Procrastination is the number one enemy of every small business. You push things off because your business feel like a bunch of puzzle pieces thrown on the floor. You have the pieces, but can’t figure out how to make them work together. You want to grow your business, but have no clue how to get there. And so you get busy with busy work. A business plan can help you find all the pieces, put them together, and chart the path to a successful business.
Wait! DON’T BROWSE AWAY! I know what you are thinking. “Business plan? You mean like 345 pages of corporate speak that will take me 3 months to write only to gather dust? No way!”.
Whenever I mention business plans to people with small service businesses (consultants, therapists, web designers etc), their eyes glaze over. They start thinking MBA and alphabet soup. But nothing of the sorts is needed. Read on for a simple business plan template you can use to pull all the puzzle pieces together in under an hour.
The planning work I am talking about is quick and easy. It is called a 1-Hour Business Plan and all of it will be outlined for you. I promise. But first, why do you even need it?
Working on your marketing and trying to get more clients is challenging. Changing your approach when the present one doesn’t really work is scary. Chazal teach us that all beginnings are difficult, not only because the early stages require an extra investment of effort. The hardest part is overcoming the internal fears of failure. “What will happen if I invest all this energy and things don’t work out?” we ask ourselves. And so we procrastinate and avoid dealing with the real issues,
A business plan is like a roadmap that charts the territory and breaks the project into small chewable chunks. That way it is much easier to put one foot ahead of the other and move towards your goal of getting more clients. All you have to do is just make the next step, even if the one after that is not yet clear. Instead of concentrating on the grand-scale failure, you can just focus on succeeding in the next small piece, while keeping in mind how it fits into the entire puzzle. Instead of putting off your work, you can start growing your business one building block at a time.
A solid business plan can also help you stop putting out fires and plan your work in advance. Many service businesses think they are just their to provide a service, so they handle projects as they come up. Before launching my present coaching practice, I managed a translation agency for 10 years. It never ceased to amaze me how some clients always woke up on Rosh Chodesh Nissan to work on their Pesach programs, as if Pesach doesn’t roll around at a predictable time every year. They usually got their work done in time, but with a tremendous amount of stress and underwhelming results.
Many people in service businesses refuse to plan, because in their experience, plans and reality don’t mix. Business owners like to joke that even the best conceived business plan doesn’t survive the collision with the first client. Though reality may pan out very differently from what you have planned, doing the thinking work in advance will let you navigate the changes instead of being managed by them. It is the difference between taking a detour from the road on a well-planned trip and wandering aimlessly on an unfamiliar 6-lane highway without a GPS.
Devoting some time to thinking and planning can open your eyes to new possibilities, new products, new clients, and new resources. It can provide you with ideas for finding a new client market or using networking instead of wasting money on costly advertising . And it can save you from possible obstacles and mistakes along the way. If you pull all the information about your business into one place, you can see the big picture as well as what needs to be done ahead of time.
The No Procrastination 1-Hour Business Plan
LeanStack has developed an easy and user-friendly visual business plan template to help you get all the information in one place. Start out by answering as many of the following questions as you can.
Your business plan is not written in stone. It’s a work in progress and you don’t have to get it 100% right on the first go. Perfectionism is the mother of procrastination. You can always come back to add more detail or change things as you get additional insights.
Get input from colleagues, existing clients, and vendors. They may have an angle you never considered. Some businesses get a few people together over lunch to serve as a “sounding board” and brainstorm together. Set a date with them for when you will show them your initial plan. Being accountable is another great tool against procrastination.
A good starter plan will help you understand:
- Your clients and their problems – More often than not you have several different “clienteles,” each with a unique mindset and needs. People come to you not because they want your products, but because they want to solve their own problems. Unless you understand in depth and in detail why people turn to you, it will be hard to attract a steady stream of clients.
- What else is out there? – Chances are the people you serve have other alternatives. Who is your competition? What are you up against? Where do your clients turn first to solve their problems? For example, many of my clients come to me via a web designer, because they think that to solve their problem (getting more clients) they need a website. In reality, what they need is a step-by-step marketing system, which may or may not include a website. Once we figure out how to attract clients, they can go back to the designer and create a site that fits into their marketing system.
- Why should they care? – Have you ever wondered why some people are willing to sleep outside an Apple store to be the first with iPhone 87893 in their hands, when they can get the same exact gadget two weeks later without waiting in line? Apparently, these people have bought into Apple’s image of technology pioneer. Having the latest Apple product fills a deep-seated need for recognition as the cool guy with the latest tech. It bestows bragging rights. You need an easy, compelling message that shows people that you get their needs and why they should care about what you do. Usually, it resonates with the things they believe to be important and satisfies emotional needs.
- Your solutions – Your services have to be built around solving the clients’ problems. For example, a music teacher who realizes that many of her students come for the emotional benefits of music, she will be less focused on playing technique and give more thought to making music enjoyable and expressive. She will also take the time to talk with her students and help them open up in their emotions.
- What makes you unique? – There are plenty of other businesses in town doing exactly what you do. Why should they clients to yours? What do you give them that nobody else does? Usually businesses focus on the quality edge, but more often than not clients are looking for better service or the trustworthiness factor. For example, you can differentiate your business by building close relationships and advising client.
- How will you reach them? – Once you know whom you are trying to reach, try to find some common denominators (age, demographics, interests, organizational membership, profession, who sells to them, etc.). Your job is to reach them fast, in large numbers, and without breaking the budget. This is the heart of your marketing. A good plan will provide for 3-4 different channels for reaching people. More on that here.
- How much will it cost? – This is the place to write down all the expenses (or guestimates) so you know how you need to spend to create and maintain your business. You don’t want to be surprised when the bills pile in.
- What resources will you need? – Beyond money, consider what resources you will need to go ahead. This could include physical space, staff, talent, raw materials, and marketing. How will you keep track of contacts and leads? How will you process payments? Who will handle your accounting? Will you need contracts and other legal services?
- How will you measure success? – How fast do you want to be up and running? How fast do you want to break even? What income would you like to make? How many clients would you need to serve each day/week/month to do that? Setting some goals and yardsticks to measure progress will let you evaluate your business a few months or years later. It will give you the information you need to make changes or do more of the same.
Remember that you are not looking for perfection. And you won’t be judged by an angel investor. A partial business plan is better than none.
Use your browser’s print button to print out your plan and carry it around with you. Jot down your ideas. Show them to others. If you get stuck, feel free to reach out to me.
Above all, don’t let procrastination get the better of you.
So what will you be planning with this tool?