The Four Hour Business Plan

Every New Year we make a resolution that this year is going to be our best one yet. We swear we’ll be more organized, communicate with our customers on the regular and get a better handle on our incomings and outgoings. When January comes around, we’re full of energy and excitement, but soon the same old trials and tribulations come creeping back into play, putting our positivity into a tailspin and dropping us right back into the same old patterns and bad habits that have been keeping us from really seeing our business’s full potential. So how do we get this cycle to stop?

It’s simple really. You need a plan.

Not a boring business plan that sits in the bottom drawer; an active action plan that outlines your long term vision and breaks it down into bite size goals that you can tackle as part of your day-to-day role as a frantic, firefighting, entrepreneur-extraordinaire! While it may sound impossible, it can be done. So let’s get cooking!

STEP ONE — 30 minutes

You can’t have a plan without a vision. So your first step is to identify what the big picture for your business is — and you need to be able to articulate that in one sentence. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Where do I want this business to be in five years?
  2. What do I want my business to stand for?
  3. How do I want my business to evolve from where it is now to where I want it to be?

Now, in one sentence, describe where you see your business in 2020. If you’re a restaurateur, maybe you want to build a multi-location restaurant group that is known as a champion for sustainable, fair trade food practices in the community. If you are a hair stylist, you might want to build an all-encompassing beauty brand that women can rely on to make them feel like their best self. If you’re an accountant, maybe you want to be the go-to guy or gal to help local small business owners grow their enterprises with confidence. Whatever your vision is, make sure it represents you and your business in the next five years, and make sure it’s accurate. Your vision will be the anchor for your entire plan (and your entire life) as you move forward on your journey.

STEP TWO — 60 minutes

Once you have established your vision, you will need to create a series of outcomes that will help you make your vision a reality. You can work out your outcomes in four categories: financial, client, internal and people.

For the financial category, write down a few outcomes that you expect for your business in the next five years. Do you want it to make $1 million dollars? Do you want it to deliver a 35% profit margin? Do you want to earn enough money so you can spend the summer in Spain? Pick two financial outcomes that are most important to you and write them down.

Next you need to decide on some core client outcomes and how they fit into your vision and goals. Do you need to have a certain number of clients to hit your financial target? Do you want to attract clients with certain needs? Do you want to build a client base that has a specific attribute? Pick three or four client outcomes that matter most to you and commit to them.

Once you’ve settled on your client outcomes, you’ll need to think about your internal processes. These are the outcomes that you need to create inside your business in order for it to run at its best. Here are some ideas. Are there tools and technologies you need to master? Are there products that you need to add to your repertoire? Are there components of your business such as marketing, sales, HR or finance that need to be tightened up? Choose a few internal outcomes that you think are the most important to the success of your business and make them your priority.

Finally, turn your focus to your people outcomes, and by people, I mean the people in your business that make the engine run. If you’re a sole proprietor, it might just be you and a few key partners outside of your business. If you head up an operation with staff, this will include those people and your future team as you grow. Think about what outcomes you need from both yourself and the people around you to grow your business to its full potential. Do you need to optimize your recruiting? Do you want to find employees that are passionate about the business’s goals? Do you have to build better relationships with your partners to get more cost efficient results? Think about it. What people outcomes do you need to nail to satisfy your top line goal?

STEP THREE — 15 minutes

Take a breath; the hardest part is over. At this point, you should have what we call a vision map, which outlines the big picture goal for your business and the various outcomes you need to work through to get your business to where it needs to be. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with a long list of outcomes, don’t be. Now it’s time to start breaking things down.

In each category (financial, client, internal, people), you should have between two and four outcomes. Get out your red pen and put a big circle around one outcome in each category that is most important to focus on for the upcoming year. These four prioritized outcomes should also be vital to achieving your vision. Now this doesn’t mean we will forget the rest of the outcomes you’ve identified, but we all need to start somewhere and none of us can do it all.

STEP FOUR — 60 minutes

Congratulations, you’ve just created the framework for your one-year plan! Now it’s time to break down your prioritized outcomes into some strategies. Let’s start with your financial outcome. What strategies do you need to implement to achieve that outcome? Let’s say, for example’s sake, you have identified an amount of money that you want the business to make. How many clients do you need to bring in to achieve that? How many products do you need to sell? These are your strategies; they are what you need to do to achieve your outcome. Take some time to think about each outcome and move down the list, identifying two or three strategies you’ll need to work on in order to make each outcome possible.

STEP FIVE — 60 minutes

You’re almost there! Now that you have a list of strategies, you’ll need to develop a series of action items for each strategy, which, when completed, will become your first 90-day plan to kick off 2016! Not sure of the difference between strategies and action items? The strategies you have created in the previous step should be what you need to do in order to achieve your outcomes. The action items you’ll create now will identifyhow you’re going to do it.

Say, for instance, that your financial outcome is to make $1 million dollars by 2020. To do that, one of your strategies might be to bring in 10 new clients per month. This final step will identify how you’re going to get those 10 new clients in the door every month. So, for example, your action items might be to:

  1. Identify the types of clients you want to target and where to find them
  2. Develop a new business marketing plan which helps you introduce your services to these potential clients
  3. Create a communications plan to help you approach potential new clients with confidence

Those are your action items. Another example might be that your people outcome is to attract staff members that are passionate about the business’s goals. Your strategy might be to find potential employees who have an entrepreneurial mindset and are looking for a company to grow with. Your action items would be to:

  1. Research the best places to find the types of people you’re looking for
  2. Develop a suite of materials that introduces your company and why it’s a great place to work
  3. Create a program that gives new staff members ongoing personal and professional development and support

You get the idea. For each strategy, you should have at least two or three action items with the name of the person responsible for the action item and the date the action should be completed. Deadlines should be aggressive but achievable and the plan should be reviewed with all involved parties during regularly scheduled meetings.

That’s it! In less time than it takes to cook a Sunday roast, you can build a practical business plan that gives you and the people inside your business the vision, focus and confidence to take your enterprise to the next level. So what are you waiting for?

Need a little help? Get in touch and we’ll send you a free template to navigate you through the process, or contact us to schedule a one-on-one, four hour session to help you cook up the best recipe for your business’s success.