Maite Baron outlines the importance of having a tangible plan for your business and gives nine tips you should take to create it.
If you wake up uncertain what the day holds for your business, or if this month feels much like the last, you almost certainly have neither a clear vision for your business nor any real idea how to move it forward – and you’re not alone.
Most small business owners are the same, concentrating so much on the day-to-day that they are unable to see more than a few feet ahead, with everything beyond that just a blur. This leaves them unsure where they’re heading, and vulnerable to ‘bumping into obstacles’ best avoided. And being confused about what your business should be doing is inevitably both painful and expensive!
But when you have clarity of vision you know what your business has to deliver to fulfil your own short and long-term aspirations, ambitions and values, and you can plot the shortest distance between two key points – where your business is now and where you want it to be in the future.
This ensures you have the laser-like focus needed not to be distracted, wasting time, effort and money on ideas and opportunities that might be right for someone, but not necessarily for you.
But if you don’t yet have 20:20 vision for the future of your business, how do you go about getting it?
Here’s a nine-step plan for blowing the fog away:
1. Set aside time to actually think about what you want your business to do for you:
If you don’t, you’ll always be working in your business and never working on it to make it better. Remember, you went into business for reasons such as making money and having more freedom and control, not to be continually mired in cash flow problems, staff issues and production management. You don’t have time to do this? You don’t have time not to do this. If you have to, hire some short-term help to create the thinking space you need.
2. Dream big:
Begin to mull over how you can ‘reinvent’ your business and the part you play in it. Get excited about the possibilities all over again. If you don’t have proper ambitions for your company, how can you get excited about the opportunities that lie ahead?
3. Make your vision as real and concrete as possible:
See in your mind’s eye the products and services that you want to offer, and who you want your clients to be. Think both short and long term. Only when you are able to create a believable picture of this future, will you have the clear vision to drive your business forward. The more ‘real’ you can make it, the easier and faster it will be to achieve.
4. Create an environment that helps you succeed:
How do you like to work? From home or in a shared working space? With music? Or in silence? When do you do your best work? Mornings? Or evenings? Find out the answers to questions like these, and then create the conditions under which you perform at your best.
5. Be clear about your values and which of them, if any, you are willing to compromise and to what extent:
Then make sure these values and ethics are part and parcel of this vision so your business becomes the perfect platform to create the lifestyle you want. Fail to do this and you will just be building a business empty of passion and enthusiasm. And without these two things, you won’t be able to protect yourself from the setbacks – both minor and major – that over time will just wear you down. On the other hand, if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, if you believe that you are making a difference to yourself, your family and your community, then you will be driven forward, able to shrug off the disappointments and get back to your feet when you’re knocked down.
6. Think beyond yourself:
For a business to exist and thrive, it needs to solve real problems. When you do this, you touch people’s lives, giving your business a reason to exist. And as you help others, they in turn will help you by being your customers and clients, so that your business doesn’t just exist but flourishes.
7. Know what works for you:
Don’t base your success on what others want, or what others have led you to believe success is, or you won’t feel fulfilled, and any success you do achieve, won’t seem like success at all. There’s no point setting up a business that neither fulfils your needs nor plays to your strengths. If you like to work alone, don’t create a business that requires you to be hands-on with your team. If you’re a team player, don’t create an enterprise that isolates you for much of the time. Set up your business so that it works for you.
8. Be clear about the kind of business you want to create:
Revisit your existing business or your intended business idea to see whether it is the right vehicle, in its present form, to make your vision real. For example, if success means working so many hours that you never see your family, or have the time to enjoy the things you love to do, then perhaps you need to rethink what you’re doing and rebalance your priorities. If necessary, don’t be afraid to consider changing the way you do business, for instance turning from working alone to setting up a family business. Or if you’re current business model isn’t scalable for long-term success, getting out and doing something else instead. These decisions are also vital for working out how much investment you may need to put in place in the future.
9. The importance of a team:
Don’t think that reviewing or reinventing your business is something that you have to do on your own. Seek out the specialist support that will help you achieve the clarity and objectivity you need. Share your thoughts with others, take advice from coaches and mentors, create a ‘think-tank’ whose judgement you trust and respect.
Having clarity of vision about what it needs to deliver will give your business new momentum, with those around you responding to your new-found enthusiasm, drive and ambition. And once you have a clear vision for your business, keep on revisiting and refining it to avoid falling back into the comfortable patterns of thought and ways of working that have blinkered and held you back in the past.
Further reading on business planning