The other day a new client screamed at me with disgust a four-letter word! Can you believe it? Here’s the whole story. Deep in financial trouble a new client came to me last week and explained all of the details of how he was struggling with trying to grow his business. He’s working round the clock, clients are cancelling at the same pace as they are signing up, employees have him running ragged, the taxman wants money that he doesn’t have, and his cash flow is in the toilet. “How can I fix this?”, he asks. Careful in thought I say “We have to start with a good PLAN”. “SH%!” he exclaims. “Do know how many times I have heard that?” “This is nothing new… every year I try a new plan…and every year I end up right here…what makes you think your plan will work any better?” He talked about the PLAN as if it was the dirty four letter word. He has a point – Best-laid plans have done him wrong before, how does he know this one will work? After ten years of helping businesses achieve their goals if I have learned nothing else, it is that “PLAN” is not the dirty four-letter word, but it can be if it is the wrong plan, or one that sets you up for failure. The more times you embark on a plan and fail, the more evidence you have for yourself that plans don’t work. So, how do you set up a winning plan? Let me give you some tips so you can not only succeed, but put into place a plan that will begin changing your life starting RIGHT NOW!
1. Make a One-Page Plan. No wonder people think “PLAN” is a dirty four-letter word, because most believe that a plan needs to take reams of paper, and months to create. Why not try a one page business plan? All on one sheet mark out the basic details of how your plan will play out. What will your sales be? How many staff will that include? What steps will you need to take to get there? My favorite way of doing this is to make an Excel spreadsheet where numbers can be calculated and graphs can be made, and instead of long winded paragraphs, state the milestones. This ensures that your goals are measurable. Here’s a QUICK TIP – Right click on the Excel cell that you have added a number to in order to write a comment for that cell. This way you can keep tidy notes on each of your numbers without taking up much room, or cluttering your plan with endless writing.
2. Focus Your Plan on a Specific Benefit. This may be one of my best tips for you for planning! In order for a plan to work you must implement it. And, in order for you to really focus on implementing the plan, you must remember from moment to moment exactly “why” you are doing it, or else life will get in the way and you will not accomplish your goals. What EXACTLY will you gain from doing this plan? How will your life change? Will you have enough money to pay your bills, buy a new home, work a shorter work day and be there for your kids during the day, pay off your debts, etc. THIS IS SERIOUSLY IMPORTANT! Your plan must be focused around the “why”. Let me go through some examples so you can see how powerful this is. Let’s say you were $26,000 in debt? An idea would be to set a plan to earn another $500 a week for one year, and put all of the extra money towards paying off the debt. For cleaning business owners that is only 20 new recurring clients. A few thousand door hangers, a few networking meetings, follow-up marketing to your whole list, and answering calls into the evening a few nights a week, and paying your debt off could be a snap. Or, let’s say that you want to be available for your kids during the day to attend soccer games, etc. (they aren’t getting any younger, you know!). In order to be available during the day you will have to have help in the office for at least 4 hours to take care of daily operations. By picking up 13 new clients you can nail that goal into action! Now you have a reason to do the marketing necessary to pick 13 new clients.
3. Break the Plan Out into Accountability Steps. Determine how often you will update your plan and make accountability steps – monthly, weekly, quarterly? You need a chance to take your actual numbers and match them up against the projected numbers to see how you are doing. The more frequently you do this, the more time you have to adjust your actions to avoid problems, and deliver the results you are looking for. For my clients this year we have weekly sales goals that include the number of holidays, seasonal changes, etc. so they waste no time knowing exactly what to expect in each week’s deposits.
4. Make Your Plan Visual. Make your updates visual when possible. Looking at a listing of numbers will never tell you the full story of trends as well as looking at a graph with sharp changes. Pie charts to show profitability, Line graphs to show month over month sales, Two-Level Bar graphs to show client gains and losses, etc. will really give you a visual of how you are meeting your plan’s goals.
5. Do Your Homework. When creating your plan start with real facts, and really think through problems and contingencies. For example, if you want to open another office by spring of next year then you will need to research where is the best place to put your office, how much will it cost, how will you man it, what are the best systems that you should be getting into place before opening another office, etc. Find out the real facts and put them into your plan.
6. Systematically be Accountable. Make accountability automatic, by working with a coach, setting up meetings with your spouse to go over your plans and results, or use good discipline tools with yourself like posting your results on the wall so that it will be obvious when you are ignoring your goals. If you make this accountability as automatic as possible you will not be able to put off to tomorrow what you want to do today. Go forth, PLAN and prosper!