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Breathe Life into Your Business Plan

If you’re like many entrepreneurs, you shudder when you hear the dreaded words “business plan.” You envision an unrelenting tomb of market research, numbers and statistics, and spreadsheets as far as the eye can see, and fees…lots of consulting fees. That’s just one of the reasons that business plans get bad raps. The biggest one though is that after all that investment, the business plan doesn’t see the light of day.

I know because I’ve been on both sides of the business plan. As a consultant during the heady days of the dotcom boom, I wrote jillions (technical term) of them. And time and time again, I saw them succeed at bringing in the money from a venture capital firm, and then get shelved when reality set in.

When I became a small business owner in the late 90s, I vowed to do things differently and started searching for a solution. I found Jim Horan’s “The One Page Business Plan” and I became an avid user and fan of the plan. (He also has a version that is specific to financial services professionals.)

Simplicity is Bliss. The beauty of the one page business plan is its simplicity. You want to be able to look at your plan daily, so you can work it. I’m going to walk you through the five elements of a business plan, so you can kick off your year by answering a few key questions, and building your own.

1. Vision

Do you have one and if you do, does it reflect what you want to accomplish in 2016?

Key Questions to Answer:

  • What is your ultimate goal and what does it look like from 10,000 feet?
  • What are you building and what do you want your business to look like in 1, 3 or 5 years?
  • When you read your vision, does it inspire you?

2. Mission

This is your why – why do you do what you do and what drives you?

Key questions to answer:

  • Why does this business exist?
  • What is unique about you or your product or service?
  • What promise are you making to your clients and what needs, desires, pain, or problems do your products/services solve?

3. Objectives

Think about what you need to measure to be successful, i.e. revenue, number of clients, number of appointments, number of calls in a week, etc.

Key questions to answer:

  • What’s your time frame?
  • Can you include numerical values for your objectives?
  • Can you chart or graph them?

4. Strategies

What are your key strategies that will help you meet your objectives, and fulfill your mission and vision?

Key questions to answer:

  • What markets are you serving and how will you reach them?
  • What is your footprint (virtual and physical) – where and how are you selling?
  • Who are your target customers and how are they changing?

5. Actions

Map out your key actions to achieve your strategies and bring them to life. This is where the rubber meets the road and where you get tactical.

Key questions to answer:

  • What do I need to accomplish this week and this quarter to meet my objectives and build my strategies?
  • When will I review this plan and make adjustments to it?
  • Who I am accountable to…is it enough to just be accountable to yourself? If not, get a partner, a friend or a coach.

So, five simple words on one page: Vision. Mission. Objectives. Strategies. Actions.

What makes the difference is what you put under those words and the passion you build around them. So, keep it simple. Keep it visible. Work it, so it’s working for you.

And in the words of Yogi Berra, “You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.”

Here’s to getting there in 2016!