Step 1

If I told you that the annual plan you write today will be useless as soon as you complete step 1, how would you respond?

“You must write terrible plans.”

“This just confirms why plans are so pointless”

“That’s nonsense, I always follow my plans to the letter, to the very end.”

You may be thinking that I’m about to tell you why you don’t need a business plan but actually, I’m going to do quite the opposite.

You’ve probably heard Stephen R’ Covey’s quote “begin with the end in mind”. If you want to know what you need to start working on tomorrow, or next week, or what to get done by the end of the month, you are going to find it extremely hard to figure out unless you have a vision of where you will be one year from now, three years from now and 10 years from now.

Whenever I start working with a new client, we always start with their vision and if they don’t have one or it seems unclear, we make one together.

Once we both know where we’re headed, we start to work backwards to determine what they need to do to make meaningful progress towards that vision in the next three years, the next year, the next quarter.

Then and only then do we talk about how the next month is looking. Because now we have line of sight.

The thing about line of sight is, the further in front of you you try to see, the fuzzier it becomes. That’s how it’s meant to be. Business planning is not an exercise in predicting the future. It’s an exercise to help you identify what your next step should be.

Set a calendar reminder in three months to review your progress and reflect on what you’ve learned. Chances are, you’ll need to either refine or even completely revise your plan.

Then take your next step.

Missing the point

When we are so busy paying attention to the individual trees, we lose sight of the forest. By the time we realize the forest is there, it might be too late.

Somewhere along the line we missed the real need, the real pain point. We were so focused on the deliverables for which we were asked, we missed the bigger picture.

Sometimes a quick pause to ask “what are your goals and how does this fit?” can transform a project into what it needs to be.

Do you have a marketing problem or a goal setting problem?

Do you have a marketing problem or a goal setting problem?

In 2017, when I was first thinking about launching my own business, I created my first marketing strategy document.

Who was my target audience? What problems do they have? How do I solve those problems? What is my unique value proposition?

Then, I started setting some goals for myself. Things like:

To be the best small business marketing consultant in Greater Vancouver.”

And:

To have a great reputation for doing great work.”

For a year or so, like most freelancers starting their first small business, I went from project to project. I took what I could get. Most of the work was a far cry from what I wanted to do or what I promoted on my website but I put this down to figuring out what I really wanted to do. Searching for my niche.

Yet, somehow I was holding onto the thing I had set out to do in the beginning. That it was still a good idea. I just hadn’t done the work required to truly make a difference.

Why I had I given up on it so easily?

I thought it was because I had a marketing problem. I didn’t know how to get people to buy it.

But I didn’t have a marketing problem, I had a goal setting problem. When I look back now over the goals I set for myself in 2017, they don’t excite me. They read like something I would write to impress someone else. Like someone else was looking over my shoulder. I had no emotional connection to what I was trying to accomplish, nor a way to know when I had reached my goals.

So this year, I’ve re-written my goals. They’re big with lots of blue sky and a long runway. I really want to reach them and this has made it a hell of a lot easier to know what I need to do this year, this month, this week and today.