One of the buzz words you hear often in small business circles is "business plan." Those words are akin to "making a budget" in my book! If you want to turn me off quickly, ask me to put together a business plan. But reality dictates some things in life are necessary. You don't get in the car to go somewhere if you don't know where you are going, do you? Well, you can't get very far with your business either if you don't know where you want to end up.
My departure from SoCal last summer was an orchestrated madness that demonstrates what business plans are meant to do. For more on my trip planning, check out my Squidoo Lens on the right. I planned and replanned that trip. Nothing seemed to work. Finally it hit me --- the problem was I was starting in the wrong place. I was starting in San Diego and working forward. What I really needed to do was START WITH MY DESTINATION and work backwards. Once I did that, things fell in place --- granted it scared me to death when I realized how tight the planning needed to be and what was really involved with getting from Point A to Point B by the target date, but in the end it gave me the roadmap I needed to successfully acquire the coach and tow it back to Missouri, where all my personal things were waiting for me.
You Can't Succeed If You Don't Know What You Want!
Reality Check: What do you really want from your business? If you don't know what you want, how will you know when you are successful? You can't get there from here if you don't know where you are going.
It's easy to lose our direction when we are slogging in the trenches everyday. We work and work and work --- we work so hard that surely we must be succeeding, right? WRONG! If you are working at the wrong things, YOU WILL NOT SUCCEED.
Time for another list:
- What market do you want to be serving in 6 months?
- What product do you want to be providing in 6 months?
- What is your ultimate DREAM for this business? One year from today, what do you want to be able to say about your business?
- Divide the monthly amount by 30 to find out how much income you need to bring in each day of each month. Granted, you will have days where you will bring in nothing and days when you will bring in the equivalent of one week's work. But if you break it down into days, it will seem more manageable in terms of planning.
- What must you do each day to accomplish this? Make phone calls; drop off brochures; make product to sell?
- Based on your hourly rate (if you sell product vs. services, you should know your hourly rate based on the price of your product and how long it takes you to produce it) how much time must you devote to this endeavor each day? Block that time on your calendar as your first job each day. Once you have done what you MUST do each day, you may move on to other projects.
- How are you going to approach that market? What/who is the key to unlocking that avenue?
- Who do you know who can help you become more visible to prospective clients in arena?
- What groups could you join which might give you access to that market?
- Working backwards on your calendar, plot out time slots for appropriate meetings and events which will help you make this transition
- Do you need more training? Where will you get that training? How soon is that training available? How long will it take? When can you reasonably foresee being qualified in that new arena? Plug that training into your calendar and highlight the completion date.
- Do you need to make a product prototype? Who will make the prototype? How long will it take? What equipment/materials/skills are necessary. Are they readily available or must you order them? Plug these dates and time-frames into your calendar.
- What separates your business today from your business in that dream?
- What will it take to accomplish that dream? Break it down in baby steps --- we have to walk before we can run.
- If your dream involves a move, start by researching the new location on the web; send for information and brochures; make contact with a related professional group in that area and see if you can open lines of communication.
- If your dream involves expansion of your current situation or working less time and delegating more work to others, figure out what manpower will be necessary to support that dream. Start planning to build your current business to the point where it will sustain the necessary manpower.
- Will you make them? Will someone else make them?
- Are you or others skilled enough to provide the necessary product stream on a consistent basis?
- Build time into your calendar to research any of these applicable issues and the time/moves necessary to accomplish each goal.
Look At That Calendar!
Once you have gone through the above steps, stand back and look at your calendar for the next year. That is your business plan. You may need to flesh out the entries a bit. But at the very least, you have an idea where you are headed. You have a road map. Without such a map, you are headed nowhere fast. You can't get where you are going if you don't know where that is!