When I started my consulting business, I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to achieve.
I was very clear in the type of people I wanted to help – small business owners – and what I needed to do to help them, by providing effective tools, resources and processes that they could use and grow their businesses the way they wanted their businesses to grow.
What wasn’t as clear was how I put together a business that provided them with these tools and resources – in my career up to then I had accumulated some very effective and different ways to provide strategic and business planning, help them in their marketing and sales funnel processes, positive ways in building leadership qualities and creating great teams, and simple but effective processes to establishing norms and procedures that produced high-quality products and services to their customers.
What do I do first?
My idea was to provide a series of these tools, resources and processes that they could use at different parts of their journey to build their business over time and to achieve their dreams for their businesses. I was trained and experienced in providing them with all of these services.
I also had great ideas about how I would build up different parts of my business model, including the type of people I would employ, the way the physical office would look to portray my brand of being innovative and thinking outside the square to provide solutions, the way I should document my processes and experience so that my staff could follow the proven methodology.
The problem was, where do I start? Everything seemed important.
I knew, from experience that if I tried to do everything at once in a new business, I would either collapse from stress and exhaustion, or each initiative would simply not “take” because it would not have had the proper bedding in period, leading to the next initiative and so on.
I took a leaf out of my own client consulting playbook and I prepared my business plan. Rome need not be built in a day.
If you are in the same position, you need to do the same.
Do you have all these great ideas for your business? Do you envisage them playing out and delivering all these great benefits? But are you having trouble working on them and ensuring that each one is properly bedded into your business and works the way you envisaged? Did you start by working on 3 or 4 or even more ideas all at once, then find that some needed more attention than others? Did the introduction of the next idea before you fully implemented the others start to cause stress and sleepless nights – made worse because you just knew that if you could implement these ideas it would all work out?
You need a plan!
A plan puts all your great ideas into the context of what it is you are trying to achieve in the long run and therefore prioritises each idea in that context.
An effective business planning process allows you to examine all your ideas and work out when you need to implement them and how to do it.
In an effective business planning process, you start with defining the purpose of your business.
What was the most important reason you started your business?
Some people wanted to start a business to serve a specific group of people, or they wanted to invent a really hot product and watch it take over the world. Others might have wanted to start their own business so that they could fix things like climate change or help abandoned animals, or in my case fix the way business consulting was being handled by the large consulting companies without heart and without being able to talk as if they were lecturing at a university. I wanted to help small business owners run the best businesses they could run – their way.
But don’t be embarrassed if your purpose was inward looking. Some people wanted independence because, as a subject-matter or product expert, they thought they could do it better than their boss. Some people simply wanted to be able to fund a secure lifestyle for their families.
Whatever your purpose is, it is important to recognise it because your business needs to ultimately achieve that purpose otherwise all you’re doing is working in your business as an employee, but with all the pressures of being the owner!
Your purpose helps you to set your long-term objectives (because let’s be frank, you are highly unlikely to attain your purpose in the short-term). Long-term objectives allow you to break them down and set out your shorter-term goals, the milestones along the way to the ultimate goal.
This sets out the context of how your business would grow.
In my case, for example, I started by providing financial services to my clients, accounting, financial reporting and budgeting. This allowed me to fund future development, as well as grow a loyal client base, and, it allowed me an insight into their day to day business through their financial results and needs. Then I introduced my marketing planning services – because who doesn’t like to grow their sales, right? Once my clients saw how my marketing consulting services could bring results, I introduced long-range and operational planning to them because I knew they needed to plan for their growth. They saw it too, and subsequently, I was able to provide them with all the tools and resources that they needed to take their small businesses to the next level, whatever that level was.
Once I had that context, I was able to plan out which of my business ideas should be implemented first, and how to build on each of them – all of the time making sure that the choices, the order and the content were always appropriate to get me to my business purpose.
Well, I’m glad to say that I am still following my initial business plan – revised and updated over many years but with still the same purpose and vision – and I am getting to that time when my vision is very nearly achieved.
You can do this too, write your business plan that puts all your business ideas into the right context, and plan for when and how they should be introduced and implemented. Doing it this way is orderly, organised, and ensures success because you are implementing your ideas at the time they make sense in the bigger picture.
To help you get started, you can download my free Business Planning Checklist called A Roadmap From Stress To Success. In it I provide the steps to take when you write your business plan, and a checklist to make sure you can tick off each step.
Go get started!