You are probably conscious of gaps that need to be dealt with by now, have crafted your trailer, your personal value proposition and have a basic handle on your branding. Let’s climb to the 40,000-foot level and take a strategic look. And before you are tempted to put it off, right now is the ideal time to start bringing your vision for the future out of your head and galvanizing it on paper.
If you patiently and deliberately create a plan for the coming year over the next few months, rather than on a Sunday evening over the holidays in December, you’ll create a plan that better serves you as a guidance system, is more actionable and predictable, and consists of goals that are balanced, clear and attainable.
If anyone knows the power of advice and the importance of planning, it’s a knowledge-for-profit professional. Think about it, what would you tell someone who told you they don’t see the value of professional advice and planning? If they said to you, “I’m doing it myself because a professional advisor is too expensive and the results can be underwhelming or uncertain.” You’d probably tell them - or at least think to yourself - “That is … crazy.” It would be like a person with a tooth-ache deciding to work on their own teeth.
Your plan has to be an ongoing, living process. It’s not ‘once a year and done’. It won’t surprise you that one of my pet peeves in business is centered on the lack of implementation of a strategy. Ideas are a dime a dozen. It is the implementation of an idea that sets it apart from everything else and brings it to life. A plan lets you implement efficiently.
With that said, I admit that when I hear the words “business plan,” I often feel a wave of discomfort sweep over me which I have to shake off, perhaps after muttering some foul language under my breath for good measure.
Why the reaction? Consider what happens with about 90 percent of the annual business plans that professional advisors prepare. This is one probable scenario: It is late December and you start to wade through the 20 to 30 pages of the business plan that your company provides for you, and perhaps even requires you to complete. You pick at it over a few weeks, and then, with the deadline looming, you set aside a couple of hours and plow through the document as quickly as you can. A sense of relief rushes over you as click the “save” button and send it off to head office. You may even print a copy which you sit marveling at for a few minutes before you file it away in a drawer, never to be seen again.
Well, at least until year-end when you may use it to help you figure out what to write in the next business plan.
Regardless of my reaction and the “usual scenario” as detailed above, strategic business plans can have real value if they are referred to regularly and adjusted as needed. Are you meeting your targets? What can be done to bring you back on track? What needs to be adjusted in your business activities to ensure the desired outcomes? What changes have to be implemented with your clients?
Reading the plan again can create awareness of your shortfalls, and can ignite a flood of new ideas that can be used to get you back on track for the year. Each new idea requires some planning for implementation, and detailing the necessary steps to be taken to actually bring the idea into fruition within your business, but with your overall plan in place, these will be minor adjustments.
Don’t wait until the end of the year. Any time is a perfect time to pull out your strategic plan again and look at it as a jump start - a new beginning, if you will. When I do this, it always seems to me like a second New Years, and I have the opportunity to evaluate what I want to accomplish over the remaining months of the year.
Take a few hours to review what you wrote last year and make some decisions on what adjustments you can and should make right now. I guarantee that reading it again - examining what you wanted to implement, and considering what you actually did - will make a huge difference in the remaining months of this year and, ultimately, for years to come.
Keep your old plans. Every time the document changes, archive what was previously written. Over the course of a year you may end up with three, four, or even five versions of your business plan as it adapts. They become a progression and an evolution. Your course of action can be tracked and accounted for, and your strategic business plan can become an established process for planning and implementation going forward.
Whether you use a business plan template through a CRM, or create your own document yearly on your computer, the most important point is that you take the time to plan, create, update and utilize one.
Perhaps the next time I hear someone talk about a business plan, the conversation will be around how it has become a constant and invaluable reference point for their business, as opposed to something that is filed away and forgotten.
Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson
Achieve Scalable Growth through the Blue Square Method
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