“In preparing for battle, I have often found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
– Dwight D. Eisenhower
Be they small business owners, managers, CEOs or students aspiring to run their own businesses, surveyors often reach out to me for help with business planning. There are a million different gurus, methods, books and templates you can follow to help you with business planning. Having invested in a lot of them, I’ve learned a few things about what works and what does not.
Firstly, you can’t create a vision for your business until you work out what success looks like for you now. In the past, you might have been happy to work an 80-hour week and be a workaholic. Right now, you might have a toddler at home who requires your attention, and you just don’t have the headspace. In the future, you might want to think about spending time with your grandchildren, giving back, making a social impact, and also thinking about exiting your business.
While on the one hand, your vision needs to be explored in detail and planned to really get a true sense of what life looks and feels like, it also needs to be fluid and flexible. It’s important to regularly check in and reassess where you are and where you want to be at all times. Your vision is a continual journey.
How do you get to your vision? Business planning often involves setting big visionary goals. Big, juicy, aspirational, smarter goals which allow for evaluation and readjustment.
Goals define where you are going, yet milestones let you know when you are getting there. Sometimes we need to go slow in order to go faster. Sometimes you need to concentrate on the boring parts of your business, such as marketing, customer journey, sales calls and invoicing, terms and audit processes, optimising your strengths and leveraging your assets, so you can grow as a professional, and also create your own personal development plan. Working these things out into milestones and making time for the things that will support the infrastructure in your business will help it grow strong, stay steady and it will be less likely to fall over.
Finally, you can’t ignore your life. So many plans don’t allow for the realities of holidays, sickness leaves, school plays, homework, spending time with your loved ones and for doing something you love to unwind.
While a plan can be very reassuring on paper, living the plan can be very hard work. I myself have an annual goal, a business vision of where I want to be over the next 12 months. While I review that annually, it largely stays the same. I want a clear business proposition so that my coaching, masterclasses and mastermind programs succeed. It’s about the different ways I earn income from speaking and consultancy. My business is the vehicle to make that happen. My vision and purpose, however, is to help you as surveyors be the best that you can be and to create a movement of surveyors who love what they do enough to make a difference in the world and spread the word to others to join them.
So I have my big vision, and then I work in roughly 90-day sprints. Within that, I have key projects I work on for that period, as well as keeping track of business as usual. I plan my days, I make time to pop a load of washing in the machine, food delivery and the school run.
Do I live my life by the timings of a plan? No, I don’t. I often get it wrong. But I have a sense of direction, watching out for the signs of what’s going well, and I make adjustments along the way. It’s about being and living your plan, not doing the plan. Your vision for your business grows with you, you need a business and life vision so you can be yourself and stop trying to get the balancing act right.
I encourage you, whatever your plan looks like right now, to write it all down. I want you to record your successes, what worked, what didn’t and why that was. Write down what you absolutely love to do, and write down what you absolutely hate to do. Think about the things in your life you love today, from playing football to listening to music. Brain dump it onto a piece of paper or create a mind map, and by doing it, you’ve just created the bones of your business and life plan.
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