Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential
It’s all too easy to put planning at the bottom of your to-do list. You don’t have the time. You’re concentrating on making money now. Maybe you’re a bit of a free spirit – you like the flexibility and innovation that comes with living from day-to-day. And, after all, you’re not a fortune teller… who knows what the next year will bring?
While this may be true, you’re making a mistake. And your business will suffer as a result.
All successful businesses (and all successful leaders) have a plan for the future. And, unsurprisingly, they love the fact that many of their competitors don’t. Successful businesses know that through planning, they will develop a clear understanding of what they’re trying to achieve, and how they’re going to do it.
And that includes getting more clients and making more money than you.
However, I believe there are some secrets that need to be shared – and these ones about planning (and how it will have a direct impact on your business) need to become common knowledge…
Secret one: just because you’re getting things done, it doesn’t mean you’re achieving anything
One of the first things effective leaders learn is the difference between outputs and outcomes. Your team are all working long hours, they’re churning out emails, they’re always on the phone… but are they achieving anything? Are they contributing to the bottom line? Are they working towards the business objectives?
By putting a yearly business plan in place, you can make sure everything you spend your time on is moving you towards your final goal. You’ll cut out the waffle and spend time and resources on activities that are actually making a difference.
Secret two: Taking the time to plan isn’t TIME MISSPENT
Do you see sending out invoices a waste of time? Is going to networking events or conferences a waste of time? Updating your website? Making phone calls to new prospects? No, probably not. And why not? Because you’re doing work that, while it isn’t making money now, will have an impact on your business later down the line.
Planning is exactly the same. You’re not losing money by setting aside time to plan, you’re actually working towards securing more in the future. By understanding exactly where you want to be in a year’s time, you’ll be able to work out how you’re going to get there.
Secret three: A plan doesn’t have to be War and Peace
We’ve all seen those planning documents from hell. Eighty pages long with an accompanying deck of 64 densely packed slides filled with incomprehensible graphs and charts. That’s enough to put anyone off planning, even me!
It doesn’t have to be that way. All a good plan needs is robust objectives and a plan of attack.
Hand-wafting statements won’t cut it. “By the end of Q4, 2017, I want to be the best company in XXX industry” is not an objective. Make sure you have clear metrics which are easily evaluated (e.g., “by the end of Q4 2017, I want my direct sales to XXX sector to have increased by 17%” or “by the end of Q2 2017, I will have delivered 5 online webinars to a cumulative audience of at least 1,000 people”)
It’s a good idea to break your plan of attack down into chunks of 90 days. Firstly, it’s slightly less intimidating this way (“I’ve got to achieve how much?!”) and secondly, it gives you the perfect excuse for a quarterly evaluation (see secret five for more)
(Unsure on how to develop an objective? Look here.)
Secret four: Looking backwards is a great way to move forward
You might know where you’re going, but if you don’t know where you’ve been, you’re on a road to nowhere (obligatory Talking Heads reference, sorry)
By analysing how your previous year went, you can work out what worked, what didn’t, what needs to change, and what needs to happen next. It’s also a prime time to reassess your mission, vision, values, and key clients. If you don’t understand the environment you’re working in (and your place in it), how to do you expect to thrive in it?
As anyone in the military will tell you: “Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted.”
Secret five: A plan isn’t a set of rules, it’s a guideline
Ultimately, it’s not about the plan, it’s about the planning. I don’t think I’ve ever written a plan that I’ve then executed to the letter. Life gets in the way, something unexpected comes along, and your plan goes out the window.
You need to review your plan regularly – things will change and your plan needs to change alongside. If things aren’t on track, then how are you going to change direction to get back on the right path? Maybe your end goal has moved? What do you need to do to achieve your new objectives?
Having done the planning, you can quickly re-plan.
Businesses don’t achieve their success because they have a fool-proof plan or they know something you don’t. They succeed because they have a plan and because that plan is constantly evaluated and adjusted.
If you need help with your planning, why not get in touch? We love planning!
Beaumont is a communications agency based in Lausanne, Switzerland. We work with clients all around the world to change the way they talk about themselves – helping them create engaging stories that motivate action.