One area I constantly struggle with is planning. With my first business, I was able to plan in small increments (ie: if I had a trade show coming up, I designed my catalog in advance and had samples ready), but I did not plan so well beyond say, 90 days. This led me to world of trouble.
I think part of the problem is I had ideas and I executed on them, and though I knew bits and pieces of where I wanted to go, I just failed to solidify them. I was still able to accomplish a lot, but I constantly felt disorganized and that I was always throwing things against the wall to see what would stick.
Quite honestly, I think business plans in the traditional sense are garbage. Getting some random template and filling in an "executive summary" doesn't exactly get the creative juices flowing. To be most effective, the plan has to be meaningful to the business owner. I suggest the following when planning:
1. Imagine your business in three years: what do you want it to look like, how does it run, who is involved, how much money does it make?
2. What steps do you think you need to take each year to make that three year image happen?
3. Decide on your goals for this year. Write them down. Now, break up the year into four 90 day (quarterly) segments.
4. For the first 90 days, establish short term goals that will get you on a path to your year end goal.
5. For the next 90 days, establish goals that will continue your path toward your year end goal. Do the same for the remaining 90 day segments.
6. For the next 60 days, follow your plan and break it down further into monthly and weekly goals. When you get to 60 days, take a look at the second quarter goals and see if they are still relevant. If you accomplished more or less than you thought, you can adjust the next quarter as needed.
7. At the end of the month and quarter, look back to see what your goals were and how many of them you accomplished. This will help greatly when you feel frustrated that you're not doing enough.
If you keep following a consistent plan, at the end of the year you'll be pleasantly surprised by just how much you accomplished.
Sarah E. Holmes is a Philadelphia business attorney and strategist that helps start ups and established businesses looking to expand, protect their assets and increase their profits in an approachable, down-to-earth way.