Would you rather re-file old tax returns than write a business plan? Or would you prefer to clean your windows (outside, not just in) than write a quarterly plan? Or perhaps you’d prefer to engage with door-to-door Jehovah’s Witnesses, inviting them in to discuss the finer details of theology, than plan your next month?
If so, I wrote this for you.
Planning in business is seriously smart if you want more than where you’re currently at. As the Henry Ford quote goes, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
But no, you don’t need to put on your serious pants (or any pants), to do effective business planning.
If you’re ready to step it up and be more proactive in your business development, here’s my guide to essential small steps towards big strides in your business.
Forget what everyone else is doing
If you’re a sucker for those “13 essential things productive people do first thing in the morning”-type articles, but you’re implementing little or nothing of what you read, it’s time to call this what it is – fancy procrastination. Reading about productivity and planning is very different to being productive and good at planning.
First up: reject template advice.
It’s your unique business. You’re an individual with particular goals and objectives. What’s the point aspiring to emulate a business person who’s running a multi-million dollar business when you’d be thrilled to earn $100,000 working 25 hours a week, with taking five weeks off per year? Your business model is also hugely influential on your profit potential so you’re wasting time comparing different business models and feeling bad about your business.
That’s why the first of the twelve steps in the Non-Planner’s Business Plan is owning what you want. By focusing on what you want from your business (not what everyone else is doing), you’re cutting out the clutter and noise of other people’s businesses.
Focus on shorter planning periods
As a non-planner, it’s somewhat useless trying to write a five-year plan, or even a year-long plan. Instead, focus on smaller increments of time, and move up to longer planning periods as you become better at planning.
I suggest having monthly income goals and weekly planners (some clients like to break their monthly income goals into their week planners; it depends on the type of business you have). Even a weekly planner may be overwhelming for non-planners.
No matter how competent the planner, everybody gets distracted and needs to refocus sometimes. Within each day (and on some shockers, within each hour or minute), there are multiple ways we distract ourselves.
One of the most common way that business owners get distracted is being preoccupied with ‘busywork’ – low value activities that aren’t focusing on bringing long-term, strategic goals into reality.
If you don’t plan because you’re way too busy, then it’s likely you need planning more than anyone. First, write a list of things you’re going to stop doing. Then delete, delegate or automate.
It’s easy to get stuck in busywork for years. It takes both insight and discipline to be (sometimes cuttingly) honest with yourself and change bad habits.
Keep your leads coming
I’ve just returned from six weeks overseas, and with only one client engagement booked in the next month, it’s easy to start feeling anxious about lack of work. But in the space of a week, I’ve had one new business coaching client book in and two more business coaching clients inquire, plus two people seeking a website design quote.
All of these leads have been cultivated over time: the new business coaching client first inquired about coaching one year ago after having been referred. And the other four inquiries have each been on my email list for several years.
Being in business means committing to a regular routine of marketing – ideally, content marketing that focuses on useful, valuable and (perhaps most importantly) relevant information that is specifically designed to attract people most suited to your business. Not everyone who’s on your email list will become clients.
But it’s likely they’re paying more attention to you than you may appreciate – and each individual needs a different amount of time (and a slightly different type of information) before they engage your business.
Commit to regular marketing, focus on the number of leads your marketing attracts, and your conversion rate.
Everything worthwhile takes longer than you appreciate
Of course, tomorrow you may have a serendipitous encounter that leads to a dream client or gig. But you know that’s also unlikely, yes?
Every worthwhile dream or goal takes far longer to actualise than we tend to appreciate. Relationships develop at their own pace. Some clients will inquire or seek a quote, and return to you months or years later. Never underestimate whether or not a particular marketing activity was “worth it” – you never know who and how you’re impacting people.
Planning ensures that you’re actively preparing for the best case scenario, keeping leads coming into your business and getting clear and focusing on going after what you want. Surely that’s worth it.