Writing a business plan – how do you actually do it without pulling your hair out?

It’s so easy NOT to do a business plan.

Initially, I didn’t do plans for lots of the businesses I owned. I wanted the “freedom” of being a lifestyle business owner, doing what I liked instead of having to commit to a set plan.

Ha – I can laugh now!

But in the back of my mind I always knew that there had to be more to running a small business than only doing the things I liked or was competent at.

I was doing the classic 3 “D”s of business plan avoidance. Maybe you recognise them?

  1. Dodge it – it’s too hard, I don’t know how to do it
  2. Deny it – I don’t need one I’ll just keep bouncing along
  3. Demonise it – will it be written in blood? What if it doesn’t work?

Once I got serious about writing a business plan, I started looking for ways to do it, but everything I came across sounded dry dusty and boring. It seemed overwhelming, and the advice I was getting was “just do it” – “But HOW do I do it?” I kept asking.  Surely this should be enjoyable? I was creating my bright future.

Finally I decided, like most things in my life, that if I was going to write a plan that made sense to me and got me excited about my business and the direction I wanted to head in, I’d just have to make my own process.

More about that in a minute.

Let’s talk about you and The 5 Necessary and 1 Optional Steps to Writing a Business Plan

Here’s the thing – you are writing a plan for YOUR future; if it’s not exciting and compelling, if it doesn’t make you jump out of bed each day eager to get at it then there’s something wrong.  Check point 2 below.

How do you tackle writing a business plan without getting overwhelmed?

Let’s ferret around in your head to flush out ideas and thoughts.

If you’re a visual kind of person capture it on paper or on a compute; can it be doodled, drawn or mind-mapped? Use this process to dump down ideas with no commitment yet to time or sequence.  You might not get to use everything.

Once you’ve got some ideas down start teasing it out into 1 to 5 year time slots. You can’t do everything at once; multitasking rarely works. You can’t predict the future, but you can make projections and educated guesses backed up with any data you have.

Begin by breaking it down to bite sized pieces so that you do one thing at a time.

Start with these five steps and then the optional step.

(OR… cut to the chase and scroll down for the shortcut)

  1. What’s the purpose, the main objective of writing a business plan? Start thinking about the lifespan of your business: why you’re in it and who you serve. Is it a long term proposition or are you cashing in on a fad? Could it be a jumping – off point for other business ideas. Will you keep it or sell it? Your ideas may change over a period of time but start with a direction.
  2. Who is the plan for? Primarily it’s for YOU to help you identify the opportunities available to you and the obstacles you could encounter. Don’t do a business plan to impress someone else, do it honestly and authentically for yourself then, if you need finance or partners, you can confidently submit it to someone because you’ve taken time to think about every aspect of your business.
  3. How long will it take to write the plan? That’s up to you and what you have the time and patience for. Don’t get too detailed but also don’t skip over important parts. Decide on a timeline for completion, set dedicated time aside and then dive into it. It could take you a few hours or a day or two.
  4. Gather your resources. Have financial reports to hand and any other information you have about your customers, marketing etc. They will help you make informed decisions about goals, targets and strategies.
  5. What should NOT be in your plan? Things will change as you implement strategies so you want your plan to be flexible enough to go with the flow. Getting into too much micro detail for the long term could trip you up. Set intentions and lean into your plan rather than make “absolute must” statements. i.e. “We must be the number 1 supplier of x product by x date” will make you stressed and overwhelmed.
  6. (Optional step) Taking action – the 90 day plan. You’ve looked into the future, now bring it closer to home. How much of your plan can you realistically accomplish in the next 90 days? Then take off your super-man/women cape and adjust the number of strategies you can work on – maybe even halve it!

Now you could try and work all this out for yourself, like I did…

BUT would you like the shortcut?

I wanted my plan to be easy to do and I wanted checkboxes and questions I could answer without having to do a business degree.

On top of that, I wanted options and I wanted it to cover all the bases and, because I found other people in business who were as confused as I had been, I started to teach my method.

I called it The Perfectly Simple Business Plan because it made sense to me and lots of the other small business owners I talked to as well.

So far I’ve taught it live and in person for many business owners and organisations including several Chambers of Commerce, business networking groups and Business Women Australia.

And every time I taught it I refined it to fit the questions I was being asked.

Doing live workshops limited my capacity to share it with more people so I created an online version of the Perfectly Simple Business Plan.

If you’re the kind of person who likes to get things done effectively and efficiently – you might like my Perfectly Simple Business Plan template. CLICK HERE. You can get it half price here using the code 50OFF but only until the 18th March 2018. Then the price goes back up to $97.

Enjoy! And I welcome your feedback.

The-Perfectly-Simple-Business-Plan

7 little adjustments that’ll make a big difference to how your life and business flows

I’m a big fan of reading – I love what it does to my brain. I have several bookcases and literally hundreds (maybe even thousands) of books, layered two and three deep on the shelves.

I plucked 7 books from my bookshelf – I was going to call them my favourites, but how can I say that when there are so many more!

These 7 mind-expanding books will help you think differently, do things differently – and get different
(and better) results!

  1. Ship it – Seth Godin (Free download).
    Seth says don’t wait for things to be perfect, just get it out there – you can make adjustments through feedback.
  2. The obstacle is the way – Ryan Holiday
    That 6 foot wall in front of you could be the best thing that ever happened to you. Look at and reframe obstacles differently – and the bonus is, you’ll be a lot happier.
  3. First things first – Stephen Covey
    Work out what’s important to you and do those things, not the millions of other distracting, misleading little tasks that take you nowhere.
  4. The Dip – Seth Godin (Free download)
    Sometimes you’re in a dip and sometimes you’re in a cul-de- sac. It helps to know the difference before you proceed.
  5. The Art of Non-conformity – Chris Guillebeau
    Set your own rules – this is YOUR life, it’s made to be enjoyed.
  6. The Present – Spencer Johnson (video preview)
    Remove the things that keep you focused on the future or locked in the past. The ONLY place you can take action in is the present.
  7. 18 Minutes to Find Your Focus, Master Distraction & Get the Right Things Done – Peter Bregman
    This book is a misnomer – it looks like a left brain book but I would call it more of a creative life-hack book. It will change your perspective for the better.
  8. A BONUS BOOK: Oh the Places You’ll Go – Dr Seuss. (free video on YouTube)
    I had to put this one in because every so often we need reminding of how wonderful we are and not to take things too seriously.

I believe you will find within the pages of a book what you are looking for. With that in mind, before you open a book ask yourself “What will I find in this book to help me with… “X” (Finding my Flow, in this circumstance.)

Your brain is able to do remarkable things – it will help you find what you are looking for. It’s what your Reticular Activating System is constantly doing – looking for the thing you asked for.

Enjoy!

Also read The 7 Little Adjustments To Get Your Head Around Business

Books to Find Your Flow

Why EOFY is like Christmas in July for Business Owners

Endings and beginnings: Like EOFY, they’re inevitable; like breathing… out with the old, in with the new.

I love a good rummage around in my computer. As a Creator, I do a lot of writing and thinking and starting but not everything gets finished.

Not everything gets published – but here’s something that did. It went out as a newsletter late last year and, on reflection, I thought it was relevant to the End Of the Financial Year (EOFY) just as much as Christmas.

You might be focussed on the financial clean up but there is so much more to endings and new beginnings than getting buried in numbers. If you can think differently, you can get different results.

Here’s my Christmas in July gift to you… and a little BONUS at the end.

The end of things…

Yes I know it’s only November, but there’s something about “now” that has a certain feel to it.

​I love this time of year – the time to start finishing off the year; tidying up and the tying off things… like a big red bow tied around a hand-made gift that is complete and ready to bestow at Christmas.

​I’m a creator – I like to make a mess when I’m creating. My desk resembles Einstein’s.

​Puttering around my desk, cleaning up, gives me time to think. I find things I thought I’d lost in the teetering stacks of notes and sketches and outpouring of ideas. I find snatches of wise words from conversations, resource materials, pictures and doodles and diagrams, the beginnings of things for later use – I’m so amazed at what comes out of my brain and makes it to a page. Thank goodness it does come out – it gets cluttered in there!

​I like to clean up afterwards to make room for more intriguing thoughts. And as I clear my desk after a project is finished, sweeping away the detritus left from a million creative ideas, I clear my mind by reviewing what worked and what didn’t, what I learnt, who I connected with, what I’ll stop doing, what I’ll continue to do what I’ll do differently next time.

​Some of my plans for this year came to fruition; some went completely sideways, some smacked me between the eyes – amazing, surprising, startling things that I could never have planned for, like my new health coach who appeared at just the right time.

​I love the potency of those spontaneous things, and while I’m pretty big on planning, I also like to leave lots of “wiggle” room for things to evolve. Some of them have been way better that I could have imagined or planned for myself.

The realisation I came to quite a while ago is that while we behave like we can control everything; we schedule and diarise and pack and squeeze as much as we can into our too busy lives, we’re actually not in control nearly as much as we think we are.

​There are other forces at work here and if you just stop for a minute, take a step back and loosen your grip you’ll find all sorts of synchronistic, apparently spontaneous things will be allowed to happen.

​You’ll bump into that person you’ve been thinking of, the clients you’ve always wanted will contact you, the projects you really want to work on – they will come to you.

​That’s pretty much been my year – everything I tried to force got choked, everything I allowed to flow happened almost effortlessly.

​Right now I’m in flow… getting ready for relaxing summer holidays, time with family, lazing under a tree with a good book, walking, swimming, playing with my grandson, clearing my head and connecting with people I love.

​Not long now. Just a few more loose ends…

The beginning of things…

There’s a space between finishing one thing and starting another.

​I call it creative procrastination; it’s the thing you do in the space between productive tasks. You tidy your desk, you make another cuppa, you get a snack, make a few calls, clear your emails, file your nails, make holiday plans…

But there’s more going on than you realise. You’re “Getting Ready”.

Your brain is switching gears. While you’re fluffing about in the in-between space, your brain is planning and working things out. What you need, who you need, how to tackle the task. It’s an almost meditative state, like hand watering the garden on a warm summer’s evening.

Until eventually you kick yourself into gear; “C’mon, get on with it”.

And you make a start.

Trust that process. Don’t use it as an excuse!

Now it’s up to you… run with it, play with it, be with it – enjoy it!

Happy EOFY Bonus…

If you think you could improve on last financial year, you might like to try my 7 Business Building Tools to set you up for your best year yet. Enjoy.

How to move on when things change

I was recently having lunch with a lovely client I had coached several years ago. We’d had enormous fun working on their family business together. It grew and flourished over a number of years and gave them everything they wanted; a great income, opportunities, education for their children and travel – a very good life.

But it has been disrupted over the last few years by legislation and compliance. It has ceased to be as much fun as it was.

This is no longer the business they started with. They’d lost their passion for it. They had a decision to make: they could stay and try to ride it out or move on and sell it to someone else to create the next chapter. They decided to part with it.

So that’s what we were talking about – how to move on when things change.

First we tackled all the perceived negatives: “Who would want us at our age” (not yet 50!) “We have no qualifications”. “It’s too late to start university”. “Do we want another business?” “Should I get a job?”

Then we got to the positives: The irreplaceable experience they had running this particular business for 15 years. The roles they had taken on: business management, financial management, HR and people management, stock control, marketing, sales, business structure, time management… the list is very much longer.

We talked about “reinventing” yourself. Understanding the skills and natural talents you have and how valuable that is in business – and in life.

And we talked about self-worth and self-belief and that until you can get a better sense of yourself and the value you bring, you’ll pitch yourself too low. The temptation would be to take something to be safe rather than work out what you really want and shoot for the stars.

It was a fascinating lively conversation. This wonderful amazing talented person who came in with her shoulders drooped left on a high, with a much better sense of starting out on a new “grand adventure”.

You don’t know what the future holds. No-one does and yet we go through life wanting to control everything.

Yet some of the grandest adventures in life are beyond what you can imagine. You just need to let go a little and trust that the Universe is conspiring to do you good.

How long will your business last?

Have you ever had a brainstorming session for your business – a really deep and meaningful exploration into the outer reaches of what’s possible?

I was speaking with a woman a few nights ago who was telling me about her new business and the product she offers; what goes into it and how she packages it. She says she is the only person in Australian doing it. Now, I don’t know how much research she’d done but someone else who joined the conversation said “Oh yes, I’ve seen that in America and other countries.”

How long do you think it would take before someone else looks at it and says “We can do that, let’s copy it.”?

Given that the product was not unique and the packaging, while unusual, was not unique – not very long I’d say… And there’s another fledgling business left with nowhere to go because they hadn’t worked out how to stay ahead of the curve, and because they didn’t know how to do that.

Harsh Reality: business is tough, it’s not for everyone. Will you be a survivor?

I love to encourage new business owners, and I don’t like to burst the entrepreneurial bubble – but the reality is, if you want a sustainable business that makes consistent money and gives you plenty of satisfaction you’ll need to delve deeper into your concept.

Most new entrepreneurs can easily identify their first wave of customers – friends, family, some first degree relationships – but the second, third and subsequent waves of customers starts to get a little fuzzy. They realise this is going to take some thinking and some marketing and “gasp!” selling. And they’ll need to get to grips with money and finance.

At this point some people give up. But SOME people roll their sleeves up and get to work.

Until you have a Proven Concept with a hungry crowd already consuming products like yours (and are looking for more or better) you may just have the seed of an idea, but not an actual business.

If your business is more established, don’t get complacent. You always need to be on the front foot, testing what works, what doesn’t and be ready to make changes. Swiftly. Decisively. Intelligently.

One of the best things you can do right now is imagine how your business and your industry will be in 2 years, 5 years and 10 years’ time. If your business is based on a “fad” – and there are plenty of them – make a plan to get in quick, have some fun, make some money and exit before the fad becomes extinct.

If your business has a longer lifespan because it is in an essential market segment or it is able to grow with new technology then make some long term plans – but make sure you are flexible, agile and at least listening to the market if not predicting the future.

The trick in business is to look further that the next few months – get real about what’s possible for your business beyond where you are now.

And if you need some help with that. It could be time to “Reinvent Your Business”. Ask me how.

Connect with me on Facebook at Bright Business
https://www.facebook.com/pauline.bright.thecoach/

Ask me great questions and I’ll answer them.

If you’re an ideas person, or you need some ideas to grow your business, you’ll love next week’s blog “Capitalise on your Concept”.