Breaking Down Business Planning Barriers
Kicking & Screaming
Most business owners and departmental managers know they “must” have a plan. But in the 25 years I’ve helped business owners and managers grow their businesses, only four of my clients have a written plan, and only one actually uses it. Why do so many business owners skip this important step? Some of the common explanations I’ve heard include:
“I don’t need funds, so I don’t need a business plan.”
“My plans are about to change, so why should I waste time making them?”
“This will take a lot of time.”
“I started and felt great.”
“I didn’t start a business to do the things I did when I was working for someone else.”
“I don’t want big companies. I don’t want employees.” (I just made a J.O.B. for myself.)
“I don’t know which planning program to use; there are so many out there.”
“It was expensive to plan and I needed to spend my money on other things.”
“I don’t need to plan; I just want to work at my business.”
Does anything sound familiar? For the most part, “swinging it” from day to day works—until it doesn’t. Many business owners learn this the hard way. Whether at a revenue rate of $60,000 per year or at a rate of $30 million, without a plan, the business or its owners will eventually collapse.
The owner or manager will often agree to use the plan if someone else creates it for them. That’s a BIG no-no in my book. It is very important for business owners to gain experience from the planning process. At least once, they had to answer a question they had been putting off answering. Otherwise, they risk never getting any real clarity on the direction of their business.
Business Owners & Managers Care and Feeding
As the old saying goes, “You can take a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink.” Clients who come to me for help with their strategic plans often feel “sick.” This is a common experience, often necessary to force them to take the “drink” of the strategic planning process. Here are some of the common “pains” my clients report:
They don’t attract their ideal clients and are sick and tired of working with jerks.
They need to make more money.
Their spouses told them that if they didn’t spend more time together, they would file for divorce.
Their partner wants them to get a “real job”.
They retire from work in “x” years and want to have an immediate income by that time.
They retire in “x” years and want all the work, time, and money they invested in their business to be their nest egg.
They have discovered that a business is not just a place to work, but an entity to grow.
“Someone” told them they had to come up with a plan.
“Someone” tells them their marketing is “everywhere”.
They need help managing their company or department.
They become “accidental” business owners or get promoted out of the blue, and need help fast.
They are 50 years old and want to check the next 30 years of their business with someone who has no rights in the business like them.
They want to work one day per month because they want to start a nonprofit.
These and many possible “sickness” or other problems will hopefully lead the business owner to reevaluate the need for planning. But where to start? Planning tasks can seem monumental. Fortunately, there is a one-page process that makes planning not only interesting, but also simple and straightforward.
When the Light Bulb Flashes
When someone seeks my services, they often need more clients, better clients, or more money. In determining what was hindering their growth, we found that they did not have a written vision, mission, goals, or strategy. They usually also don’t have an action plan, marketing plan, or financial plan. Here are some of the reasons they gave for finally taking the risk of planning:
“My original business vision was tossed into the wind and all I did was look at ‘today’.”
“I realized that the business I dreamed of was not what I had, and I didn’t like the business I had.”
“I read Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited and realized I needed a system.”
“I’m getting older. I want to get the highest dollar for my business in (5, 10, or 20) years, and I know I have to have a turn-key business. My business isn’t turn-key at all.”
“I’m tired of running my company, and want to get it ready to sell/hire a CEO.”
“I’ve been trying to grow my business for the last two years and what I’m doing is not working.”
“I wanted to get my business started right; I knew I needed a plan.”
“I want to earn more money.”
“I’m tired. I’m networking and marketing all the time and not seeing the results I’ve ever seen.”
“I created a new position within the company. I needed to bring the concept to my boss in an organized way.”
“Even though I worked for a company, I was paid on a commission basis, and I needed a plan to grow.”
“I’d like to open a branch office, but I don’t see having two unorganized offices. I need an organized first office, and a system created before I start the second one.”
“I didn’t like my business model but didn’t know what to change or how to do it.”
“My business has no inner brand, niche, or focus.”
Back in the 2000s, with my own one-year-old business, I had the opportunity to attend a one-day planning program that helped me make plans on one page. This plan will cover all the plans mentioned above. As a participant, I realized the importance of strategic planning before attempting execution or implementation. Today, my clients use the same methodology to bring greater success to their business. And when someone wants me to make plans for them, I do it with them. My clients are there throughout the process, learning about systems that can be reused in the future to make their lives easier—and more profitable—in the long run.