If I had the select the single more important step in starting a business I’d say it was having a written plan for the business. It’s not the most exciting thing about being in business and it can be time consuming, especially if you are unaware of the 3 steps I’m going to share with you here. But, it will allow you to enjoy the things that are more exciting even more.
Creating a written plan is important for reasons that go beyond simply having a road map for what you’re going to do. The exercise of creating the plan is actually as important as the plan itself.
The process of creating your plan forces you to think deliberately about things that will come up in your business. That thinking exercise reveals topics and considerations that better prepare you for taking action in your business.
I didn’t put written plans in place in my first few businesses and not surprisingly, I struggled mightily in those businesses. It was like being the quarterback of a football team without a playbook. I’d get to the huddle and not know what we should be doing to move down the field. It was hard on me and hard on the people who worked with me.
About 15 years ago I was introduced to Napoleon Hill’s book, The Law of Success in Sixteen Lessons. In his lesson, The Definite Chief Aim, Dr. Hill lays out what I believe is the perfect process for getting started with an initial business plan. I will share these three simple steps with you now.
- Have a “definite chief aim” with respect to what you seek to do.
This first step sounds like common sense and let me assure you that it and the remaining steps are exactly that. Keep in mind common sense isn’t common practice which is why some people struggle endlessly.
Your definite chief aim is about having clarity regarding what you intend to do. Clarity requires detailed expression of the goal, the purpose and the end result of the task. It’s not enough to say “I want to start a business”, or “I want to start a restaurant business”. You must have more detail. The additional details are what ignites the “idea factory”.
Below is my definite chief aim the predecessor to Small Business CEO. Notice the level of detail with respect to my goals. Notice further it wasn’t just about making money. It was about quality of life too.
“I will create a business mentoring program that allows me to use my experience as a practicing lawyer and business owner to help others get off to a faster and better start.
I intend to grow the business over a period of 12 months to the point where it exceeds my current full-time income of $320,000 but allows me to invest no more than 40 hours per month to achieve that, so that I can spend more time with my family and pursuing my other interests including martial arts, road biking and volunteering to help people suffering from substance abuse to regain control of their lives.”
This exercise created a visual picture of what the business would accomplish and what would need to done. It prepared me for the next step in the planning process, drafting the plan.
- Create a plan for the attainment of your definite chief aim.
Details and clarity on your definite chief aim take on power when you combine them with a detailed plan for how you will attain the aim. Be prepared to adjust and even overhaul your plan if necessary. But, start with one so you know when adjustments are necessary and what adjustments will move you towards your goal.
Your plan should include the methods by which you will conduct your business, who the business will serve, what the product(s) will be, how you reach your ideal customer, and how you will present your marketing message to them.
Here’s my plan from the original Small Business CEO. When I first started this business there were no Facebook ads and online courses hadn’t become as prevalent as they are today. So, my plan has changed substantially since I first started and so will yours.
“I will use my expertise as a practicing attorney and business owners to create digital information products including ebooks, videos, audios, worksheets, checklists and reference sources to deliver my knowledge to others. These products will be available a la carte and in packages priced to be affordable to people just getting started in business.
I will market these products using Google Adwords, participation in discussion forums online, promoting live in person events, appearances on startup business related podcasts and radio shows, and through referrals from other professionals who also reach my ideal customer.”
Being detailed doesn’t equate to being long in length. So far, my initial business plan is only four paragraphs long which means it will likely fit on one or two pages when I’m done.
- Who will collaborate with you to make it happen.
Dr. Hill is very big on collaboration. In fact, the lesson that precedes the Definite Chief Aim in his book is called the Master Mind Principle, which deals with learning how to leverage the thought leadership power of the people in your circle of influence.
People you invite to collaborate with you fall into two basic categories: Consultants, coaches and mentors, and colleagues, family and friends. The first category typically includes people you pay to coach and mentor you.
For example, it’s always a good idea to be connected to an accountant, a business attorney and business coaches in multiple disciplines. These are professionals who can help you navigate successfully to your aim.
Colleagues, family and friends you include in your collaboration must be people who have a mindset centered around your goal. Otherwise, they will be a distraction not an inspiration to you.
The key here is identify these people very early on in your process, have conversations with them without revealing your plans initially. Just use the opportunity to get to know them and assess whether they are a good fit for your team.
If you’ve got a clear objective for starting a business, an initial plan for it’s attainment and a solid group of collaboration partners you will never find yourself in the statistics of those who failed. Good luck!