“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” (Alan Lakein)
Business planning is a key component in running a successful business. It does not matter whether you are a one man shop or a large corporation, in order to succeed at business you must plan. If you do not get into the habit of planning from the beginning, success will probably elude you.
A business plan is a road map that will keep you focused and your business on track. Without it you can get easily distracted and branch out in multiple directions that may or may not serve you, and will often eat up time, energy, and other resources. A solid business plan helps you communicate more effectively with employees, customers, partners, and in your marketing efforts.
What Is Your Business?
Too many people start a business with only a vague idea of what they want to do and how the business will work. That is a sure-fire strategy for failure. To survive and thrive you must be clear on your goals with an outline of specific action steps.
Get the big picture in place and have it as well defined as possible. Then, identify how the business should operate on a daily basis. Be specific in how your services/products will meet your customers’ needs. What actions will generate revenue and where will the profits come from? If you can’t make a profit, don’t bother starting the business. It simply is not worth it and the business will not survive.
Set SMART(ER) Goals
Set your goals the SMART way. This is an acronym that helps you create goals that work.
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Achievable
R – Relevant
T – Time-bound
In other words, make sure your goals are specific. Do not write “pie-in-the-sky” goals that are difficult to grasp, for example, “The business will be successful in 18 months.” Instead, it should be something like, “The business will be generating $1,000/month profit within 18 months.”
They must be measurable, in order to tell if you have reached them, or not; achievable (realistic and reasonable to that you can actually reach them); relevant to your business (don’t laugh, you would be surprised how often people get off track with their goals); and the goals must have a deadline (time-bound), which helps you stay focused and gives you a sense of direction.
If you want even SMARTER goals, you should add E for Ethical. Plan to do things right and for the right reasons. Ethical actions always pay off in the long run, so setting ethical goals puts you in the good guy column in my opinion. The last one is R for Recorded. Write down your goals and refer to them often to help you stay on track.
Goals are the milestones that get you to your destination. Not only do they give you direction, telling you what needs to be done on a daily and weekly basis, they also give you a sense of achievement when you reach them that keeps you motivated to keep working toward your long-term goals.
Set Long-term Goals First
Set your long-term goals first. What would you like to accomplish in one, two, or three years, go as far out as you are comfortable. Those should be your large overarching business goals, which you will reach by setting smaller sub-goals along the way.
Break-down Long-term Goals into Smaller Increments
Large, long-term goals can be daunting, but not so much if you break them into more manageable pieces. Break them down into quarterly, monthly, and weekly goals, until you have specific action steps that you can accomplish on a daily and weekly basis. Keep in mind the old saying about “how to eat an elephant” – ONE bite at a time. Goals are exactly the same.