Kicking & Screaming
Most business owners and department managers know they “should” have a plan. Yet in all my 25 years of helping business owners and managers grow their businesses, just four of my clients possessed a written plan, and only one was actually using it. Why do so many business owners skip this crucial step? Some common explanations I’ve heard go something like:
- “I don’t need funding, so I don’t need a business plan.”
- “My plan is going to change anyway, so why should I waste my time creating it?”
- “It will take too much time.”
- “I started to and found it overwhelming.”
- “I didn’t start a business to do the types of things I did when I worked for someone else.”
- “I don’t want a big company. I don’t want employees.” (I just created a J.O.B. for myself.)
- “I don’t know which planning program to use; there are so many out there.”
- “It’s expensive to plan and I need to spend my money on other things.”
- “I don’t need to plan; I just want to work in my business.”
Does any of that sound familiar? For the most part, “winging it” from day to day works-until it doesn’t. Many business owners learn this the hard way. Whether at the $60,000 per year income level or at the $30 million level, without a plan, a business or its owner will eventually crash. Owners or managers will often agree to use a plan if someone else creates it for them. That’s a BIG no-no in my book. It’s important for business owners to gain the experience of the planning process. At least once, they must tackle the questions they’ve put off answering. Otherwise they run the risk of never gaining real clarity regarding the direction of their business.
The Care and Feeding of Business Owners & Managers
As the old saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” Clients who come to me for help with their strategic plan are often feeling a “pain”. It is a common experience, often necessary to compel them to take a “drink” from the strategic planning process. Here are a few common “pains” my clients have reported:
- They’re not attracting their ideal clients and are sick and tired of working with jerks.
- They need to be making more money.
- Their spouse informed them that if they don’t spend more time together, they’ll file for a divorce.
- Their spouse wants them to get a “real job”.
- They’re retiring from a job in “x” years and want to have an immediate income at that time.
- They’re retiring in “x” years and want all the work, time, and money they invested in their business to be their nest egg.
- They’ve discovered that a business isn’t just a place to work, but an entity to grow.
- “Someone” told them they had to create a plan.
- “Someone” told them that their marketing is “all over the place”.
- They need help managing their company or department.
- They became an “accidental” business owner or were promoted suddenly, and need help fast.
- They’re turning 50 and want to examine the next 30 years of their business with someone who isn’t as vested in the business as they are.
- They want to work one day per month because they want to start a non-profit.
These and many other possible “pains” or problems will hopefully lead a business owner to re-evaluate the need for planning. But where to begin? The task of planning can seem monumental. Luckily, there is a one-page process which makes planning not only exciting, but simple and straightforward.
When the Light Bulb Flickers
When someone seeks my services, they often need more clients, better clients, or more money. In determining what is hindering their growth, we find they have no vision, mission, objectives, or strategies written down. They usually have no action plan, marketing plan, or financial plan, either. Here are some reasons they’ve given for finally taking the planning plunge:
- “My original business vision was thrown to the wind and all I’ve been doing is looking at ‘today’.”
- “I realized that the business I envisioned is not what I have, and I don’t like the business I have.”
- “I read Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited and realized I need systems.”
- “I’m getting older. I want to get top dollar for my business in (5, 10, or 20) years, and I know I need to have a turn-key business. My business is anything but turn-key.”
- “I’m getting bored of running my company, and want to get it ready to sell/hire a CEO.”
- “I have tried to grow my business for the last two years and what I’ve done isn’t working.”
- “I want to start my business right; I know I need a plan.”
- “I want to earn more money.”
- “I’m frazzled. I network and market all the time and am not seeing the results I once saw.”
- “I am creating a new position within the company. I need to bring the concept to my boss in an organized way.”
- “Although I work for a company, I’m paid on commission, and I need a plan to expand.”
- “I want to open a branch office, but I can’t see having two unorganized offices. I need the first office organized, and systems created before I start the second.”
- “I don’t like my business model but don’t know what to change or how to do it.”
- “My business does not have an inner brand, niche, or focus.”
Back in 2000, with a year-old business of my own, I had the opportunity to attend a one-day planning program which helped me to create a plan on a single page. This plan would encompass all of the plans mentioned above. As a participant, I realized the importance of planning strategically before attempting execution or implementation. Today, my clients use that same methodology to bring greater success to their businesses. And when someone wants me to create the plan for them, I do it with them. My clients are present during the process, learning a system that can be reused in the future to make their lives easier-and more profitable-in the long run.