Bring LIFE into the strategic planning process
Face it – you didn’t go into business for yourself to give up all semblance of the life of your dreams! You had a great idea and/ or wanted to be your own boss. But you quickly found that you were sacrificing many things in your life – your workouts, your family, your yard, your health! Yes, you need to work very hard to jump start that business, but with thoughtful planning, it doesn’t have to run (or ruin?) your life.
Strategic planning is a purposeful process in which all successful companies partake. However, seldom is anything outside the confines of the corporation considered, and one of the beauties of being a small business owner is that you can bring your life into this process. It is here that you can find a balance between business and life.
Start with your values. Values are the foundation of your life, and if you’re not living by them, you will feel out of integrity and out of balance. Know your values, communicate them with those around you, be it at work or home, and make a commitment to yourself to live by them. Include them in your strategic plan for the year, so that you don’t forget about them. Your personal values also need to be the foundation of your business.
Consider your ideal lifestyle. If you could create the lifestyle of your dreams, what would it look like? What would it take to get ½ way there? ¼ of the way there? All the way there? Write down what this lifestyle looks like to you, and keep that paper in front of you when you do your business planning. How can you plan for your business to be successful, while maintaining or reaching for the lifestyle of your dreams? What sacrifices in lifestyle are you willing to make to be successful, yet not feel like your business is running your life?
Jump into the strategic planning process. With your values and ideal lifestyle fresh in your mind, start planning your business. What do you want your business to look like in 5 years? Where do you need to be in 1 year to feel like you’re on that path? You can think about this in terms of revenue, profit, number of customers, product sales, or by whatever other measure of success works for you.
Set a concrete goal for the year. For example, “I want to increase my revenue by 30% in the next 12 months, while still working 4-day weeks and keeping my nights free for my family.”
Plan to make it happen. Now that you have the goal, what possible things can you do to reach that goal? Use a brainstorming type of process when going through this exercise. In other words, write anything and everything down that comes to your mind, without judgement. What seems like a whacky idea now may turn out to be your winner with further reflection and honing.
Sit on your ideas for a couple days. Ask yourself some questions: “What would I get if I executed this idea? What further support does this idea need to be successful (eg: stepped up marketing, new product, etc)? Does this idea really fit with my values and lifestyle goals?” Look at the idea from various viewpoints, as if you were seeing a beautiful stone for the first time, turning it over and over again and considering it from all angles.
If you don’t have anyone to noodle on these ideas with you, get a coach. A sounding board and a different viewpoint can be a valuable addition to this process.
Create the plan and execute. Finally, write the plan in as much detail as possible, and don’t put it away. One of the biggest mistakes small business owners make is writing down a plan and then forgetting about it. Review it every month as if you were reviewing an employee’s performance. Make changes along the way to keep you on plan, and if, during the year, you find that your goals are no longer working for you, don’t be afraid to alter course.
And remember, you are only limited by your own imagination. So go out on a limb and let your imagination create a business that fits perfectly into your life, rather than a business that rarely lets you have a life.
Copyright 2005 Mary Kay DuChene
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