We’ve heard it a thousand times before, especially from our friends in the financial planning line » ‘If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail’. It is their mantra. Everybody has been at the receiving end of this clever twist of words, a sharp prick into your conscience, because sure enough you’re one of those failure planners…
In business, you need a business plan! Right? Wrong! I’ve run my business for 4 years without a plan. I didn’t start with a 10-page business plan detailing my mission, vision, strategic milestones, blah blah blah. Let’s leave this dreary cumbersome task to the MBA-wielding executive shall we? In the land of the roll-up-your-sleeves and get-down-to-action startup entrepreneur, we throw caution to the wind and ride the waves without a manual. No business plans for us!
But once we’ve sobered up a bit, hit our milestones and achieved some sort of success, it’s time to grab the nearest napkin, and jot down some semblance of a plan. Goals and aims should be written down, if only for formality’s sake. Keeping something in some corner of your head is good and all, but once you’ve got it down in black and white, it’s a commitment! You’ve committed it to paper, it changes from gas to solid state, it is part of the physical world now. Some goals happen just because you wrote them down bold and visible, you look at it everyday, and you kinda drill it into your head subconsciously. It’s not easy to get something into your subconscious mind, just try asking Leonardo Dicaprio. He had to go down 3 levels in Inception, just to plant a notion in some bloke’s head.
Planning is useful on a few levels for the business owner. You should plan your 5-year projection. You should plan your year’s goals. You should also sit down and plan the day’s tasks ahead.
I use to come in to work (back when I was coming in to work) without a plan, switch on the Mac, open up email and get devoured, replying to one email after another, handling customer enquiries, etc, until suddenly WHOOSH! the whole day is gone.
With a plan, you start by sitting down and jotting down the tasks you need to attack on that day. What must get done? Once you have all your bullet points in place, it’s then time to categorize them, in terms of priority. Which ones are MUST-DOs? Which are SHOULD-PROBABLY-DOs? Which do you abhor? Which do you like? Which take a lot of time and which are easy-peasy and done in a jiffy?
Once you’ve prioritised the tasks, you now know which ones are crucial to complete. These are the ones that if you get to strike off that day should leave you with a well-earned sense of satisfaction of getting that day’s job done. You should also highly prioritise the ones you abhor or detest. Getting these done is a question of staring FEAR in the face, and practicing the strength of MIND over MATTER. You hate to do them (maybe calling up a nightmare client or drafting up a very tricky quotation) but know that if you can wade through them and get them done and strike them off your list, you deserve a well-earned pat on your back.
Those easy-peasy tasks should be done at the last part. If you have an assistant or junior staff, you can even delegate these tasks to them. A vital part of good planning requires delegation of tasks, especially when business is booming. You need to plan which tasks are best off being handled by your staff, rather than having you tearing your hair out doing them all.
Great businessmen and bosses are them who are good at delegating meaningful work, entrusting tasks to staff in order to give them a sense of achievement or learning experience. Planning is crucial to your success. In order to scale a mountain, you’ve got to know which direction the mountain lies, otherwise you’re gonna end up trudging into the darkness to some uncertain destination.