I’d like you to imagine the following scenario: you’re taking a business trip from San Francisco to London. Once you’re on the plane, the captain comes on the intercom with an announcement: He will be piloting this flight without the assistance of navigation. He hasn’t figured out where you’ll be stopping if he needs to refuel and he’s not exactly sure how to find London without his navigation system, but he’s pretty sure he can figure it out.
You want off the plane, don’t you?
Even though the captain knows where he’d like to end up and will presumably recognize the airport when he gets there, you want him to be able to navigate around obstacles, you want him to know exactly when he’s going to do something critical like refuel, and you want him to be familiar with every step of the way.
It’s the same for your business.
Many make the mistake of trying to operate without a business plan. After all, you know where you are, you know what you are doing, and you know in a general sort of way where you would like to end up.
Isn’t that enough?
As you’ve seen from our pilot example, no, it’s not enough. Not even close.
· You need a business plan to map out all your goals one by one.
· You need ways to measure your success. How many prospects seen each week? How many times did you close the sale? How many networking events did you go to? You need numbers – you need some kind of measurement to know that you are on target, to be able to correct or change what you are doing if you need to adjust,
· You need to know what obstacles you’ll encounter and how you’ll manage them. The most successful businesses know that things will go wrong and plan accordingly. They anticipate complications, delays and unforeseen loses. They have built in reserves of time, resources and ideas.
· You need to know what action steps are necessary along the way. Break it down. What do you need to accomplish each week, month and quarter to have a successful year.
A business plan not only measures your progress, but it also gives you confidence and reassurance when you’re stuck in a bad situation. You can get blown off course, but it’s not hard to get yourself back on track when you know where you should be at any given moment of the journey.
If all the guidance you have to offer yourself is, “I need to get out of this situation,” or “This isn’t good,” then you’re not going to be able to fix it very well.
If you know exactly what you need to do to get back on course, it’s going to be a lot easier.
Businesses with a plan aren’t just better prepared for adversity; they are also more creative, think more broadly, and are more deliberate in anything they do. They are more successful overall.
What makes a good business plan?
Broad goals. You need major milestones that you can work toward, like achieving a certain number of clients or earning a certain amount of revenue. These are your destination points.
Action steps. Once you’ve decided on your broad goals, you need to write down the individual steps necessary to achieve them, and put them in logical order.
Deadlines. You’re going to have a hard time achieving your action steps if you don’t hold yourself accountable. Give every action step a deadline and you’ll be much more likely to succeed.
Track your progress regularly. Look at your business plan often; make adjustments when you have to, but stay on top of it. Some of my clients track their numbers monthly while others track it quarterly. Be consistent. You will find that your business will improve dramatically.
We are in the final quarter of this year. This is the perfect time to think about your goals and aspirations for the future and to start to create a business plan for next year.