For the record, I’m a big fan of business planning. It provides clarity, supports measurement and generally makes us feel like we have a modicum of control over our lives. All good things.
The problem I have with most approaches to business planning is that they assume you’re clear on the end goal, that you have a clear and compelling vision for the future of your business.
In fact, the very process may lull you into believing that your vision can be reduced to a simple revenue goal, a growth rate or even a client or team satisfaction rating. I’d argue that while these are all important, they’re really stepping stones on the path to what you’re really trying to achieve.
For that reason, I’d suggest that instead of starting the year by asking how much we can grow, we begin with a more fundamental question.
What do you (really) want to create?
When you ask what you want to create you’re defining the longer-term vision for the business, one that is, hopefully, driven by a compelling personal vision. When you know what you want to create it provides context for your business plan, helps you filter out the wrong tactics and highlight the right ones, and gives you the energy and inspiration that you need to make life as an entrepreneur bearable.
Why is this so important?
You don’t have to look further than our data on ‘drift’ to see why vision is the critical starting point for effective business planning.
Based on our research two thirds of advisors report they aren’t on track to achieve the vision they have for their business. I don’t believe it’s a lack of planning that is the problem, rather lack of clarity or vision.
The reality is that we drift from our goals and our goals change over time. If we don’t address the drift and define a clear vision, a business plan may simply accelerate your progress in the wrong direction.
Let’s Change the Record
So what can you do to make 2018 the year that changed the trajectory of your business? While I won’t suggest you stop planning all together, I will suggest you start in a different place. And for what it’s worth, this will make the process considerably more fun.
There are two things that I believe need to happen before you start crafting a business plan.
#1 Get clear on your personal vision.
Your personal vision, in this context, reflects the clients with whom you want to work, the work you want to do and the role you want to play on the team. Without self-editing, give yourself the time to think about the business you would build if you could start fresh.
The more I study elite advisors, the more I realize that the challenge of hard work isn’t what holds people back. Too often we stumble on this first step—giving ourselves permission to envision a different future and coming to grips with the possibility of something greater for ourselves.
There are so many reasons we stop ourselves from being open to possibility, but three seem to dominate.
- Reaching for a bigger life opens up the possibility of failure. If we don’t articulate the dream, we never fail. If we don’t seek something more, we’re forced to be satisfied with what we have.
- It feels “selfish.” Many of us are trapped by a misguided sense of responsibility, one that keeps us moving in the same direction. It’s like being on a treadmill without being able to find the off switch.
- It requires extraordinary vision. Often, the thing that holds us back is not an unwillingness to work hard, but a distinct lack of imagination about what is possible.
With a personal vision clarified, ask yourself an important and honest question. What will I do with that information? You only have two choices. You can use that personal vision like fuel for a refined business vision or you can put the thoughts in a drawer and pretend they never existed. But I warn you, it’s hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube.
#2 Translate your personal vision into a business vision
If you allow that personal vision to drive the direction of your business, it will likely define if you’ll focus on a particular niche (target market or technical specialty) and the specific role that you should play to drive the business forward. Both of those things will dictate how you focus and grow your business in 2018.
I feel I should tell you what your team may not. If you are not focused on business planning for 2018 or if you’re trying to craft a plan without a clear vision, it’s inefficient and de-motivating.
A vision is like a rudder and provides clear direction for those around it you. A vision is motivating and inspiring and brings the team together. Without a clear vision you may be in danger of creating a form of chaos because everything will seem like a good idea. If for no other reason, your team deserves clarity.
Give Yourself a Fighting Chance
#1 Get away
Defining what you want to create demands introspection and that’s not something we can typically schedule between meetings, while eating a sandwich at our desks. It almost demands that you take yourself out of your day-to-day environment and create space to think. I believe you need to carve out real time to work through this thinking on your own or with your partners.
Take yourself out of your environment, start with a clear set of questions to consider and do the thinking you need to do. The reality is, this thought process is variously messy and uncomfortable. I believe that we need to embrace the mess before we can find the clarity.
#2 Find support
It’s easy to get too deep in our own thoughts to a point where we tie ourselves up in knots. For that reason, I believe strongly that finding a person or a group of people who are working through the same questions is critical. If you can form or find a mastermind group populated with people who are each committed to helping one another get clarity and take action, you’ll have no choice but to succeed.
A Ready-Made Mastermind Group
If the idea of a clear personal vision feels right, but the process is unclear, we can help.
The Absolute Engagement Experience is a program that will help you intentionally design the next phase of your business, so that you drive significant and sustained growth in a way that supports the life you (really) want to live.
The program kicks off with a live 2-day event, a hands-on retreat during which we’ll guide you through the development of your 2018 plan (and beyond). Over the subsequent 12 months you’ll work with me, your team and a small group of successful advisors to bring that vision to life.
If you’d like to learn more, click here. If you’d like to book a 15-minute call to discuss if this is a good way to kick-start your 2018, you can book that with me here: https://calendly.com/jlittlechild/15min
Thanks for stopping by,