blog content could all go on the action list.
- Finally create a detailed quarterly action plan to implement those actions. Just like your goals, the actions need to be specific, measureable, achievable, realistic (within your human and financial resources) and timed (ie put a timeframe on them). So get that brain dump and place each action into one of the 4 quarters. Print this part out and keep somewhere that you can refer to it often.
I like to include a summary cash-flow budget as well, but it’s not essential as long as you have a budget elsewhere.
That’s it! If you follow that formula you’ll have a business plan in no time.
There’s one final activity for you to complete:
Please write your goals as if they’ve already happened and put your goals somewhere that you’ll see them every day
As I said, I’ve created a planning template. Its essentially a paint by numbers plan that offers examples and tips in each section. So whether you love planning like I do, or it makes your eyes glaze over, this framework will work for you.
Have a wonderful day!
Tara O’Connell is creator of the globally successful App “The Baby Diaries”, now downloaded on every Continent in 15 languages; and creator of her signature training program “Shine Online” where she helps small business owners to achieve and enjoy success by implementing online strategies to stand out from the crowd and have customers choose you. Tara is an award winning entrepreneur, author, speaker and CEO at Tara-OConnell.com where she inspires and empowers female entrepreneurs around the world to take action and achieve business success.