Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail | Planning for your Business
Last week, I had the privilege of sitting around a table and talk business and cultivate community with a local group of creative entrepreneurs. Some new to business, and some well traveled. The Rising Tide Society truly is community over competition. We chatted about finding the perfect client and took a few rabbit trails covering other business topics as well. I left with an urgency to make a well thought out, thorough and, most importantly written plan for my business. (Thank you Gina!!).
Stop it! I can hear the audible gasps. ‘You don’t have a plan?’ It was just a few months ago when everyone and their brother wrote a blog post about making business plans, financial plans or personal New Year’s resolutions. I read them. Or maybe just skimmed them. I knew that was what ‘successful businesses’ did, or at least said they did. But not everyone needs a list. Right? And I even like lists. But, there was something about this that……scared me. Maybe it was that once I wrote it on paper, it made it real. More real than thinking it or saying it in my head. So real, that I would be able to SEE my failure if I didn’t accomplish it. Was that why I had not done it? Was it really? I remember every year I would think, “I am so new to this, how can I make a realistic plan?” I mean, I didn’t really know how far to reach. But, not reaching for anything left me unchallenged and uninspired. There was no rush. No urgency. No pushing limits. No fear of failure because nothing was expected of me. And all too often, I just didn’t move. I didn’t “do” things that would really make my business grow. Winston Churchill said “He who fails to plan, is planning to fail.” Blah Blah Blah. But, is it?
There is something about writing out and seeing your plans and goals in front of you. We plan vacations and meals. What about Disney? Get the fast pass to the 3 places that usually have the longest lines (so we can breeze through) and then plan all other rides around those. But those are easier because the outcome is almost certain. We know we can achieve those tasks. We WILL eat everyday, one way or another. An honestly, the downside of not planning dinner may mean eating leftovers or a bowl of cereal. Cereal can be dinner, right? Not such a big deal. I think making a business plan requires some foresight. It also has to be very specific. The hard part is the ‘plan’ and even harder is the execution of the plan. How exactly do you make things happen and reach those goals?
After all, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
Every business wants to increase revenue or number of clients or expand to new areas. I think that is where we fail. Goals are pretty easy to spew out, but a specific action plan requires much more effort. And it may be that we actually are increasing revenue but not necessarily in the niche we want, or at the venues we want. So, how do we do it? Well, I am not an expert, but this seems like a good starting place. Take my suggestions and customize them to fit your needs and your business.
- Evaluate– It is difficult to know where you are heading if you don’t know where you’ve been. What worked and what didn’t work in 2015? Identify your business’ strengths and weaknesses. How can you build on the strengths to get you closer to your goals? Will the weaknesses impede you from reaching them?
- Prioritize– list the top 3 things you want to work on for your business. These can be something like shoot 25 weddings in 2016, or get published, or shoot a destination wedding.
- Brainstorm– What specific actions can help you achieve your goals? Maybe it is a specific marketing campaign. Or offering a promotion or setting up a styled shoot. Possibly, it is blogging more or fine tuning your seo. And this is where you can think outside the box. Even if it is a pie in the sky idea. You never know where that may lead, so don’t limit yourself here. It is also helpful to have someone to bounce it off of. Having a business partner would be great, but if you don’t, maybe a trusted colleague or friend.
- Organize your actions from your brainstorming session– Group and organize relatable actions. Put them in order of short-term quick actions to those that will take longer to make happen. It is ok to list more than what you can possibly achieve. Once you get on a roll, sometimes it is hard to stop progress!
- Make a timeline– This is what will give you a sense of urgency. If you received a bill in the mail with no due date, would you rush to pay it? Assigning completion dates will not only urge you to complete the task but then also give a sense of accomplishment when they are completed. I remember reading that you should make ‘to do’ lists that were long enough so progress was achieved but not too long that you don’t feel like you failed. I am not sure about that except that anything you do this year that you didn’t do last year to grow your business is moving in the right direction. (I will get back to you later on in the year and let you know if that still holds true;).
- Execute!!! “Good business planning is 9 parts execution for every 1 part strategy.” – Tim Berry And now, the real work begins. Be intentional, be brave. I know we can do this! Sacrifice some time every week to address your action plan. I have heard of amazing success stories from photographers, bloggers, and speakers of how their businesses exploded in just a couple years. Awesome, right? But I guarantee you they didn’t get that result without some serious hustle. It will take work and some things will fail. But some will be grand successes, and that is what will make it all worth it.
- Evaluate……again…….and again– I would set periodic reminders to evaluate your progress throughout the year. There is probably no hard and fast rule here, but I would say at least ever 3-4 months or so. Again, that is what I am going to do and I will let you know how it all pans out.
Ok, so who is with me? I would love to hear how you attack your business plan or if you want to jump on board with me. Please share your success stories to encourage us all!
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