With the kids back in school, summer vacation is a warm memory and the leaves on the trees are beginning to change color just a bit; fall always seems like a new beginning and a good time to think ahead.
While business planning is well intentioned, it can leave us with ideas that either go unexecuted or fit into a deliberate business strategy.
So let me suggest a process that is easy, quick and will be sure to not only keep you on track, but make the most of the valuable time you spend planning that is most likely taken away from your “day job”. I learned this process from real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran, from Shark Tank. Barbara famously took a $1,000 loan from her mother and parlayed that into a New York real estate empire worth millions.
Impressive of course, but the thing to remember is that she started small.
So, how did she grow her business big? Barbara says that every year, she would ask herself and her team a few simple questions.
The first had to do with the direction of the business:
“Where do we want to be in one year? In five years?”
How easy is that? Yes, it takes some forethought and time to answer, but it crystallizes everything into one basic sentence. It is the sort of question that could be answered in a few minutes if you really know where you are headed, or it could take a few hours to hammer out. Either way, you can see that the answer is quite valuable.
Let’s say you own a cupcake shop. Undoubtedly, you spend the majority of your time baking, taking orders, delivering cupcakes and all the rest. How much time do you really have for a brainstorming and business overview? Probably not much.
But that is why this first question is so great. It should not really be that tough to answer, and yet the answer can become a compass for your endeavors. If you want to open a new cupcake shop in the next year, and two more in the next five, then having that in the back of your mind will help guide your daily activities.
Barbara’s second question is:
“Given the answer to the first question, what resources do we need to get there?”
And, boiled down, that’s all we really need to know, isn’t it? You might say, “Well, to open a second cupcake shop, I will need to get a loan, and also find a great location.” And that, in turn, should give structure to your efforts over the next twelve months. Of course, you will need to bake and sell, but having answered these two critical questions, you can now gear your daily efforts towards realizing your goal. There is no long, complicated process necessary.
Most small business owners are just so busy with their business that they really don’t have a lot of time to focus on the big picture. That is why Michael Gerber famously advised in his book The E-Myth that we should try and spend more time working on our business than in our business.
And that is what you might want to consider doing too, with this simple exercise:
1. Where do you want your business to be in a year?
2. What resources do you need to get there?
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.