Do you really need a business plan?
Some studies I’ve read suggest that yes, you absolutely need a business plan to be successful. Other studies have found that your time and effort is better spent working in and on your business rather than laboring over the creation of a business plan which often leads to frustration and inaction.
I have worked clients who subscribe to both philosophies. Some create a business plan every year. They set goals and objectives and periodically make changes and update their plan throughout the year, Others just shoot from the hip. They let their instincts drive their activity.
Not all business plans are created equally. Some are very simple, a few pages or less, and others are more complex. They both can be effective, but only if they are actively used, monitored, revised and put to good use.
I prefer to take a more practical approach. Whether you call it a business plan or not, I do feel that it is imperative to create a road map of how to get from where you are to where you want to be.
In order to do that, you need to set some goals and then create the action steps you’ll need to take to get there. Yet there is one more element that is critical if you want to achieve those goals, you must be able to track key metrics or indicators to help you determine if you are on target to achieve your goals, and if not, take the corrective action(s) that are needed.
Where to Begin?
A good place to start is to review the past year. What were your previously set goals? Which strategies worked, and which ones did not? What were your successes and disappointments? What did you learn from each?
Using the above information, create your new goals and apply what you’ve learned. What changes do you need to make to your marketing, prospecting, staff, processes, record keeping, attitude, metrics, time management, scheduling, delegating, keeping score, reviewing results, etc.?
Monitor Your Progress Often
Now that you have a plan or road map, determine how you will track whether you are on target or not. What metrics or data will you need to keep providing you with an early warning system that tells you either every is OK, or it’s time to make a course correction?
Reviewing your metrics often is a big key to success. Some metrics need to be tracked daily, others only weekly or monthly. Much more than monthly doesn’t give you enough time to make adjustments and corrections to your plan.
The Continual Performance Improvement Process
Consider adopting the following model as a guide to your on-going success in achieving your goals (take from my book, “What Every Great Salesperson Knows, A No-nonsense Guide to Sales Success”, available from Amazon or as a free PDF from my website).
Step I: Review and/or clarify your mission.
Does your mission statement truly express your core values? If not, revise it. List 4 or 5 concrete
steps you are willing to take to express your core values in your career. In other words, let the
expression of your core values guide your performance improvement.
Step II: Analyze your current situation in terms of your mission.
To start this process, ask yourself these questions:
1. What’s my status today in terms of my mission?
2. What should I accomplish next?
3. Do I need special skills, help or resources to do this? If so, how can I develop and/or acquire
4. Do I have someone I trust to hold me accountable?
Step III: Set long- and short-range objectives for yourself.
Make sure your objectives are: 1) clearly related to your mission, 2) believable, and 3) challenging.
Measure your results in terms of your mission. For example, choose standards that you want to meet in such metrics as quantity, cost effectiveness, impact on your organization, accuracy, completeness and quality.
It is important to make sure that your goals are challenging because achievement requires the improvement of skill. On the other hand, do not set goals that are so high you do not believe you can achieve them. It is better to set smaller goals that make you stretch—but are within reach—than to set goals that are so high you are sure to fail. Each time you achieve a goal, your confidence will grow, and you can gradually set the bar higher and higher.
Also, be sure to set a completion date for your objectives.
Step IV: Schedule the activities you need to take to achieve your objectives.
Make these a priority and do them before any other demands on your time. To help you achieve this, see the Ideal Work Week Exercise in this chapter. (Note: You can also find the Ideal Work Week Exercise in Appendix 1.)
Step V: Implement the activities.
Make a commitment to yourself not to procrastinate. Remind yourself of your core values, your
mission and your vision. Then just do it!
Step VI: Evaluate the results.
Constantly assess what you do. You can’t improve unless you know what you did well and what
you did poorly. Ask for feedback from your manager, customers, and trusted friends and implement their helpful suggestions.
Then repeat the cycle over and over!
Good luck on your journey to success.