Billion dollar brands become global leaders because their core values and passion for what they are doing extend far beyond making money. However, I have to say, I’ve never met an entrepreneur who doesn’t want to make money. In fact, I would go further and say that people who do not want to grow their business in financial terms are not running a business but a hobby.
You may not want to be a global brand, you may want to be a small local brand that people love because it holds a special place in their heart and because they know you will deliver on your brand promise. But successful businesses no matter how big or small, whether they’re a global or local player, all have one thing in common, they always write an annual business plan.
I love hearing success stories and Women Unlimited is full of them and with the end of the year in sight why not consider setting some time aside to write your plan for next year and let it be your most successful year yet!
Traditional business plans are boring!
I have to admit that when I see a business plan my heart sinks and depending on the number of pages my heart can sink even further. I know for sure it will use the following headings:
- Mission statement
- Business objectives and strategy
- Product/Service objectives and strategy
- Marketing objectives and strategy
- Distributions/delivery of products/services
- Budget and timing
So here’s the thing about the above. It’s been around for many years and it’s a good solid structure and if well written there is nothing wrong with it, but it is never likely to thrill you in the way that reading 50 Shades of Grey does!
So, do you want your business plan to be a bit more exciting? Do you want people to be eager to read it and engaged when they do? Do you want to be able to look back at it in 12 months time and have a satisfied smile on your face that says you accomplished a great piece of work? If yes, then I suggest you ‘look through a different lens’ when creating your business plan so it becomes a much more enjoyable experience and not something that you dread or worse, ignore doing.
Start with a passion statement
Start your plan with a statement about what you are passionate about. Unlike a mission statement this isn’t confined to just your business, this is something that you would like to see happen on a much larger scale. For example, Bill Gates wanted a computer on every school desk in the world. Emily Pankhurst, one of my heroes, wanted women to be treated equally and given the same rights as men. What are you passionate about? What would you like to see happen in this world that makes a difference?
Communicating to your clients and potential clients why your business does what it does is a fundamental platform of success, as Simon Sinek tells us in his Golden Circle theory. Your ‘Why’ is the reason you do what you do, it’s the fire in your belly. When you communicate clearly your ‘Why’ you attract people who become loyal clients and repeat buyers of your services or products – just look at Apple.
A business plan is your road map
There is nothing quite like taking a road trip. You can decide to just get in your car and drive and see where it takes you, or if you are like me, you may prefer to plan your trips. You’ll want to know where the pit stops are along the way, where hotels and b&b’s are for overnight stays and of course, places to chow-down!
When writing your business plan for the next 12 months view it as a Road Map. There are things you need to do – let’s call them goals and places you and your business need to be at by a certain time – let’s call them milestones. Map out graphically on a piece of paper or use a year planner to identify what you are doing over the next 12 months. Don’t forget to build in cushion time, because things over run and you’ll always need downtime and holidays.
Often people write plans and list all the new products or services they will create and the new markets they will expand into, and detail the intensive communication programme that will support these new markets, products and services. Phew! And all of this is written on a blank piece of paper, often in isolation of how the rest of your time will be spent. You need to have a helicopter view of the year to give yourself the right perspective but still be able to drill down into the detail.
Delegate and grow your business
A growing business and brand translates into work and the simple truth is that you will burn out if you do it all on your own all of the time. You have to delegate and the best way to do that is to recruit people who are better than you in specific areas. If you are a solo operator or a small business enterprise you may not necessarily want to take on employed staff either full or part-time but you can use freelancers. Find the ones that are right for you and your business and include them into your Road Map. Show which elements of your business they will work on, build in time to brief them on projects and also build in their down time.
Where do you sit competitively – Positioning
Every savvy entrepreneur keeps an eye on their competition but throughout the year your focus is clearly on your clients. However, when you come to your annual planning session this is a great opportunity to really take a good look at what your competitors are doing. Ask yourself these questions: Where do the competition sit compared to you in the market? Have they grown over the last 12 months? Have they entered new markets? Have they rebranded?
Positioning is key for creating a strong and distinct brand, in my article Steps to Attracting Clients: 2. Position yourself for success we look at this in greater detail.
Story telling – part of business communications
People remember a story more easily than they remember corporate speak so when you are communicating find creative ways to spin a tale and keep telling it over and over again. Practice your storytelling through your blogs, articles and press releases and eventually you will find your voice that connects with the audience that you want to attract. Telling stories must be part of your road map.
Show me the money – finances
Everyone needs to get to grips with their finances. If it seems like a foreign language work with someone to help you understand the numbers. Not understanding is possibly a step towards the failure of your business. In my plans I always have two budgets (a) the budget for the year ahead (b) the budget for the year that’s just taken place. It helps you get a new perspective and ask how you can improve on this year.
It’s all about timing
I think this says it all. When you are working on your road map and it comes to scheduling activities think about all the things that are going on in your business, market, industry and your personal life. If you get the timing right for your business’ schedule it just makes everything easier, but remember that flexibility is key.
There are many more elements that can go into your plan, the above is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a great start. You need to add to the above elements and create a signature plan that works for you and your business. I’ll end with one of my favourite quotes from Harvey Mackay, businessman, columnist and author of five bestsellers, including Swim With the Sharks, who said: