A goal without a plan is just a wish – ever heard that saying?
For many small business owners planning might feel out of reach or an element of running a small business then often slips to the bottom of the to do list. Sound familiar?
I believe it’s essential that you have a planning process in your business. Often the reality of what you can achieve in your business is very different from what you’re wishing for – so going through a planning process can help set achievable goals.
‘Plans are useless but planning is priceless’ – I love this saying too. You can have a plan, but you do have to have a certain amount of flexibility around it and it doesn’t mean that it’s not worth going through the process of really thinking about your business and what you want and what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it. That process is priceless, no matter the outcome.
1. Overall goals
Often when people think about the planning process they think it is rigid, but actually it’s hugely creative. It’s a creative process to think about where you are now and where you want to go.
Start by taking a look at where are you now, what does your current situation look like? I find doing a SWOT analysis is the easiest, most useful method. Take a close look at your small business and identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This method allows you to get all of your ideas down on paper in an organised way.
Take a piece of A4 paper – fold it in half, fold it in half again – you’ve got four quarters, you can write strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats at the top of each of those segments and then just start writing it down.
I recommend starting positively by identifying your strengths, this is also an opportunity for you to step back and pat yourself on the back for a job well done! We all forget to do that otherwise. It’s really important for you to tap into everything that’s gone well, because that’s what gives you energy as a small business owner, that’s what gives you the confidence and that’s what helps you to grow.
Write down the products that people really responded well to, the social media accounts or channels that worked really well for you, posts that worked really well, the partnerships that you formed that did well, the things that were a real improvement, did you get a mention by somebody that you really admire? Did you get a piece of press coverage that you really proud of? Did you push yourself out of your comfort zone and do an Instagram Live for the first time ever?
Write all of these things down. Think of this as your annual review – we start a small business because we want to be our own boss but we miss out on that annual review so this definitely does help to fill that gap.
Acknowledge the things that you did that didn’t work, the things that you tried that people didn’t respond to, or maybe the response was okay but it costs you money that you didn’t think it was worth. Note down anything that you did that you recognise didn’t work as well as it could have.
However, it’s important that you don’t get stuck in this section and use it as an excuse to wallow in self criticism! Everybody makes lots of mistakes as they’re building their small business – it’s how we learn and then don’t repeat them.
I love this one. This is where you get to do some ‘blue sky thinking’. Ask yourself – what do you want to do? What could you do? Allow yourself to explore some ideas. It may be something that you want to do almost as a separate exercise, but for now just thinking about your opportunities, where you can take the business and what you’re excited about will help hugely with deciding on your overall goals.
I call these the 3am thoughts, these are the things that keep you awake at night worrying. List down what are the threats to your business right now? Is it your energy? Is it your ability to grow it whilst also looking after yourself? Are there lots of competitors coming into your particular niche area? Is there an issue with suppliers? Do you have a physical shop and in the current cost of living crisis means footfall has become a new threat? Note down all of those niggles and worries.
6. Forward thinking
Once you’ve completed your SWOT analysis beginning to form your overall goal for the business becomes more straight-forward and strategically linked to your small business. Think about 12-months, 5/10/20 years time – how would you want to describe your journey with your small business? What is the profit number that you really want to aim for? What is a goal that you want for the business? How would you describe that goal?
It might be that you want to hit 50% revenue increase but don’t want to work evenings and weekends anymore or you may want to double your sales but don’t want to be the person who’s dispatching everything all the time.
7. Be SMART
What do you want your small business to look like? And more importantly, in a way, what do you want your small business to feel like in a year? Make sure you sense check that it’s your vision for your small business and not what others think it should be. Once you have your overall goal, one that excites you and you’re really motivated to aim for – think about 3-5 smaller goals that will help to achieve your overall vision. Don’t forget that these can be a mixture of personal and business goals.
The goals need to be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound. From that point, you maybe want to create a quarterly plan, as a lot of people find a yearly plan overwhelming – plus a 90-day plan can help you stay focused.
There’s more tips and inspiration in my podcast episode 76 ‘Making Plans For Uncertain Times’.
If you’re still stuck with the idea of planning, Swot analysis, SMART goals – then go back to how you feel. Think about this time next year and how you want to feel about your small business then. Remember, and this is more important during these uncertain times – if you’re not ready for large-scale growth this year that is ok – moderate growth is ok and you can design your planning around achieving that.
Your goal might be I want to send a newsletter every week consistently – because you know this will do wonders for your customer relationships. You will have goals and you will be able to make a good plan to help you reach them!
Good luck and check out an article I wrote ‘How Do You Create A Resilient Small Business Sales Strategy?’ for more inspiration.