Most business owners are very good at some part of the business. You might be really good at selling, really creative, or can spot the latest trends a mile off. Conversely, one of the things many business owners are not great at is planning. But there is no getting around it – a strong plan is a necessary tool for success. MOST businesses fail without a plan, and some will still fail if they have written a plan that’s not effective.
Here are our top five steps to ensure your business plan is effective:
- Start with the end in mind, and outline your end goals first. This might be the early retirement or buying a house. Think big! Then following from that end goal, decide your goal(s) for next year. They must all be SMART (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, a Result and Time-scaled).
- Make sure your SMART goals are exciting to you and don’t conflict with one another nor with where you’re heading longer term or in other parts of life. The last thing you want to do is work hard all year, achieve all of your goals and then realize you don’t really care about them or that they were not aligned with your longer term goals.
- Outline the smaller steps needed to reach your goals. These should be steps that are small enough to achieve (which gives you confidence) but big enough to make a positive leap forward toward the overall plan. For example, ‘complete marketing plan’ is very broad, and not specific enough to know the time or steps needed to get it done. With large tasks like this, break them down into smaller bite sized chunks, such as ‘complete first draft of section 1 of marketing plan’ and so on.
- Ensure the plan is realistic. Have you considered holidays, conferences and other things that might “get in the way” of doing the actions in your plan? Have you listed too many tasks for one time, which means you’re unlikely to be able to complete them all? You need to be able to look at the steps in the plan, as well as their timing, and feel a reasonable level of confidence that they can all be completed. Your business plan should make you feel excited, not overwhelmed!
- Ensure that you can track and monitor the progress of every goal within your plan. To do this, ensure that each and every step (or milestone) in the plan is SMAT (different to SMART). That is, Specific, Measurable (so you can see when each step is completed), Achievable and be Time-bound. In an annual plan, this will typically be monthly. In a 90-Day Plan, weekly.
And here are two additional considerations to really make your plan great:
Plan for your own development. You are central to your business’ success, and no doubt your ultimate business goals are beyond what you’ve already achieved. This means you will need to learn new skills, gain new knowledge, new habits, new values and/or new beliefs to reach these goals. In some cases you may even have to re-develop your core identity. Think about all the personal changes you need to make to achieve each step in your business plan, and include all the courses, mentors, training and reading required. All this is part of a winning plan!
Be sure to plan holistically. Your plan should include more than just business-related goals and steps. This is because there is much more to you than just work, so inevitably other things in life will (and should) require your time and attention. Best to factor some ‘life’ into the plan now than resent overworking in the future. Plus, there is no reason that a plan can’t extend to other parts of your life too. If you want success in family life, sport, charity or anything else – you need a solid plan. Honesty is a great thing in business, so take a good honest look at how you will maintain your sanity and happiness once the business starts.
Most people forget these two considerations and just plan their business. Then they end up working too much and not having the great life they could have – partly because they ‘accidentally’ built a plan that told them to!
Finally, take a step back!
Everyone has a choice when creating a plan for business. Are you planning to have a successful and exciting year, or not? What 5 things are you going to do in 2022 that will still be memorable 20 years from now? What exciting things could you add to your plan right now? Start the year with a few of those ‘what will I tell my grandkids’ kind of goals, and you’ll be inspired to create a winning business plan and enjoy a successful year ahead.
Our clients who have used these recommended five steps when creating a business plan, have grown in confidence, reduced their ‘entrepreneurial anxiety’, set goals and achieved success. You can too.