Before You Plan

Any time you create a business plan—or any kind of plan you intend to use with your business—there are things you have to ask yourself before you even really begin. Every plan you make is a chance to change direction, but you need to think through some of the basics before you should try that. You may want to stay the course. You may want to shift gears. You may want to change your direction completely. But first you need to understand who you are, what you do, and why you’re doing it.

I had the opportunity to work with a brilliant client. We had worked together on previous projects. He was smart, passionate, well-informed, successful, and creative. He was also kind, compassionate, and able to boost others in a way that I’d never really experienced before. I looked forward to the opportunity to help him grow more businesses.

This time around we were starting a whole new business in cooperation with a talented and passionate collaborator. The man with the successful track record was using his resources to leverage this new guy to business success. It was thrilling to watch and to take part in the process.

Along the way, however, the project underwent some substantial twists and turns. It started as one thing and ended up as something quite different. After the business launch failed, I was released from the project and I still don’t know what it has ended up as, but I know they both intended to make sure it ended up as something. They called these changes “pivots.” Unfortunately, these pivots wasted a lot of time and money, because we didn’t know the basics of what we were trying to accomplish.

Before you start a plan or make a pivot, I would like to invite you to answer the following questions. You don’t have to tell me your answers. You don’t have to tell anyone your answers. But if you want to avoid wasting time, energy, and resources on an idea that’s not quite right, then you need to take the time to explore these questions for yourself. Nobody else needs to know what you decide, but you do.

Whenever I make a business plan for someone else, I spend quite a bit of time listening to them talk about who they are, what they do, their business, their goals, and their aspirations. Then, I create a list of statements and a rating scale (usually 1 through 10). These statements are based on what they’ve told me matters to them and what doesn’t. Sometimes there’re things they haven’t told me, but should have, and I include those, too.

For a solopreneur, there are some things you must seriously consider, such as:

  • How much do you want to serve clients?
  • How much do you want to sell products?
  • What proportion of your revenues should be residual income?
  • Do you prefer to inform others?
  • Do you prefer to persuade others?
  • Do you prefer to entertain others?
  • Do you prefer to write or speak or consult?
  • Do you prefer to speak live or do you prefer recorded performances?
  • Do you prefer small or large groups?
  • Do you prefer workshops or conventions?
  • Are you planning to do this for the rest of your life?
  • Do you want something you can divest of or sell off some time in the future?
  • Is making a quick profit important to you?
  • Are multiple revenue streams important to you?
  • Are sustainable profits important to you?
  • Do you prefer to invest your time or your money?
  • Do you work best alone or with partners and collaborators?
  • How comfortable are you with risk?

Asking these questions and really, truly thinking about the answers is another way to say what matters to you, what your priorities are, and what you hope to accomplish. I encourage you to add additional questions that apply to your business. Think about the different market segments you can reach with your business and think about how important reaching each segment is to you. Think about ways you can diversify your business and think of which areas are most important. Think about the major variables that exist within your kind of business and assess their importance. When you are all done, you will have a powerful resource that helps you know what’s important to you, what appeals to you, and, just as importantly, what doesn’t.

About the Author

Stephanie Allen Crist

Stephanie Allen Crist is a writer, advocate, and marketer. Stephanie’s first two books, Discovering Autism / Discovering Neurodiversity: A Memoir and First Steps: Understanding Autism, are available now.

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