I have never been a fan of long winded business plans or strategies.
By giving yourself the luxury of unlimited words and pages, you automatically give yourself permission to drone on and on – and that means you are escaping from the need to get really clear on what it is you intend to do.
This is the ultimate danger zone for business owners, because unless you get ruthlessly clear on what your business does, how it is performing, and what the future looks like, you will be cultivating an environment for the rot to set in.
So this is what I hold myself accountable to. This is my business model on a page, and I take it everywhere with me.
I look at this at the start, during and end of each year. I re-evaluate my progress every 90 days and see where I have performed well (against my stated goals) or have strayed from the path.
The beauty of this is that it takes me all of 5 minutes to review – if that – which means it doesn’t gather dust in a desk or become totally irrelevant in a month’s time.
This is my challenge to you – it’s the end of another year. Unless you are 100% completely and totally satisfied with you what you have achieved, and have no ambition to go bigger next year, then this is for you. And I know it’s for you, because I know my audience. You are ambitious. You want to leave a legacy. You have big plans – we are talking global. You are driven and smart and incredible at what you do, and you are poised on the cusp of the next level. And you also know that you can’t get there on your own.
So – do you want to get serious about growth in the new year?
Then let’s do this.
This is where I start this process – considering everything that might hurt my business in 2019. I list out the worst-case scenarios and plan for those. If you think that this sounds like a negative outlook, think again. It is actually the best way to de-risk your business, think eight moves ahead and plan for what’s coming, rather than sticking your head in the sand.
This one is all about self-awareness and being totally honest about what you struggle with, or aren’t great at, and being equally honest about the areas in which you excel. The challenge for many of my clients is that they aren’t really sure how to identify either.
A great place to start is asking trusted friends, peers or colleagues who will give you an honest and informed opinion on where your ‘zone of genius’ is. Then list everything you do, and think about the things on that list that fill you with energy and passion, and the ones that make you grumpy, exhausted and stressed.
You’’ll be surprised how quickly themes begin to emerge, and this is where the honesty comes in. I am a big believer of doubling down on my genius, and I equally know what drains me and the things I’m not great at. The real lesson here is that once you identify that second list, you need to swallow your pride and get experts in to perform those activities. Spend the money. Make it official, and use the time you have freed up to go big on your strengths.
Put simply – if you let your ego get in the way, then you will never run a world class business. I don’t care who you are, you aren’t great at everything, you don’t have all the answers, and you should never be the smartest person in the room.
Identifying your strengths is just the start. Raw talent and being naturally gifted isn’t enough if you really want to dominate and be known for what you do. If your strength is in sales – how can you get better? If you are a great natural public speaker, how do you hone that stagecraft so that no-one else can touch you? This step is also about honesty and lack of ego. The minute you think that you don’t need to keep investing in the development of your strengths is the moment when you start to get left behind.
Many people talk about always having the beginners mindset, and this is great advice because with this attitude you never stop learning and improving. This dedication to honing your skills is what will take your already strong attributes to the next level.
I am always working on the foundations of my business. This is where I take a good hard look at everything with a critical eye and list all the things I need to optimise or improve.
I give myself 30 days at to do this and look at it as a maintenance period to plug holes and fix everything that isn’t working, before jumping into any new ideas. At this point I start with my vision for the business and I contemplate my ‘why’. This is a powerful starting point to ascertain how far you have strayed from your what original vision was.
This has nothing to do with trying to be a perfectionist. It has everything to do with being objective enough to spot the cracks and reinforce them before putting more pressure in top, and also remembering that it’s the mundane things (processes, lack of clarity or automation, your team or environment) that can bring every business to its knees.
This is where you recruit others to give you an unemotional assessment of where your business could improve. Don’t skimp here – pay a professional to come in and assess where you are at, and what you need to change.
Once I have identified what needs to happen in the maintenance period, I cast my mind to what I want to achieve in the next 90 days. This is where I get really clear on my goals and the things that will transform my business and increase my top line revenue and profits.
This is where I list out new ideas that I want to try, that will bring me closer to my big picture vision. I never have more than five and try to keep it less than that.
This period is a great amount of time to focus on one or two new ideas and really test and execute them. At the end of the 90 days I do a strategy re-set and re-evaluate how I am going and what the next quarter will look like – always using my big three year vision as the north star.
This one is about balancing the tactical side with the big picture vision. For me, I find it works best to map out my long (ten year), medium (five and three year) and short (one year) term objectives, as a way of forcing myself out of the detail and think about where I want to be a decade from now. Then I reverse engineer it, identifying the five-year achievements that will make the ten-year vision come true, and the three-year achievements that will make the five-year vision come true…you get the picture. Once you’ve completed this, set yourself five or so things that you intend to achieve within the next year that will contribute to the long term growth of your business and the achievement of that ultimate vision.
If you aren’t currently looking for incremental growth, then you need to get your head around this concept. Once you get the hang of this, you see how easily your 90 day goals are created. Set the big vision, reverse engineer what you need to do to get there, and these become your goals.
The biggest challenge most business owners have here is limiting what they believe is possible. If you limit your vision because you can’t quite see how you will achieve it yet, then you will never have any chance of making it real.
This is where I think about what I would need if I tripled my business tomorrow.
I find that it is very common for business owners to think about, plan and wish for growth, and yet when it happens, they are caught totally unprepared – which can wreck their business as a result.
You know that saying ‘grew too fast too soon’? Can you think of a business that you used to love because it was boutique and personal, but then became so successful that it lost its magic? The business that had great customer service, and then lost it? Or perhaps a fantastic company that expanded too quickly and then eventually folded completely? All these are examples of what happens when you don’t anticipate growth and the accompanying traps in a realistic way.
If you are reading this and thinking that you will never triple (or more) your growth, then you are right, you probably won’t. If you are reading this and thinking “hell yeah!” then get focused on thinking about what impact that growth would have to your processes, your staff, your time, your premises and your bottom line.
I think about my exit strategy. Even though I may never intend to sell my business, this is an especially powerful exercise to go through. It forces you to look at your business through the eyes of a potential buyer or investor, and as soon as you do this, you will start to see any short-comings in your business model. Is it scalable? Are you pricing your services right? Is your market niche clear? There are a hundred other questions, but in my experience, this is one of the big ones – how dependent is your business on you? Starting to think this way will force you to objectively look at ways you can systemise, automate and scale your business, and if you are the founder, the role that you play is one of the most critical things to consider.
This is where you stop thinking like a small business, and start thinking as the CEO and leader of a successful enterprise – it’s a big shift, but if you want to seriously be successful, then it’s a leap you have to make.
If you don’t want to be the CEO of your business (and this is more common than you may think) you need to get really clear on the role you do want to play, where you add the most value, and who else you need alongside you to grow the business to the next level.
So there you have it. The fool-proof business plan that will keep me focused, on track and prepared to achieve my goals in 2019. So will you be there with me?
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• Thinking like a CEO;
• Preparing for growth;
• Identifying your strengths and weaknesses; or
• Understanding the concept of incremental growth –
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