Do you have a business plan that feels like a living, breathing guide for your actions every week? Or is it one of those things that you created once, tucked away nicely in the bottom drawer and have never looked at since?
I know that a huge number of people running their own businesses wish they had a plan, and feel like it’s something they should definitely do, but they simply don’t know where to start. How many pages does it need to be? How much detail should it have? How many years ahead should it forecast? And how can you accurately forecast any of that stuff anyway?
If you’re somebody who feels flummoxed by this stuff then here are some very simple tips to help you get started.
Creating a 3 year focus
I always recommend that people have at least a picture in their mind of what they want their business to look like in 3 years’ time. If your business has been running for a few years then that may not be difficult to do. If you’re fairly new in business then it may feel like you have nothing concrete to base this on so it just feel like you’re making something up.
If that’s the case, don’t get too bogged down, just think about what you would like your working week to look like in 3 years – how many clients would you like to have, what kind of products will they be buying; who else will be part of your team at that stage? Fleshing those things out a little will give you some parameters to start working towards.
Set a 1 year financial target
Ideally you should have some fixed 12 month targets to work towards – income / revenue, profit and your own drawings are the absolute minimum you should set targets for. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that making money is the sole purpose of a business but if it’s going to give you the lifestyle and the personal satisfaction you’re seeking then it really needs to make a profit.
When it comes to your own income people tend to go one of two ways. They either massively undersell themselves and only focus on the bare minimum they need to live on, or they pluck a much bigger, more exciting figure out of the air and aspire to that.
My advice on personal financial targets is to take some time to understand exactly what those targets will give you. Whether you want to Earn £1000, £10,000 or £100,000 per month, what would that income actually mean to you? Who or what would you spend it on? What changes would it make to your lifestyle, to your family, to your community or your preferred charity etc?
Without that level of information you’re likely to find that your target remains a pipe-dream. Whereas when you can connect the target to a purpose that’s bigger than just you or your bank balance your likelihood of achieving it goes up ten-fold.
Break down your sales targets
Once you have your 12 month financial target you can start to work out how many sales you need and at what value those sales need to be. It’s generally easiest to break this down into a monthly target because those figures are easier to handle.
So for me, for instance I would break things down into coaching income versus workshop income. I then calculate how many coaching clients I need on my weekly package and how many on my fortnightly or monthly packages to hit my target for coaching income.
For my workshops I have half day and full day events so I’d look at how many paying delegates I’d need at each of those rates to help me hit my targets.
Flesh out the details
Now that you know what your financial targets are each month and which products you need to sell to hit those targets you can start to look at the specific actions that will help you get there. I would recommend that you create quite a detailed week by week plan for the next 3 months, and a very broad outline for the following 9 months. Think about which kind of customers you want to work with; what sort of systems or processes you need to make sure everything stays on track and is as efficient as possible.
Plan your marketing for the next 3 months. Which social media platforms will you focus on; how often will you post and what kind of content will that be? Think about networking events, referral strategies, alliances, mailshots, blogs etc. Don’t feel like you have to plan 75 different marketing strategies though, a couple of things done consistently well will be far more effective than 15 strategies done badly! Keep it simple.
Stay on track
There are 2 simple strategies that will help you stay on track. The first is to block out some time in your diary once a week to go back though your week by week plan, review your progress and plan for the following week. The other thing is to identify the small habits that will help you work towards your goals every single day. Which might be producing content, contacting 2 new prospects, following up your networking etc. There are often very small actions that will go a huge way to helping us hit our targets if we stick to them consistently every day.
I’d also recommend you create something like a really straightforward excel spreadsheet to keep track of your activity levels and see how well you do with those intended daily actions. Again, this will help you stay on track, but it will also help you see exactly where things are falling down if you’re not hitting the intended targets.
So there you have it! A straightforward way to create a business plan that you can do in half a day to a day.
If you still feel flummoxed by the whole idea of a business plan but crave the clarity that having one would give you then get in touch and ask me about my next business planning workshop.