Point 5 in my Traits of the Rich & Free is “Have a plan”. Very successful people follow a plan, its as simple as that. You have a vision for your ultimate ideal outcome, you articulate the vision for yourself, the people you need to convince and for the universe to get a handle on it too. You turn that vision into some very clear goals – long term and short term. And then you put a plan in place to make sure you achieve those goals. Like any destination, once you know where you are going, you need a map to get there (unless you have been there many times before, then you can rely on memory and instinct). I interviewed Rod Drury of Xero recently, he is on his fifth business and still following a clear plan to a well defined destination. Xero listed on the stock exchange right at the beginning and is taking the world by storm with its innovation and spot on timing – meeting a need in the market with precision and style. Rod talked about how his experience with his previous businesses earned him the respect and credibility he needed to raise capital this way. His journey is well defined and he is a very confident and experienced driver. He can afford to drive a little faster – but still he doesn’t try to get there without a plan.
In my experience, the trick to good planning is to start at the end goal and work backwards. At liber8yourbusiness we spend a session on “Planning Backwards” – a skill that every business owner can benefit from.
In essence the 10 steps to Backward Planning are:
1. View your business as a project with a beginning, a middle and an end.
2. Set your vision for your business clearly out there (what is your business going to look like when its reached its ultimate success)
3. Set your long term goal or goals – clearly defining what you want to see happen in your business for its owners (you and any other shareholders).
4. Work backwards to establish the key milestones that need to happen between now and then to ensure that goal can be achieved
5. Put your milestones in chronological order along a timeline to determine which has to happen before the others
6. Put some timeframes around each milestone – how long do you think realistically it will take to establish this (eg. one of my milestones for my advertising agency was to secure the first major piece of business billing in excess of $2 million. I guessed it would take 2-3 years to get there… I was about right).
7. When you have your end goal in place, with key milestones in order and timeframes on them, you can then put a date on the end goal by adding up all the timeframes on the milestones.
8. Then you review the end date and review your milestones accordingly, to see if you want to try to achieve any faster.
9. Once happy with the chart of events, end goal, milestones and timeframes, you can bring it right back to the beginning and begin to build an action plan for the first milestone. For my ad agency it was to win our first contracted, regular piece of business with one of the major companies in town. I wanted to do that within the first 18 months because I knew that once was we had regular work from an A list client, we would have the credibility to get another. We won the contract to provide all of the newsletters for the TAB (New Zealand’s Betting Agency) within our first 12 months. They were only newsletters… but it was enough to get us started on the road to regular income and credible client testimonials.
10. Follow your plan to the first milestone, allowing flexibility and keeping the door open for opportunities along the way. When you get to milestone one… CELEBRATE and then prepare the action plan for milestone 2.
Hope that’s useful. Feel free to ask me questions if you need more clarity.