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Plan Pruning

Each week I meet with myself and plan out the week ahead. At least most weeks I do. Sometimes I miss this “meeting with me” and notice the chaos as the next few days get away from me. When I lay out the week before it hits, I get more done with less effort. Nice.

Each week I meet with myself and plan out the week ahead. At least most weeks I do. Sometimes I miss this “meeting with me” and notice the chaos as the next few days get away from me. When I lay out the week before it hits, I get more done with less effort. Nice.

Once a quarter, I comb through my business plan. I read through it, skimming over the pages and focusing on the items that have eluded me so far in the quarter, in the year…in my life. Now and then, I notice something that I have not gotten accomplished. I consider if I am making any progress at all in this direction. It’s in the plan because at some point that goal made sense to me. Now, I question, “Do I care whether or not I accomplish this goal?” If it has ceased to inspire me, I scratch it from the plan.

So, my business plan is getting slimmer. Interestingly, the fewer goals on my list are getting bigger and bolder. That’s pretty darn exciting, at least to me, and that’s the idea. I get fired up reviewing my plan and focusing on the few things I am absolutely going to make happen.

You are smack dab into the middle of the first quarter 2009. Pull out your business plan and take a look at your mission, your vision and your goals for 2009. How’s it going?

What? No plan? No problem. Just consider how last year went and that’s what will probably happen this year. Only a little worse. Or a little better. If you want a quantum leap, or at least a major change of momentum, putting a plan together may help you think in dramatically different ways. Those thoughts of what you would rather have, what you really, really want, are what’s required to revolutionize your life. Writing down what you want, from your business and your life, is a business plan. Easy enough.

Did you put a plan together once upon a time, and then stuffed it in a file somewhere? Maybe the plan was required to get a bank loan, or your wife’s consent, to start your business. Before you started your business, the plan was perfect, a home run. Once the first shot was fired in biz battle, that plan might have gone into the file cabinet without another thought.

That’s one of the tricky things about a plan. You have to launch your intentions in the uncharted waters of the future. Still, it is worth doing a plan, and updating that plan, because it is a powerfully positive tool for making what you want happen.

So grab your plan and a pencil…and start pruning.

Start with your Mission. Put your hand over the words. Do you have it memorized? I thought not. Count the words. Are there more than a dozen? Start pruning. Answer this question, “Why are you in business?” in under 12 words. Work it over a few times until you really care about your mission.

Now, who really cares about what you do? Who would be willing to pay you for it? Nail down your Target Market. Imagine your favorite customer. What does she drive? Where does she shop? What does she want from you? You might ask and find out. Put together a succinct paragraph describing your target market.

Next, review your Goals. Do you really want what you have listed? Do you believe in your goals? Cut the list down to the five most important goals. Include a financial goal and be specific in dollar and due date. Re-craft your goals using words that reflect your intention. Be specific. “More money” is not a goal. “Sales at $100K per month for Quarter 1, 2009” is a goal. Create goals that double as affirmations. Get rid of every goal that someone else wanted you to put on this list, if it doesn’t mean much to you. Add a biggie, one that really gets your blood pumping. Why not? This is supposed to be fun.

On to the Organization Chart. Take your pencil and cross through the name of the person who needs to go…now. Shake off the denial and allow that person to go be a winner elsewhere. Next, look for someone who is not quite ready for a promotion but shows willingness and has “fizz.” Promote him now, and see if he can fill in the gap between what he has and what he needs to do the job. Take a risk.

Review your Marketing Plan and Sales Processes. Upgrade the words that you use to communicate. For instance, I have added the word “explore” to my sales presentations. “Let’s explore a few ideas for working together.” It’s friendly, non-threatening…and allows both parties to consider if working together is a good idea. Strike the word, “estimate” from your vocabulary…and all your sales and marketing systems. “Estimate” means “no one is buying today.” Call it a “presentation” or a “visit.” Pay attention to the words you use and the effect they have on the people who hear them. This small adjustment may have a big impact on you and your team.

Look at your Top Projects List. If you have a stalled out project, why not prune it? If you have delegated this project, ask, “What’s the hold up?” Then, listen for the obstacles. Be willing to sit in silence until your team member comes up with something. Does the project need to be cut into smaller pieces? Consider what a next step could be and set the due date. You might move the project forward, or learn what another step could be. Consider also what would happen if you just aborted mission on it? If it is great opportunity and you really want it to happen, then make it happen. Otherwise, scratch it from the list.

Double check your Quality Department. Make sure your customers are well served. Ask them. Scrap your page-long customer survey and replace it with one question, “How did we do?”

May your pruned plan provide new focus and energy as you pave the way for next week, next quarter…the rest of your best year yet!

Here are my TOP FIVE Biz Plan Basics for building a successful business:
  • Get a 3-ring binder. This is where you will store your business plan workbook. A binder is “old school” cool. It’s a portable, practical way to get your ideas out of your head and onto the page. Sure, you can keep your plan on your computer as well. Still…nothing beats the binder.
  • Adopt a simple business plan system. The Bare Bones Biz Plan is a fun, flexible, workable format for crafting your business vision and holding you accountable for getting things done. If you have a plan already, use that one and update it. There is nothing magic about the plan. The key is to use it.
  • Hold yourself to one hour a day, five days a week, to work on your plan. In six weeks, you could have a living, breathing plan and your life and business could be totally transformed. This is easy…this is something you can do.
  • Fill your head with powerful, positive thoughts. Are you ready to drop the baggage that is holding you back? It takes changing the words in your head. One way to do that is to listen to positive, business building, life-enhancing words. Play self-help cd’s in your car. Listen to free podcasts and webinars on your computer. That which you think about comes about.
  • Give it away to get it back. As you commit to your own success, commit to another’s as well. Find a business owner buddy and vow to help each other put your business plans together. Teach your kids business planning as they consider a summer job or lawn mowing business. Teach your employees business plan basics as you learn them. What goes around comes around.

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