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

Life Lessons: “I’ve got your back”

A dozen years ago I found myself on a tight rope stretched 10 metres high above the Nevada desert, legs and arms and body wobbling dangerously. I was listening to my internal dialogue yelling “Holy Cow!” but telling me I would be okay; listening to others encourage me, feeling fear in the pit of my stomach – and I was laughing at the same time!

“Pauline, you asked for this!” I reminded myself under my breath. And I had! I was looking for a little excitement – something to stretch me.

I clutched at the dangling rope that was handed to me like life depended on it (even though I was wearing a harness attached to a wire above). And as I grabbed that rope I had to edge forward and let go of the one I was holding in my other hand, to pass it on to my team mate.

I would love to say I was brave and fearless. I wasn’t. But I didn’t buckle either. There were people way braver than me – instructors and participants. People passing me the rope, making sure I was okay, safe and moving forward. I was terrified but not to the point of not moving, and now, when people say “I’ve got your back” I really know now what that means and how that feels.

When I say “I found myself” I really mean I found myself. I was testing my limits – there was an instructor on another wire behind me and people ahead of and behind me. But I felt like it was all up to me – which it was. I had to move and pass the rope with care to the person behind me.

And I could have sat this one out and watched other people scrabbling around the high ropes course, but I couldn’t let myself and my team down.

I was so incredibly relieved to get to the end of the wire – and so proud of myself for doing it; and so heartily grateful to all the people who helped, encouraged and supported me.

You might guess that that was the beginning of testing my limits and it was; even though I don’t consider myself a thrill seeker, I like to find out what I’m capable of. I do the occasional “dangerous” thing – jump out of a plane, abseil, explore underground caverns. I like to make sure my heart’s still ticking.

Because nothing will sharpen your senses like fear!

What did I learn?

I learnt to trust myself and those around me. There are always people around me who have “got my back”.

I learnt to think about how I fit with what’s going on and to try to get beyond my own fear to help others. (This is still a work in progress – it’s pretty terrifying when all you can think of is “I might die!”.)

Above all, I learnt that if I can tackle scary things like this, I can handle pretty much anything that comes at me, in business and in life.

And so can you.

Capitalise on your Concept

Are there opportunities you could be taking advantage of that would give your business a massive lift?

Capitalise has several meanings; to secure funding or inject money into your business; realise an investment; authorise or issue stock (shareholdings)… and several other accounting terms.

Let’s explore this one: Capitalise: to take advantage of; turn something to one’s advantage.

Right now, if you know where to look, there is hidden money in your business.

Let’s go exploring…

Use your strengths

Your personality will determine your strategies:

If investing in your business was like buying property, what would you be focusing on?

A Trump Tower?
(It’ll need deep foundations and buckets of money – preferably not your own money!)

A nice little starter that you can sell to someone else?
(Great for creative types who get bored easily and have a wealth of ideas).

A renovator for a quick makeover and flip for profit?

A long-term “home” you can add value to?

Something with development potential?
Renovate or knock it down and turn it into units – think franchising, multiple business or launch your business on the stock market.

What next?

Once you’ve decided on the best strategy for YOU as a business owner then move on to these considerations…

If your concept is “unique” – ask yourself “Am I being realistic about this? How long would it take for someone to copy this? What would that do to my business?” AND the most important question to ask is “Can I get a good return on investment with this, relevant to the effort I need to put in?”

Does your business have depth? i.e. does it appeal to a good chunk of the market and does it have long-lasting capability (i.e. not a fad that will go out of date)

Is what you sell something that has future potential to grow? i.e. it has complimentary products or services that can be added to your range OR has the ability to do one thing really well so it can be duplicated and scaled through franchising or licensing.

Are there more opportunities to sell all you can to your current customers? i.e. how’s your up-sell and cross-sell – are customers getting all they came for and more (without employing creepy icky sales techniques)?

Are you converting enough leads and prospects into actual customers who buy from you? Regularly and predictably – and are they sending you good referrals?

Can you attract investment partners? Think “Shark Tank”. If you had to pitch your business to investors, how would you do it? What are your weak points? (For a LOT of business owners two weak points stand out: 1) the money side of their business and 2) Marketing to get more customers.

What chunk of the market do you have? How much more do you really want? Be realistic with this – one or two percent might make the world of difference. Don’t set impossible targets, just break down a big goal into manageable chunks and chip away at it.

Ultimately you need to know why any prospective customer would walk over hot coals to get to you. You’ll need to describe the uniqueness of what you offer – it MUST be significantly different to anything else that competes for your customers’ dollars.

Ultimately the questions you ask now will determine your future.

Plan your way out of a Business slump

Before it was quoted in “Best Marigold Hotel” John Lennon said…

“Everything will be ok in the end. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end”

If you’re in a slump right now here are some proven strategies to help you climb out and get back on top…

Get pens and paper – you’ll need to plan it out and write this down by hand, not on your computer. Let your imagination run wild, no limits. Write, doodle and draw your way out of the slump.

  1. Work out exactly what the slump is and what’s causing it
    • Have you lost your Mojo? Are you bored with your business and need a new direction?
    • Are you in financial stress – are you making more than you are spending or is there something else worrying you? Do you have enough customers?
    • Is it a market trend or industry trend? Is it affecting all businesses or just yours / your industry?
  2. Once you’ve identified the cause of the slump, you can start to find solutions. Never slip into the mindset of making “everything” to blame.
    • If you’ve lost your Mojo – what would need to happen for you to get it back? A new project, new direction, new products /services? Do you have someone to talk to – a coach or mentor or clued-up friend?
    • If money is the problem, sit down with your accountant or someone very money-savvy to get a true and accurate picture of what’s happening. Set a budget and set financial projections for income. Include the actual strategies you need to work through to fix the finances.
    • If it’s a “trend” in your industry – decide if it’s a fatal trend or just a blip on the radar. Do you have the strength to work through it? Again, brainstorm solutions with a trusted adviser. You won’t have all the answers locked up in your own head.
  3. The most important thing to do right now takes the emotion out of it. Things don’t stay the same… you haven’t reached the end yet. Stay in the present as much as you can… focus on what is in the “now” and what you can do in this moment to feel better and more positive about the slump.
  4. And if you feel you can’t do anything right now in this moment, accept that you can’t. That doesn’t mean that you won’t tomorrow. Be nice to yourself and take a breather even if for a short time. Your brain will thank you for the rest and will work on finding solutions instead of you forcing your way through. If it feels like walking through treacle, stop! Back out!
  5. After all your brainstorming, if you feel that this business is not right for you, you don’t have to stay it in you know. Tweak it and adjust it if you can, but if your heart’s not in it, it’s OK to move on. Find a way out and set a new direction.

On a personal note, I’ve had 11 businesses over 35 years – not all of them were spectacularly successful so I changed them, molded them into something more enjoyable or sold them or closed them. That’s how I learned to be a business coach, only I didn’t know it at the time!

There are no failures, only learning opportunities.

If you need a hand with this – Try my Perfectly Simple Business Plan