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Successful Business Planning for Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses: A How To Guide

I heard what I think is one of the greatest quotes ever recently: “December is like the weekend of the year… You wake up hungover, full of cheese, 10 lbs heavier and wondering what the hell happened from January to November” (I’m paraphrasing but thanks, Adam Williams).

So… how was your year?

  • Did you get accomplished what you wanted to accomplish?
  • Did you reach your goals in your business?
  • Did you grow your revenue like you planned you would?
  • Or… did it all coming falling apart like big stack of Jenga tiles?

If you didn’t hit your goals, I probably got a good idea as to why.

Do You Have a Business Plan for Your Business?

I’m not talking about that massive 70-page paper of mumbo-jumbo that you teach you about in Business School – competitive landscape analysis, SWOT, and all that jazz – that thing is completely and utterly useless for a small business owner.

I’m talking about a simple plan, maybe even a 1-pager, that addresses the following:

  1. Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) – How much revenue are you going to make in this coming year.

  2. Profit/Owner Benefit – Out of that Revenue, how much are YOU going to take home?

  3. Sales – How many clients/customers do you need to buy from you generate that much revenue and profit? Be specific.

  4. Marketing – How many leads to you need to get the number of clients/customers you desire? This requires you to know your conversion rates really well! For a service business it goes like this: total leads to qualified leads, qualified leads to sales calls booked, sales calls booked to clients closed, and average sale price for clients closed.

  5. People – Do you have the right people, in the right proportion, doing the right things in your business to generate the revenue you plan on making? If not, when exactly are you going to hire more people? You’ll need at least 3-6 months lead time to get the right person so build this into a hiring plan!

  6. Production – Do you have the capabilities, assets, processes and procedures to deliver the services that you’re going to have to deliver once you close all of the above sales in a timely manner? If not, you’re going to have a bunch of angry customers at your door when you promised them something but cannot deliver.

  7. Physical Plant – Do you need more office space? Does your office operate like a well oiled machine where everyone knows exactly what they need to when, when they need to do it and how they need to do it? Or is everyone running around like a bunch of headless chickens in a disorganized manner. If you need to get organization in place, make a plan for building our the policies and procedures and build those into your 12 month project plan.

  8. Money and Metrics – Do you have a 12-month forward looking budget so that you can anticipate when your expenses are going to go up and when those big expenditures will hit? Or are you doing back-of-the envelope math every time you need to figure out if you can make that next big expense? On the metrics side, do you know the key metrics that you can track to ensure you’re on track for your revenue goals, marketing targets, sales conversion rates, hiring plan and production metrics?

  9. You – Lastly, how are you going to improve in this coming year? Are you a good manager? Are you great at leadership? Do you know how to keep staff accountable? If there’s shortcomings in yourself, then you should plan for your own personal and professional development.

Plans are Worthless, But Planning is Everything

Dwight D. Eisenhower, the former president of the United States and Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe, once said: “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything”.

He’s right… even if you spent the time to make a plan using the above formula – it would be worthless. That’s because 24 hours after you wrote that plan, your plan is now outdated. An outdated plan doesn’t help since it’s not true anymore.

So how do you fix this?

Here’s the strategy that I use and that I learned from a ton of other successful 7-figure business owners:

  1. Actionable Business Plan – Do the above exercise once a quarter or twice a year. The more you do it, the easier and faster it becomes to assess the 7 main parts of your business.

  1. 12 month budget – If you form the above plan, I can guarantee you’re going to have expenses you plan for. Marketing takes money. Hiring takes money. More sales makes money, so that’s revenue. Plan this stuff out and predict it. Compare it monthly and adjust it monthly. That’s how you stay on top of it.

  1. 12 month strategic calendar – Again, the above plan must have projects in it. A project is anything you need to do in the business to move the needle – make a new hire, launch a new marketing campaign, design a new process for working with your next hire, etc. Pull out 12 calendars and start popping in the tasks that you MUST complete to hit your BHAG.

  1. Marketing Plan – Most business owners just post random stuff on social media and pray to the Google Gods that new leads will come in. That’s just bullshit… it doesn’t work. If you want more leads then you’ll need to study real marketing – Call to Actions, Funnels, Referral Marketing, SEO, etc. – learn an area and learn it well. You only need one! Next, form a hypothesis (i.e. if I post 5 blogs a month, I’ll get 100 more people on my website, and I’ll get 5 more calls), test the hypothesis, track the results, then pivot to the next area. This is real marketing – a big giant experiment to see which spaghetti strings stick on the wall when you throw spaghetti and then reworking what sticks.

Want to be Hungover Again?

Okay so let’s recap… if you feel like your December was a big giant hangover, try the strategies I’m recommending here. I promise that if you have some sort of a plan, even if it’s not the best plan, your 2024 will go a lot smoother than your 2023.

If you are unsure how to execute on them, please reach out. I live and breath this stuff and would be more than happy to help you through this.

This is how you make real progress in a business instead of waking up every morning and asking yourself “what should I do today?”

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About 20% of small businesses in Canada fail within their very first year. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you have the right business and legal guidance.