The development of a Business Plan forces us to identify ways to help our small businesses grow and improve. Particularly for entrepreneurs, the crush of daily crises and essential tasks can make it easy to let your strategic (i.e., long-term) needs slide. Self-employed people tend to run leaner operations, perhaps without any employees in the beginning. So, on top of everything else, delegation is difficult, if not impossible.
As you’ve thought through your Objectives, Mission Statement, Strategies, Tactics, and Strengths & Weaknesses, your Business Plan should be taking shape. However, thinking and planning are not worth much if we do not examine the individual steps, based on our planned Tactics, and match them to a reasonable timeline.
The Next Steps section of the Business Plan does exactly that, breaking down each Tactic into specific tasks with a deadline. Next Steps is a “to-do” list tied to the Business Plan, with a particular date when each task should be completed.
Here is a section from the Ace Plumbing Business Plan, discussed previously:
Objective #2 - Build a loyal base of repeat customers.
Strategy 2-A: Make sure that each customer is satisfied with the work that is done.
Tactic 2-A-1: Place a follow-up call or email after service visits.
The Next Steps section would include:
2-A-1: Follow-up call or email [as shown above]:
Determine who will make the contact 2/21/20xx
List the key points to include 2/21/20xx
Make up a tracking list (e.g., name, date, feedback) 2/22/20xx
Begin “day-after-service” contacts 2/25/20xx
Adjust the level of detail to what is needed for you and your business. In the example above, perhaps you only need the final date and not the interim dates.
Some of these tasks will involve other people or companies. Keep in mind, their dates will impact your timeline and vice-versa. Tying others into your task list should strengthen your personal resolve and helps define priorities further. After all, we not only want to find dependable partners, we want to prove ourselves.
In setting dates, consider reality. At the same time, challenge yourself. Do not make the dates so aggressive that you are frustrated, or so spread out that you do not move forward. After all, each of us is in charge of our own plan, or our own portion of the plan if we have business partners. The dates can always be adjusted later, but start with a written target.
Due dates can be arranged in a document sorted by Tactic, by Strategy, or in chronological order across all Tactics. I prefer a spreadsheet because of the helpful ability to sort. For others, a word processing document may work better. Be sure to check for overlap or conflict.
Dedicate a specific time each week to your Business Plan and the related tasks. Don’t answer the phone or check emails during that focused time unless you have something extremely critical demanding your attention. Come in early or stay after the phone stops ringing if that is what you need to do.
We can set our own goals and deadlines and use them effectively. If we have a viable idea, we can be successful as entrepreneurs if we create our own structure. We simply have to commit to doing what we need to do.
What are you going to do next to reach your goals? Do not finish your timeline without considering your Critical Path.
Until we meet again,
The Entrepreneur’s Friend
The Entrepreneur’s Friend® is a registered trademark of Wheaton Consulting Group LLC. Photo credits: All photos were taken by Cynthia Wheaton and owned by Wheaton Consulting Group LLC except as noted. Coffee cup art by Jim Wheaton. Author support: Fellow authors from The Wrinklings and Light of Carolina Christian Writers Group.