What's Your Plan?

’Tis the season…for business planning. And if you’re like most leaders and entrepreneurs the thought of sitting down to begin your business plan for the upcoming year can be enough to find a million different excuses to put it off just a little while longer. Or, like many of us, the notion of walking around with all of our ideas and thoughts in our heads is enough assurance that we aren’t really procrastinating….as much. 

One of the most frequent comments I hear about business plans is how overwhelming they can be. The idea of having to sit down and “formally” put something together. The fact that it’s always best to get the whole team in one place to discuss ideas and visions. The mere thought of “plugging” sentences, graphs and numbers into a this-looks-like-all-the-others template is far from motivating or exciting, even for some of the most creative thinkers.

I say throw out the business plan template. Get rid of the boring fill-in-the-blanks business outlines, and move away from going back and just updating last years’ plan with new goals.

Business planning can be, and should be, fun, insightful and motivating.

As you prepare to face the planning process, try and keep the following in mind: 

1.  Once developed, business plans should be revisited throughout the year.  At least once a  quarter. Your business plan is your working document. It’s not something that you create to simply go through the motions and then toss into a drawer. Nobody is going to slap you on the hand for making sensible and measurable updates to a plan that aligns to the overall success of your team or business. It is NOT a set it and forget it activity.

2. Your business plan should be a blend of ideas, goals, partnerships and passions all coming together.  This is your chance to not only outline what you want to do, but how you will do it, and who will help you get there. One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is only including their own vision in a business plan, without any inclusion of their team and partners. Sustainable goals will take a village - so include them in your process and plan. 

 As for passions: if you don’t enjoy it, ask yourself why it’s a part of your business model and plan. Are you interacting with the right circle of people? Are you getting enjoyment from the work you’re doing? If not, is it time to change your centers of influence or your target market?  Is there a way to bring something you’re passionate about to the work you do?

 3. Your plan should be simple enough to keep your ultimate goals at the forefront.  Simplicity is the name of the game these days. Having the ability to easily articulate your team or business goals will be critical when sharing with others - especially leaders, clients and prospects. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that bigger is better when building out your plan. So you only came up with two pages of ideas, goals and measures? So what. A business plan done right is not meant to become a black hole where all ideas, thoughts and goals disappear behind data, graphs and numbers. Your business plan should be the brag book of your future. 

4. Ensure your plan has a clear path for implementation. It’s great to be able to identify what  it is you want to do, but don’t leave out how you will do it. Sometimes the best plans are live  sketches illustrating goals and their corresponding paths drawn side-by-side where lines and  circles excitedly occupy the paper. It is always important to outline how you will reach a goal -  for if you don’t reach it, you can always look back to see where you got off track. 

5. Always circle back to past and current plans. Sometimes the most exciting thing about  creating a new plan is the idea of getting to leave the old one behind. Totally fair. Just make sure that you are including anything that has or is currently working that should also be     included in your future plan, and note the goals and ideas you want to adjust or change for the future. A lot of big ideas take time, let your business plan be documentation of how your pie-in-the-sky thoughts have evolved. 

Happy planning!