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

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”.

Personality types and planning; what makes you do what you do?

Which best describes you?

  • “Here’s exactly what’s going to happen” planner
  • “This might work” planner
  • “I’m not sure about this bit” planner
  • “Let’s all get together to make a plan” planner
  • “I’ll plan a bit and leave the rest to the universe” planner
  • “Let’s just see what happens” planner
  • “Can someone else do this, I’m too busy” planner
  • “Just tell me what you want and I’ll do it” planner
  • “I’ll get around to it later” planner
  • “I’ve never had a plan in my life, I’m not about to start now” non-planner
  • Something I haven’t even described here or a combination of others

We’re all different – and we seem to attract people into our lives who are our opposites – thank goodness! Imagine if we were all the same… Chaos would reign; there’d be no leaders and no followers OR there’d be fights breaking out amongst people who insist on doing it their way.

If you’ve ever been frustrated by the planning or non-planning processes of your boss or partner or work colleagues, it doesn’t mean they’re wrong it just means they do things differently to you.

And if you know a little bit about DISC profiling you’ll understand that there are 4 basic personalities:

The High “D” people are dominant and driving and want to be at the front of everything, but aren’t good when it comes to details.

They make a plan where they can change, fix or control things. They need the High “C” people to handle the details and High “I” people to explain it to the team.

The High “I” people are Influential and Inspiring.

They like to be at the centre of things with lots of people around them. These people will make plans to be “popular” and are also not particularly interested in details. They need High “D” people to dive parts of the project where it gets bogged down. And they need “S” people to steadily work away at all the tasks that need doing.

The High “S” people are steady and supportive.

These are the people who like to be given a plan rather than write one. They are very good at being cooperative supportive and agreeable. Plus, they can carry the plan forward and get things done. They need High “C” people to help with the details and the “I” people to keep them connected to the larger team and the “D” to the purpose.

The High “C” people are conscientious careful and compliant.

With rules to follow, their plan will be very detailed and precise. These people need High “S” individual to help them relax a little and go with the flow – and the “D” people to drive the plan forward. “I” people can help deliver the plan to the team without them getting overwhelmed.

Of course, we are not all of one thing, we are combinations of these personality profiles but we do have a dominant personality.

Ultimately your plan needs to be your plan if you’re in a solo business. If you are planning for others consider their personality profile. Ask them what they need in a plan to fully engage with it; how much detail; who does what; who leads what and what is the benefit of the plan to the whole team.

To find out more about DISC profiling and how it can be used in your team book a 15-minute call here.

Growing your business your business vs scaling your business – what’s your plan?

If you owned a corner grocery store before the invention of supermarkets you would probably have had a nice little business supporting you and your family.

Everyone would be working really hard in the store. You might pay yourself a minimum wage and the rest of the family might be working for “love”. You’d be open all hours including weekends. The ways to grow your business were limited to time, space and labour.

Everything was about personal service and growth was limited to what you could afford to stock, the space to stock it and the labour involved to serve the customers. There were tangible limits.

You would have been blown out of the water when the first supermarket opened up down the road!

They had a scalable system. They were bigger, brighter, had more variety, and operated on self-service and minimum staff at minimum wages. Then, they could afford to stock what you couldn’t and had a marketing budget to lure your customers away. They had systems and procedures for smooth running.

When you think about the difference between growing your business and scaling your business, it works like this…

Growing your business means you are adding more resources when you make more sales – you need more stock, more people, and more space. The increase in revenue is swallowed up by the increase in costs. It might look like you’re growing but technically you haven’t “scaled”.

Scaling your business means you’re adding revenue at an exponential rate without increasing your costs at the same rate. If it takes as much time energy and money to make the next sale as it did to make the previous sale, you haven’t scaled.

Think about Amazon:

They blew bookstores out of the water. Yes, you have to wait for the book if you want a hard copy, but you could get the book instantly at a fraction of the cost if you are happy to have an electronic copy – and at a fraction of the price.

They also thought about what people do when they buy books: people like to browse, read a few pages, have books recommended by the store owner, see reviews on the book jacket, and they like to take their time. Amazon noted all of this “buyer behaviour” and built it into their offering.

What can you learn from this?

  1. Growing your business happens incrementally. It suits some people but not others.
  2. Scaling a business can happen with a change in how you think – again not for everyone.
  3. Be alert for opportunities inside your business to scale rather than grow.
  4. The best businesses to scale are those that provide essential services that have a proven concept (people already buy) and they can be operated by fewer people and fewer overheads.
  5. Don’t scale a business that is a “fad” – it won’t last long enough to give you a return on your investment.

What do you think? Could your growing business be scaled?