Sometimes we fly by the seat of our pants, simply because we don’t feel we have the time to create a focused business plan. This is okay; we can still often get to where we are going, but the lines are seldom straight, that path often quite bumpy. I am here to extol the virtues of creating a business plan – whatever that means to you.
September is a month to re-focus and channel our energies into creating the kind-of life we want. Use the last days of August to define what that life really looks like, and to set out a plan that outlines your business goals and how you are going to achieve them. There are platforms online for building a formal business plan, and these are likely necessary (and helpful) if you need to secure investors in your business) but if you run a sole-proprietorship like I do where my work product is my asset, then you likely have never written a business plan. So here I am going to outline how you can still generate the benefits of having something down on paper.
Get a handle on your cash flow by keeping a spreadsheet of not only the money you are making each month, but the money you expect to make in the months ahead. This will help you tremendously to budget for household and business expenses and to take an honest look at how much you are making, and where you might improve on your cash flow. It could be a simple spreadsheet built in Excel.
Keep a journal, in your office or at your bed side, where you write down daily goals. Make these your mantras each day. I like to take 5 minutes at the start of my day to set my intentions – what do I want to accomplish that day. These goals include specific work tasks, but they also include general ambitions. We get so good at writing to-do lists, but we forget about the big picture. How can I use today to work toward achieving my life goals.
Which brings me to the second part of this advice: create life and work goals. When I worked in the corporate world, we had regular retreats where we worked on goal setting for our department. I loved those retreats outside of the four walls of the office. I try to replicate those, even for my own one-person business. Take an afternoon, turn off your phone and sit in a coffee shop, park or even just your backyard. Brainstorm ways to improve your business, and clarify what you want to achieve in the months ahead. Goals should be S.M.A.R.T: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
With your big picture goals in place, break them down into smaller achievements. Begin each day by reviewing your goals, and asking yourself “What can I do today to help me achieve my goals?”
3. Get Support
Go into business planning mode and begin to recruit the help of others. Ask a few friends to meet with you over copy (entice them by saying you’ll buy). Talk about your business with them and ask them for feedback on how you might improve. Send a survey to your clients, ask them to offer you thoughts on how the business relationship is going, and places you could do better. Often we feel isolated as sole business owners, when in fact we should reach out toward the support of our friends, family and clients. Build a network of other entrepreneurs in your area, attend networking events and call on those people to help you set some actionable goals for your company.
The first week of September is a perfect time to plan a little retreat – get out your notebook and start mapping out what your best business, and even ideal life, looks like.