FIVE LESSONS ABOUT PLANNING
I am constantly surprised by how many entrepreneurs don’t plan. I mean…they have some rough ideas, some general sense of direction but a detailed business plan? A quarter by quarter, month by month overview of activity? A detailed communications and content plan? Nope. Every month, every week, every day – they are just winging it. Reacting to events.
I LOVE planning. But I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I asked people in my community why they don’t plan and here’s what they said:
- ‘I never have time to plan’
- ‘I’m too busy doing to get on with planning’
- ‘I don’t know where to start’
- ‘I make a plan at the beginning of the year but then everything changes and it gets out of date and so I don’t bother updating it…’
What most of them didn’t know was that according to research by the Palo Alto software company business owners with a clear plan are TWICE AS LIKELY to grow their businesses.
TWICE AS LIKELY.
So, if you want to grow your business and make more of a difference for even more people, then it’s time to start planning. And to get you started here are my top five lessons about planning for your business, your communications and your content…
SET ASIDE THE TIME
Planning takes time. But it also saves you time.
If you know how much revenue you’re expecting to make and when your big expenses are coming in for each month of the coming year, you won’t be wasting time with last minute attempts to raise cash when an unexpected bill comes in.
If you have a decent outline of what you want to focus on in your social media posts every day, you won’t stare at your computer screen for hours each week trying to come up with something.
So, set aside the time now and save time in the longer term. Here’s how I do it:
- I set aside 2 days in December to review the year and plan for the year ahead. This is when I do my business planning: what will I offer and when; when will I promote it and how; what are my revenue targets and projections; what are my expenses and when will they fall due?
- I set aside a day each quarter to focus on my communications and content plan based on what my business needs are for that period
- I set aside half a day at the end of each month to do the detailed content and action planning for the coming month based on my overall plans
It may sound like a lot of time but I promise you, having clear and consistent planning time set aside saves me not only time but effort, worry and aggravation in the long run.
When I run my Actually Planning Cycle workshops, I encourage participants to start out by dreaming big. I challenge them to think of all the things they would do if they knew they couldn’t fail; if they knew that everything they did, everything they touched in the coming year would be a huge, unmitigated success.
Yes, we go on to rein things in a little, to focus on the art of the possible….but because we have started with that big dream, that energy infects the plan and where we end up is so much more inspiring and exciting.
Get inspired. See the year or the quarter ahead as it COULD BE. As my Dad used to say to me when I was a kid: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
START WITH THE END IN MIND
I don’t love the word ‘goals’. It makes me think of football and much as I love watching the ‘beautiful game’ I prefer not to think about my business in those terms!
It’s critical to have an endpoint in mind but I prefer to think of it as a destination not a goal…a vision of the place I want to travel to over the period ahead. My plan is like a pathway marked with milestones on the way towards that destination. It may be semantics but I prefer the energy of “travelling” to that of adversarial sport!
This is why I always start my planning work – and my planning workshops – with a meditation: a visioning exercise…dreaming into where I will be at the end of the coming period. Knowing where I am going makes the planning process so much easier.
Not having a destination in mind may make for some interesting meanderings but you are likely to get lost.
DON’T FORGET THE MONEY
When I ask people about their plans for the year ahead most of them don’t mention money. In my experience, this oversight is more prevalent amongst women and purpose-led entrepreneurs than amongst men and those working in corporates.
One of my clients is Starling Bank and they did some research in 2018 demonstrating that the way we speak to women about money differs to the way we speak to men. Maybe women are socialised or educated differently about money? Perhaps as entrepreneurs who want to make a difference in the world we have some perception that making money is incompatible with being of service?
Here’s how I think about it: the more money I make, the more service I can offer, the more difference I can make. Simple.
We need to get over this aversion to talking about money. Start by at least THINKING ABOUT IT! Be clear about your money vision for your business and get clear about where your revenue is coming from for the year.
I am hopeless at most things tech-related. And I have ZERO patience for completing my tax return. I COULD do these things myself. But honestly, it would take me DAYS to complete my tax return whereas it takes my accountant hours. She gets to work in her zone of genius and I focus on mine. Everyone’s a winner!
Planning is slightly different – you do have to develop your plan yourself but you can still get help and support. If you’re a solopreneur, team up with a friend in a similar position: agree a timetable for planning for the year and agree to get together on those set days and GET IT DONE.
Alternatively, do take a look at the Actually Planning Cycle – a series of quarterly, small group, in-person workshops to provide you with the structure, process and support you need to get your planning done.
Trust me…once you start planning you will never look back…
Let’s get planning to ACTUALLY make a difference!
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Thank you Sara for the kick up the bum I needed to flex my planning muscles. These timings are marvelous. It’s so much harder to to this for myself as a lone wolf. Found it a breeze when MD, planning meant I knew the staff were still going to have a job, celebration parties every month, updates on production systems, studio equipment, monthly targets etc ect. Must be crazy not to do this for myself. No wonder self-employment and business is so stressful. I will change my mindset and give myself the gift of planning days. Thank you.