Business Planning in Five Simplified Steps
Business planning can be such a daunting and time-consuming task. We know we have to do it and we understand the importance of it, and yet we may find ourselves stuck in the overwhelm that it can bring.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Business planning can be and should be, an invigorating and exciting project for you and your team. It’s about looking at the past and what has worked well and what didn’t go according to plan, and then dreaming about what the future holds. It’s a compelling opportunity to look directly into the future and envision all that is possible for you, your team, your operations, and the business as a whole.
Before You Begin
The first step to achieving business planning success is to free yourself of clutter and distractions and get ready to work ON your business. Get away to a quiet location. Turn off all access to you for at least a couple of hours, if not more.
You should also be prepared to keep all of your business planning in one place, one that you can come back to year after year. Keep a business planning/business vision book and make it a living document that you can add to and change as you grow and your business evolves. This book will be the centre of all your business growth plans and goals.
Once you are ready, sit quietly with your business planning book by focusing on the following:
Step One: Vision
You know the importance of creating your vision. If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there, right?
As an athlete in high school, I remember our coach teaching us the power of visualization, running through our races over and over again, visualizing our run and crossing the finish line with a personal best. Not only did it mentally prepare us for competitions, but it also helped us to get comfortable with what was possible.
The founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, Brian Scudamore, uses what he calls the Painted Picture. It is what guides the entire company year after year towards what we are all working to achieve as a collective. I, as a founding franchise partner, have been part of every Painted Picture since the inception of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?’s franchise growth. It’s what has guided us all along the way. In fact, every year my husband, who is my business partner, and I sit down to look at our own painted picture of what we want our future to look like in our businesses and in our lives. You can read more about Brian and his story in his new book WFT?! (Willing to Fail).
When Cameron Herold, founding COO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? left the company, he modified the Painted Picture into what he calls the Vivid Vision, a formula he uses with his own business and life, and one he shares with clients too. Again, the premise is to envision and create a clear, logical vision of what the future looks like three years down the road. You can read Cameron’s Vivid Vision chapter from his book to learn how to create your own Vivid Vision.
When planning your business and your life, the first step is knowing what is important to you.
· What’s going well in your business and in your life?
· What needs to improve? What do you want to change?
· What do you want to be able to say you have achieved three years from today?
· What outcomes are you creating and want to create with your team and your life too?
A vision board is one way to do this, but focussing on your vision should be results-based – it has to be measurable. You have to be clear on your numbers in terms of where you were last year, how far you have come this year, and where you are headed next year. This could be your revenue goal or the number of employees you will need to be maximizing your operations and delivering the best customer experience, or the overall equipment you will need to ensure your operations are running smoothly and efficiently. It could also be the number of days off you want to take every year or the weight you want to be to feel healthy and well.
Look at where you are today and where you want to be. Quantify the changes you want to create. The numbers will be your milestones and checkpoints along the way. They will also be the indicators of when you have reached your goals.
A word of caution: do not pick random numbers for your goals. Be strategic. Be truthful. Be honest too. You may be ok with $75K/year business as a solopreneur and enjoy the employees or contractors you are managing, but if you want to grow, as an entrepreneur or you are in the role of running operations as a COO or Director of Operations, then you need to take into account several other factors. What impact will a growth goal of 10% or 40% look like for your business? For your operations? For your team? And for your life?
Look at the percentage of growth you want and then work it through your numbers. It’s simple math that will create clarity in your goals.
For example, because we’re looking to double our 1-800-GOT-JUNK?’s revenue by 2020, we had to look at what this would mean for our business, our people, our culture and our lives. We needed to ask ourselves: How are we going to do this? How will it affect each person on our team? How many additional employees and team members would we need to ensure we have for this growth? Do we and our teams have the resources and skills they need to grow to that scale?
We also had to ask ourselves how it would affect our lives as a married couple? As parents too. How would it affect us as business partners?
All of these questions must be asked and are needed in order to reach our revenue goals – they work together but we also need to be realistic in our goals. It’s about being clear about our priorities and what we truly want.
Step Two: Mission
Your mission is the heart of your business and the work that you do (and the way you choose to live your life), whereas your vision is the strategic and is the long-term outcome you seek and want to experience. Your mission is the heartbeat of what draws you to do the work that you do. Some people call it the why of our work, the why of our businesses.
Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why and Find Your Why described this part of business, and life, as the Golden Circle. Knowing the what and how we do things is one thing. Understanding the why is what is most important.
When you are business planning and leaning into the future, ask yourself why it’s important to reach the goals that you seek to achieve? Why is it important to do what you do in the way that you do it? What is at the core of each individual goal? Why does it matter?
Take the time to write it all out – and keep asking yourself, “Why is this important?” You will find that your business plan and the steps to achieve your goals will not solely be rooted in tasks and unfulfilling projects. Instead, each piece of your plan will be rooted in important and meaningful outcomes.
Step Three: Impact
Now that you have a clear vision for the future and you’re absolutely clear about the mission of your work, the next phase of your business plan is all about impact. What problems are you solving? What relief are your bringing to your customers and clients? How are you changing their lives and/or their businesses?
For example, at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? we believe we are not simply removing people’s unwanted items. It goes far deeper than that. What we do brings a deep sense of relief to every client and customer we serve. Whether a client is downsizing, renovating, purging or dealing with the loss of a loved one, the relief they feel knowing their unwanted items are going to be donated to a local charity, recycled or properly disposed of is one of the biggest impacts we make.
The impact you are creating is a central part of your marketing and messaging. You develop your content, hashtags, and strategy around the company’s impact because you want to hit people where they hurt. This is how people will remember you. We are emotional beings and people are looking for solutions to their problems. Your impact helps them solve their problems and knowing what those problems and solutions are will help you develop your plan.
When it comes to the impact you are creating for your life, it’s just as important to sit quietly to determine how you want to be as a person. How do you want others to feel when they are in the same room as you? When they interact with you? When they get to know you? You may not be looking at solutions to their problems, but you are making an impact every time you speak with someone, send or respond to an email, answer the telephone, or sit next to someone at a sports game. The impact you are making and creating is just as important, if not more important, than the impact you are making in your business and through your work.
Get clear about who you want to be with others and live it just as much as you live the impact you are creating in your business and your operations.
Step Four: Tracks and Paths
Your tracks and paths determine the “how” you will reach your goals and create the impact only you can make. The tracks and paths are the how you reach people, get the message out and the how you will grow your business.
What are you creating for people to work with you and develop your revenue streams? What content, products and/or programs are you and your team creating that allow people to know you exist? How will they find you? How will people refer you? You can’t be the best-kept secret. You have to get clear on how you are going to market your business and improve your operations.
You can simplify this by breaking down tracks and paths by theme. For example, for content marketing as an example, break it down by month i.e., January is a month of new starts, so January could be a theme of renewal, March is spring, December is the holidays, etc.
When it comes to operations, what tracks and paths will you use to improve your people? To help them gain more skill and/or perform better? For customer satisfaction, what tracks and paths will you incorporate in your operations for checks and balances to ensure your clients and customers are happy or have a complaint?
Get clear about the tracks and paths that you, your team members and your customers/clients go through and how can you either improve them or add/subtract for better results?
When it comes to your life goals, do the same. What tracks and paths do you want to follow to reach your life goals? Do you need a personal trainer? Or less time on your mobile device and more time outdoors? Do you need to switch gears at 5 pm or 7 pm to be with your family? What tracks and paths will you take to ensure you are reaching your life goals?
Step Five: Execute and Measure
This is where a lot of business, and life, planning fails. We will spend days creating a business plan to develop a strategy, marketing, revenue, etc. and when it comes time to execute it, we follow the first few steps and then forget about it. We may know our metrics and the overall goals, but we’re not using our business plan, the roadmap we created, to track and measure our progress. It’s one thing to put it all down and create an awesome workable plan, but then when it comes time to do the work, to follow the plan and track our results, we no longer use our living document as our roadmap.
When are you going to follow through? When are you going to write that blog post, go to that networking event, follow up with clients, etc.? How will you know what you are doing on a day-to-day business to grow your business, help your people, improve your operations and reach your financial goals is working?
It’s about planning your time and organizing your schedule to include both the execution and the measuring of your results. Structure your schedule for the tasks and tracks and then measure! Measure! Measure!
The same advice for your life goals holds true. You can’t envision a future you want for your life and not execute on what you want and measure your success.
How do you do this? Spend ten to fifteen minutes each day to structure the following day. What are your priorities? What is most important? How will you know when you have achieved what you want and need? What is missing that you need to outsource or seek support? At the end of each week, you should be able to look back and have certain tasks completed and be able to take the time to press pause and celebrate what you have accomplished. Execute and measure.
To recap, you can simplify your business planning by focusing on the following:
- Vision: The “where you are going”, in business and in life. This is not a vision board. This is the actual, measurable direction you are going.
- Mission: This is the “who you are helping and why?”. It’s also the people outside of your business. Who are you impacting? How are you impacting them? Why?
- Impact: What problems are you solving? What pain or challenge are you alleviating? Go to the impactful side of your business and get very clear about this as this is the impact you are making.
- Tracks/Paths: How are you reaching your goals them? What tracks and paths lead you to your vision?
- Execution: This is the most important element and it’s where so many people fail. WHEN are you delivering? Creating? Developing? Executing? And are you measuring? You can create the best laid-out plan but if you don’t schedule and execute the delivery of what you are creating, developing and delivering, and then measuring the results, you will find yourself doing tasks and moving in a direction that has no clear focus, or a result you seek.
Business planning is hard work. But it can be invigorating and exciting too! Lean into the future. Think of what is possible. Create the plan to achieve it and then live it fully, within your company, with your team, and in your life too!