A business plan, an up to date one that is, is an absolute must for your business. Even if you are sole-proprietor it is still very much a necessity.
I recently attended a great session on business planning at the Women In Biz Conference that took place this past May in Toronto. Danielle Botterrel and Amy Ballon are the creatives behind the book Mom Inc. which promises to help guide you down the road of “How to raise your business and your family without losing your mind or your shirt”. I was lucky enough to then hear Danielle speak again at the momstown semi-annual conference (for those of you who don’t know I am a previous licensee of momstown.ca).
At the Women in Biz Conference the message the authors of Mom Inc. and fellow panelists (including Ann-Marie Burton, owner of momstown.ca and a business mentor of mine) was very clear, having a business plan is not an option it is a MUST for any type of business no matter how “small” you think you are. The point is how do you ever plan to grow your business if there is no plan?
In Chapter 9 of Mom Inc. Danielle and Amy outline the major components of a very necessary business plan. You can download an amazing sample business plan, courtesy of Mom Inc., from their website.
Taking their great advice I came home and worked on my own business plan and can confirm that making the time to do this is one of the most important things you will ever do for your business. I have outlined for you below how to go about tackling your own plan.
- Define Your Brand Manifesto – I recently read an amazing blog post from theBrains On Fire blog (all of their posts are amazing by the way, make sure to check them out). This specific post was all about “The Brand Humanifesto“. They go on to talk about the “Humanifesto” of a company being the core of their spirit. The literal definition of a manifesto is is a public declaration of principles and intentions. Think about that definition and imagine why you need to have a “brand manifesto” for your company. As designers, decorators, and trades people we offer a very personal type of service. Your brand manifesto is your chance to scream from the rooftops who you are and what you stand for. It doesn’t mean the double-speak of statements like “We are committed to providing top-notch customer service to our clients”, great been there heard that before from every other company in the world. No it means, why do you do what you do, why do you love the world of design and decor, what inspires you on a daily basis? From the Brains On Fire post “Simply put: your brand manifesto is the real story of you.” Just think if you had a blinking sign above your head at all times proclaiming to the world what you and your business stand for so everyone you padd can’t help but read it, what would you want it to say. Check out the brand manifesto from Roux Maison for a great example of a company who is doing it right!
- You Must Make Time – One of the most important things I was taught by my mentor Ann-Marie was you must work “on” your business, not just “in” your business. Client commitments and needs are important I get that, but those client needs, project management and designing tasks are all considered working “in” the business. You MUST make time for your own business planning and growth, this is what I mean by working “on” the business. In order to make time for this “on” work you have to plan for it, and if you don’t it won’t ever happen. This is no easy task. We all tend to get wrapped up in putting out fires (figurative fires, hopefully none of your design projects are actually on fire) and our days getting eaten up by the immediate needs of everyone else who is involved in your business and never putting yourself first. Simple time management must come into play, block your time each week and make sure some of it is devoted to your business planning needs.
- Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals – This one I learned back in university. WHen developing or updating your business plan, don’t just arbitrarily set goals for yourself, be sure that your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timed. Think of it this way, if I said “I want to grow my client base through networking this year“, this is not a S.M.A.R.T. goal. On the same thought line a S.M.A.R.T. goal would be “I am going to attend a minimum of one networking event per month where I will talk to at least three people and obtain their contact information so that I can stay in front of them with my blog posts and newsletters to share the knowledge I have and secure my expert status in their mind so they will hire me or refer me to contact of theirs in the next 6 months.” Now that’s a smart goal! If you follow these guidelines to set your goals you can be sure it will be so much easier to achieve them.
- Make Those Goals S.M.A.R.T.E.R. – As an extension to the step above the E.R. stands for evaluate them and then reevaluate. Once you take the time to write the plan and set goals within it don’t just let it sit there on a shelf collecting dust. Your business plan should be a living and breathing component of your business. As you meet goals and achieve the growth you outlined for yourself take the time to evaluate. How did your growth happen, what worked what didn’t, where can you improve? Then update your plan and set new goals. Never let your plan go stale as it grows and changes so will you and your business will benefit because of it.