I really wanted to simply call this “Don’t Waste Your Time with Plans” but was afraid you’d get the wrong idea.
I don’t mean “Don’t develop plans.” I mean, if you are going to develop and manage plans, do it in a productive manner.
You can do better…like by a lot
One of the reasons I think so many business owners and leaders don’t have business plans is that someone gave them some bad advice, or set a bad example, somewhere along the way…and now they just can’t see the value – even though the data supports the notion that business plans increase your odds of success – like by a lot.
But one sure way to waste your time with a plan is to fail to do the foundational work that becomes a litmus test for everything you do going forward.
Build a foundation
Before you spend any time developing a plan, first build the foundation for your business. What’s the foundation consist of? Simple. 3 key ingredients, including:
- Your Vision Statement. This is how you see things, ideally, out in to the future. See Amazon’s vision statement for a good example.
- Your Mission Statement. This states in simple terms what you do. A sentence. Two at most. What you do.
- Your Purpose Statement. This is why you do what you do. The emotional hook that gets you and your stakeholders excited.
Many people struggle with defining these three statements. At first, it sounds easy. But then you realize it really requires some deep, critical thinking and often requires a lot of inner reflection. It may also require a lot of discussion with your friends, family and advisors.
But a key to remember…these are yours. No one else’s. Don’t let anyone define them for you.
Next, build the frame. The frame is made up of your long term goals and objectives. Goals support the vision, but in and of themselves are immeasurable. They are simply big lofty things you want to achieve.
Muhammad Ali famously declared “I am the greatest!”
That’s a perfect example of a goal. How do you know you are the greatest? Through measurable objectives like: winning the title a number of times, holding the title a number of years, scoring a number of knock-outs by a certain round in each fight (on average).
You have to do the same for your business. Define the measurable objectives that support your big lofty goals.
Now Get Busy
Once you have laid the foundation and the frame, you are ready to get down to some serious business planning and you are far less likely to waste your time.
One last bit of advice – make your plans actionable. That means, define actual initiatives and action steps you will take to tackle your plan. Track and update things as you go. Plan to manage, but manage the plan.
Don’t stop game planning when the game begins
I hate it when people say they only need to develop a plan once, then they get the loan or start the business and throw the plan away. That is a way to ensure you do not maximize the benefits of planning.
Think of it this way. A football coach walks in to a game with a game plan. With the first snap of the ball, the coaching staff makes adjustments to the game plan, and continues to do so throughout the game, until the last second ticks off the clock.
We wouldn’t think of coaching a game any other way. So why do we think it’s a good idea to start a business with a plan, then toss it aside on opening day – or ever?
As with sports, keep adjusting the plan until the day you shut the doors for good.
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