Today I want to share with you some great tips about business plans. No don’t stop reading just yet, just in case that’s giving you the heebie-jeebies!
I have been talking to lots of people recently about the need for a business plan within a small business. Are they actually relevant and a good use of time or are they just corporate bull and wasting time on something that’s going to get shoved in that bottom drawer, never to be seen again?
And even if you love the idea of having a plan, often it’s much easier to write the plan than it is to stick to it and actually make it happen!
So I want to share some tips with you about the relevance of business plans to every size of business, and share some advice about how to write a straightforward plan that you can stick to.
Are business plans relevant to small businesses?
My answer is absolutely yes they are!
They don’t need to be the big complex, tricky, spreadsheet-filled things that a bank would like. They don’t need to be anything like that. They can be very short, very sweet, straight to the point.
Yes, if you want to go borrow money from the bank, then you will need to put together a really comprehensive plan, but if you are not doing that, then actually, this plan is just for you. It doesn’t have to be for the bank or for anybody else.
This is just for you, so you can make it clear, simple, real and accessible. It doesn’t have to be long. It can be one page. A one-page plan is absolutely brilliant in my opinion.
Step 1: Give it time
The first thing you’ll need to do to make this happen is to set aside clear time to work on this because if you don’t do that, it’s going straight back into that big pile of things you really wish you could get around to. What you have got to bear in mind is that this plan is the crux of you growing your business over the next few months.
Without the plan, you’ll be like a jellyfish being pushed around by the ocean current. You’ll be forced around by the tidal waves around you. Whereas having your own plan is going to give you much more focus and direction to keep you on your own track.
Your plan is really important to you and your business and that means it needs some very specific time spending on it. I would recommend that you block out an absolute minimum of three hours to work on your plan. Ideally, I would honestly say, block out a whole day if you can.
It might even help you to go and work somewhere different. Go and find a nice hotel or a lovely café with views of the countryside that stimulate you or motivates you into action. Changing your work environment can be a great way to get yourself really motivated to do this.
Step 2: The duration of your plan
Now you need to define the time period that your plan will cover. Is this a 12-month plan? Is it a five-year plan? A three-year plan?
My personal advice is to make it a nice short three-month plan. The perfect scenario, I believe, is to define some clear 12 month goals and to have a relatively clear (but not necessarily set in stone) picture of where you want to be in three years time. Three or five years can feel such a long time away that trying to pin down specific goals for it can be overwhelming.
It’s great to have a ‘big picture’ overview of what you want the business to look like in three years though. Think about what you want your life to look like at that stage and how you want your typical week to pan out. But that’s as much detail as you need for that far ahead.
You can work towards that big picture by setting more specific 12 month goals and targets that will give you some concrete direction. In a growing business though even 12 months can feel like a huge amount of time, so goals are great but to try and map out a 12-month plan in detail can very much tie you in knots.
So the perfect scenario, in my opinion, is to have clear 12 month targets, supported by a more detailed three-month plan. That’s the type of thing that will actually keep you on track. It will then feel current and real and genuine for you. It’s something that actually drives your decisions daily and weekly in the business.
Step 3: Dodge the detail trap
Once you start to think about the level of detail you need to go into your 3-month action plan, it can be very, very easy to get yourself hugely bogged down. But you don’t need to do that! Your plan doesn’t need the nitty-gritty of detail, it just needs to tell you when you’ll need to work on those details.
For instance, if one of your actions was to develop a clearer social media strategy, your plan doesn’t need to include the detail of that strategy. All it needs to include is an action and a deadline for when you are going to actually write that strategy.
Step 4: Writing the plan
I would recommend that you find yourself a really nice, big workspace for this part. And plenty of paper. Use a separate sheet or page for each of the key areas of your business. Some of the big things that should definitely be included are finances, marketing, sales, and systems if you need to improve around that.
You might also include things like organisation and time management. Possibly delivery of customer service, or product development if that’s key for you. Think about the most critical areas for your own business; those that you know can make a really significant difference.
And then brainstorm. Go for your life and list down everything that you would like to improve about each of those topics.
And then comes the trickiest part.
Getting realistic about what’s actually achievable within the next 3 months!
I promise you that the first time you do this, what you put on that plan will be at least six months worth of work because we’re so eager to get everything done and so optimistic about how much time and capacity you’ve got. When really you haven’t.
So strip it back and focus only on the most important headlines actions for you. Bear in mind, that with a three-month plan, you’ll have four of these plans over the year so you don’t have to pack everything into plan number one!
Make it clear. Keep it simple. Make it achievable and don’t get too bogged down with the detail.
Step 5: Making it happen
There are two key things that you’ll really need to do if you are going to actually make this happen and stick to the plan.
Firstly, you’ll need to keep the plan somewhere visible and handy. If you can put it up on your office wall that’s absolutely perfect. If you don’t have that kind of environment, then keep it somewhere you’ll regularly see it, maybe on your desk or in your notebook. This is definitely not something that you should shove in your bottom drawer never to be seen again!
The final thing you need to do is to book specific chunks of time into your diary every single week for you to go back, look at that plan, review how well you’ve done this week, and exactly what you need to do next week to keep you on track with that plan.
Remind yourself each week why this plan is so important. This is about growing your business. This plan will help you to build the business and create the lifestyle and the legacy that you want. It will also help you to unlock the capacity to deliver the best service to as many people as possible. So it’s actually in your customers best interest for you to dedicate this time to you and your business!
Need more help?
There you have a whole range of tips to help you write your own business plan.
But if you know that you still need more help then get in touch and I can talk to you about that. Or have a look at my Rocket Powered quarterly business planning workshops. in 2019 these are happening on the 7th June, the 6th September and the 6th December.
I would also love to hear from you in the comments below or via a reply to my weekly e-mail to let me know what you thought of this blog/video. If there’s anything in particular that resonates with you about it, or if there’s something that raises extra questions that you’d love me to also issue some tips about.