Let me start by revealing my bias. I’m a planner. Sometimes, I get so involved in planning that I lose track of time. I confess that, too often, I love planning things more than I like doing things. If you’re familiar with Myers Briggs Type Indicator, J is my strongest attribute by far. I’ve been this way for a long time too. I had a physical planner from a young age. I scheduled weekly planning appointments with my mom starting when I was in Junior High.
So, when I say, “Nothing saves or makes money more than a good plan,” it might be because I’m good at planning.
And that might make you think that, if you’re not good at planning, you should just stop listening now. And that would be a sad mistake because I’m going to give you some exact how-to pointers for growing your planning skills. Yes, I used the word skills. You can become a better planner. It might take you longer to plan at the beginning while you learn but over time it will be worth it. Remember, “Nothing saves or makes money more than a good plan.”
Sure, there were things that came along for which I didn’t or couldn’t plan for along my entrepreneurial journey. You can’t plan for everything. What you might not realize though is that, because I had a plan, I was better able to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and deal with unexpected threats. One of my favorite examples of taking advantage of an unexpected opportunity is when we got the chance to partner with a stable nonprofit that would bring us credibility and other added benefits. I strongly believe that they took us way more seriously because I had a business plan in pdf form ready to share and discuss. This partnership has been invaluable to us (and to them) for years – both in terms of money made and money saved. It may never have happened if I didn’t have a plan.
So here’s my step-by-step plan for developing a plan to get started with your mission-driven business
Here’s exactly how I developed a solid plan to open our social enterprise coffee house and it only cost me the price of a few good books (which you could borrow from a library and pay $0 to enact this plan).
Step 1: Get a basic business plan book and a notebook (or start a doc on your computer maybe in Google Docs).
Step 2: Read that business plan book cover to cover and take notes as you’re reading. Your notes should take the form of an outline of the entire book with specific items that really stand out. Include any questions that come up while you’re reading (maybe in a different color of with a special asterisk so that they stand out). As I take notes I write symbols like little squares for to-do items and multiple question marks for questions to answer.
Step 3: Take your outline and transform it into an objective (to-do) list. Add your questions as specific objectives. You might have a list of questions for your attorney and a list for your accountant. You’ll have a list of research to do, plans to formulate, budgets to create, paperwork to complete, and so forth.
Step 4: Find a different book about how to start a business like the one you want to start. This should be a specific book about your industry. The book for me was a how to start a coffee shop – not necessarily a social enterprise coffee shop but it was very helpful still.
Step 5: Do steps 2 and 3 with this business-specific book.
Step 6: Now that you have a comprehensive objectives list, try to rank it in terms of priority. Then get started right away from priority #1.
Step 7: Do the list!
Planning rookie mistakes to avoid:
A. Trying to do everything on the list. Do 1 thing at a time. If you get 20% of the list done, you’re doing awesome – especially if you’ve prioritized and do the top 20%. The 80/20 Rule suggests that the top 20% will be the most important and have the biggest influence on your success.
B. Trying to do everything perfectly. Do your best. As you put more and more of the plan into action, you’ll learn more and can come back and make improvements. If you try to do everything perfectly from the beginning, you’re wasting your time. Do your best and keep moving forward.
C. Letting a big list make you feel overwhelmed. Everyone’s list is going to be big. There will always be too much to do. Practice making decisions about what’s most important to do and focus there. Prioritization is one of the most important skills of an entrepreneur. Not only are you growing your planning skills through this process, you’re growing your prioritization and focus skills as well. This big list is an opportunity to learn more about planning, prioritization, and focus.
D. Thinking you can skip planning and learn as you go. Remember I started with “Nothing saves or makes money more than a good plan.” Skip these steps only if you want to spend more money. Without this learning, you’ll make more mistakes and mistakes cost you money. In addition, having a solid plan is a key ingredient to bring to the table when trying to make or raise money. I know this is true from experience. Not only did I build the partnership I mentioned earlier but I raised enough money to get started because I had and was able to communicate our plan. When one major loan was given to us, the person in charge of the loan said, “I’m arranging this loan because I can tell how intentional you are.” He was basically saying he could tell we had a plan and carried it out. That’s why he gave us the loan.
Now these 6 steps aren’t the only option.
Other options include: getting an MBA or taking an online or in-person course. Those are viable options. If you have the time and money to do them, more power to you. If you don’t like reading or it’s totally not your style of learning, these other options could be good too. Do what’s best for you but don’t make any excuses. These 6 steps are available to every single person no matter what.
I present this option as a terrific way to get a great plan together for what you need to do to create a business. If you spend 2 or so hours per day on these steps, you’ll probably complete steps 1-3 in 2 weeks and steps 4-6 in 2 weeks. That’s 1 month to knowing exactly what you need to do to get your business going. Not too shabby if I do say so myself.
But wait! There’s more and it won’t cost you a penny…
This strategy I presented today was only 1 of 7 proven strategies. We will be sharing all 7 coming up in a live webinar. I mean really, who wouldn’t want to know the strategies to not only start your journey but to leave a legacy and have financial freedom all at the same time. The official title of the webinar is “7 Proven Strategies for Starting a Business While Still Paying Student Loans (Without Refinancing or a Rich Relative).”