As a business owner do you find that, no matter how hard you work, there is always more to do? This can be disheartening. Often, lack of planning is the culprit; in this article we will look at some proven planning techniques that can help.
Plan. Do. Review.
This is a never-ending virtuous circle where you:
- plan what you need to do
- do what you planned to do
- review what you did and how it went
The review stage feeds into your next plan and on it goes.
The problem in business is that we often spend so much time doing, that we spend no time planning. Further, in the absence of a plan, there’s nothing to review. This method of working is simply reacting to events – if it goes well, it’s probably a result of good fortune rather than good planning.
In my experience, to achieve consistent success in business, planning is essential. And it doesn’t need to be complicated or time-consuming; it’s your ability to plan consistently, create a plan, and stick to it that counts.
Your planning should encapsulate long, medium, and short-term timescales. Here are some suggested timescales that work for me and may work for you.
If you look back over the last ten years you can see how much can change in this time, often change that you would never have envisaged – technological innovation is one obvious example. Unforeseen change is why you need to revisit and review your plan. Write down what you want your business to look and feel like in ten years; plan like it will happen and your mindset will be one of making it happen.
This is still quite a lengthy period, but it will soon come around. My own business, Kataholos, has been going for around four years and it amazes me how much we’ve achieved in that time. So, in five years you can transform your business, or even start a new one. Again, plan like it will happen.
This is an excellent medium-term timescale in which you can take your business to the next level by making huge strides towards, for example, better business processes, and more productive business relationships. Three years can pass quickly, so make sure your plan deals with how you’re going to achieve, not just what you’re going to achieve.
Don’t try to put too much into your one-year plan. Focus on no more than three business goals that come from your business’ core values of what your business aims to achieve and what it’s about. Stick to these focused goals and don’t let other distractions divert your attention elsewhere. Focused planning means saying ‘no’ to other distractions; only this way can you be sure you fix your attention on what matters for your business.
This is my favourite planning timescale in business – it passes so quickly yet it’s long enough to get things done and see some results that improve your business. Here is how I recommend you draw up a three-month plan.
- On a sheet of paper draw three big circles in a horizontal line and label them for the next three months.
- In each circle write the important objectives for each month; these are your must-happen actions.
- Next, add any special projects, or events such as exhibitions (don’t forget holidays).
- Add any other projects you might like to complete or spend time on. You have now built a picture of what the next three months look like. One addition I make to this plan is to add a box alongside each circle called ‘Focus’. In here you add one special focus for each month; depending on your business, examples might include improving or adding a service, increasing your sales, or reviewing your marketing.
Use your three-month plan to inform your onemonth plan. Take the objectives from your first circle and write a list of the activities for the month that you must focus on to realise these objectives. Tick them off as you complete them – this is rewarding because you have proved to yourself that, having first studied your bigger picture, you are now spending time and effort on the right activities.
Weekly and daily plans
These are simple; use your monthly plan to create weekly and daily to-do lists of activities that help you achieve your monthly goals.
The timescale plans you build are the track that you see your business following over the coming months and years. However, there are events, projects, and contingencies that often need their
own dedicated plan.
Special event plans
Special events and projects always need their own subject-matter specific plans. These might include client meetings, exhibitions, or product developments.
It’s too late to plan once something has gone wrong. Often this is caused by unforeseen circumstances so be proactive and create a plan for what to do if something out of the blue happens. Events that can derail plans include:
- sickness or bereavement, at work or at home
- losing a key member of your team
- losing your biggest client
- changes to legislation or other regulations.
If you’re wondering where and when to begin planning, just start today. Simply by making more time for planning and doing it regularly, you will begin heading in the right direction. It takes courage to step away from the just-domore mentality and invest that time instead in planning but if you do, you’ll see the benefits.Keep your plans simple, focus on what is important, review your progress regularly, and be proud of your success.
About the author
Preston, United Kingdom
Michael is a former primary school teacher with extensive experience of teaching, coaching, leading and team membership. He is a published author and regular blogger. His life-long passion for and interest in fitness, wellbeing and growing people has led him to building online professional and personal development courses with his company Kataholos.
Michael is experienced in public speaking, delivering for both the public and private sector regionally, nationally and internationally. A regular speaker for Russell Bedford, one of his most enjoyable events was Russell Bedford’s Managers and Young Partners Meeting in 2019, in Malta, where he delivered a keynote speech and workshop on world class leadership.