Small Business Planning

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Building a small business can leave you swamped with to-do’s, confused, and just plain overwhelmed. When I started my first business, I had very little idea of how to manage everything I was responsible for doing. It took me months to finally get enough systems in place to feel like I had moderate control over my business.

First, I’ll show you how to do your small business planning. Then we’ll toss those plans into a fire because nothing ever goes to plan when you’re an entrepreneur. Just Kidding! Don’t burn them. Yet.

There are always hiccups and bumps, but if you have something of a plan, you’ll vastly improve your odds of success.

Here’s how to get started planning in your own business.

Small business Planning

Business planning involves everything from strategic planning for your business to the way you structure your days and manage your tasks.

Strategic planning includes your business vision, the mission for your business, and your big picture goals. It might also include quarterly planning and tracking metrics to ensure you’re on track to meet your goals.

Planning isn’t something you do one time when you start your business. It’s a process that will happen continuously throughout its life. Even if you’ve already started your business, making a plan can be extremely helpful in propelling you and your business forward.

“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.”
― Gloria Steinem

Business Vision & Mission

The best starting place is crafting your business mission and vision. What’s the purpose of your business? What do you want to achieve through your business? Answering these questions will give you the reasons you started a business. Having a why will keep you going when the how seems impossible. When crafting your vision and mission, other questions to ask yourself are:

  • What does my business do?
  • Who is my business built to serve?
  • What are my business values?
  • What is the specific value I provide?
  • How do I provide that value?

I highly recommend writing your answers somewhere you can easily access, and review regularly. Keeping your vision and mission in mind will help when you’re questioning your direction, or thinking about making changes. You can keep it somewhere simple like a Google Doc or a Notion page.

 

Setting Business Goals

Goal setting is one of the most effective and important parts of being a business owner. Goals help to pinpoint exactly what you want to achieve in your business, and you can do it for various periods of time.

Setting business goals is very similar to setting personal goals. This is a great opportunity to write your exact steps for establishing each of your business goals. I first decide what it is I want to create in my business, and turn that into a quantifiable goal. If I’d like to increase our revenue, I state by how much. Then I set goals for how many new clients I’d like to earn, or how many products I’d like to sell to help meet the larger revenue goal. Breaking down your goals like this will make them seem a lot less daunting, especially if you have large revenue goals.

The next most important thing with goal setting is to make sure that your goals are specific. I make my quantifiable as I stated before, so they’re all attached to a number. This helps to ensure you can measure your goal, and you’ll know exactly whether you’ve met that goal. You’ve either got 10 new clients, or you haven’t. This is significantly more effective than stating general goals like, ‘I want to make more money.’ or ‘I want to sell more products.’

Once you’ve identified all of your goals, you need to document them somewhere. I love keeping a page in Notion that contains all of my written business goals. I also write all of my smaller goals that will need to be accomplished first. It gives me a great overview of everything I have going on. (If you’re not familiar with Notion, check out the beginner’s guide. It will change your life!)

I suggest not setting over three business goals for any one period of time. One business goal is ideal because then you’ll be able to focus all of your efforts on that one goal. But I know many people, like myself, have a hard time deciding on the one most important thing.

It is important to prioritize, but if you want to set more than one goal, make sure they’re not all massive goals. Keep them realistic.

For example, I might have a goal to double my revenue, but then have smaller goals to increase my blogging frequency to a certain number of times, or to document five of my systems. Your business goals don’t always have to be centered on making more money.

Annual Planning

Just like setting personal goals for the new year, you can set business goals for the next year. It certainly doesn’t have to be on the calendar new year either, it can be on the anniversary of your business launch, or any other date that you choose.

When you plan annual business goals, the first thing you’ll want to do is review your mission and vision statement to ensure you’re heading in the right direction. It’ll give you a much clearer picture of the goals you want to set. When setting goals, ensure that you have revenue goals, as well as other goals like increasing website visitors, or generating more leads.

Some other tasks to complete at your annual planning session include:

  • Reviewing your website
  • Reviewing and updating your social media profiles
  • Crafting an annual marketing plan
  • Conduct a systems and tools audit
  • Send out a survey to your audience for feedback on the previous year and what they would like to see moving forward

Again, you can keep this information in a simple word document, or in your Notion system.

 

90 Day Planning

Once you have your annual goals down, you’ll want to break them down into smaller pieces. Looking at an annual revenue goal is going to be a lot more intimidating than looking at a plan for just the upcoming quarter.

Revenue goals should be the first thing you consider when making your plan. Determine how many products or services you’ll need to meet your revenue goals, and then create your content marketing plan around strategically promoting these, as well as, providing your audience value consistently.

Some other tasks to complete in your 90 day planning include:

  • Reviewing your previous quarter to identify your most successful goals, strategies, and content
  • Planning content including social media, videos, blog posts, and emails
  • Creating projects to help break down any larger goals
  • Make plans to invest in your own professional growth, such as reading industry related books, or attending a conference or other event

You’ll want to document your process for planning your upcoming 90 days. Having a system in place for 90 day planning will help the process run smoothly each time and help you identify any gaps you might have in your planning system.

 

Tracking Metrics

Once you have your goals in place and begin pursuing them, you’ll need to know that you’re on track to achieve them. This is where you’ll track specific metrics to either ensure that you’re going to achieve your goal, or realize when you’re off track and need to change your strategy.

The most important thing about a goal is the outcome. There are many ways to get to the same outcome. Marry your outcome, not your process for arriving there. If something isn’t working, don’t get discouraged! There are endless amounts of strategies and actions you can apply. The specific metrics you track will depend on your goals.

Some metrics that you may want to keep track of include:

  • Social media followers or likes
  • Blog post comments
  • Website visitors
  • Service inquiries
  • Services booked
  • Products sold
  • Revenue generated

You’ll need a method of tracking your metrics. The most popular way to do this is in a spreadsheet, or in a table or database, such as one you might use in Notion, Airtable, or Coda.

 

Project Management

Once you have your goals set and your metrics to measure and track your goals, break them down even further into different projects.

For instance, your goal might be to increase your revenue, and in order to do that, you’ll need to sell a certain amount of products. However, you may feel that you need a new product to grow your sales, so your project might be to create your new product, and you may have a second project to create a launch plan for your new product.

All of your projects should include:

  • An objective – what’s the purpose of this project?
  • The steps you’ll take to achieve your objective
  • Supporting reference materials
  • A plan to complete the project steps

Having a system to track your projects and keep all your project material together is essential to your productivity. You can create folders in a cloud drive for each of your projects, or use Notion to create a page that holds all of your project information, and links to any resources or reference information you need to complete your project.

 

Prioritizing

After crafting your projects, you’re going to want to prioritize them. Not every goal or project is going to have the same value. As a busy business owner, you’ll need to make sure you’re spending your precious time on the things that will get meaningful results the most.

The Pareto Principle states that 80% of your revenue will come from 20% of your tasks. What 20% of your tasks make the most difference? These are the tasks you’ll want to prioritize. If you’re using a database to track your tasks, or projects, you can easily make a property that will allow you to order things according to priority.

Sometimes it’s difficult to decide that just ONE thing is the most important, but I’ve found that prioritization is a skill that comes with practice. I pick the thing that I instinctively feel is the most important, and then compare it one by one with each other item, asking myself is this more important than this?

For example, I might say for this quarter, my most important projects were to develop one new product, make a client survey, and write four blog posts. At first glance, I feel that developing a new product is most important. Then I ask myself:

-is developing a new product more important than writing a survey?
-Is it more important that writing blog posts?

If so, it stays at the top of the list, if not I take the new most important one and continue comparing it to the remaining list items. It’s a sort of one-on-one battle for each question.

 

Time Management

Now that you have goals, metrics to track, projects, and project steps, you may wonder how on earth you’re ever going to keep up with actually doing these things. That’s where your time management skills come into play to increase your effectiveness and efficiency. Increased efficiency will help you get more things done, but that’s not the most important part of time management.

The most important part of time management is ensuring you’re being efficient at working on the RIGHT things. Having your business vision, goals, and metrics prioritized will help to ensure that you’re always working on the most important thing.

But on the flip-side of time management, you want to make sure you’re also taking enough time for yourself. As a business owner, I know how involved we get in our work, and sometimes it can be to the detriment of the rest of your life, especially when you’re just starting. Remember to breathe! Try to schedule in some time for self care, even if it’s just half an hour to relax after you get a few hours of work done.

As a business owner, you’ll also need to learn how to effectively structure your days to complement when you have the most energy, and when you have time. Some people do better working on important projects first thing in the morning, and some do better later in the day. Personally, I get my most important task for the day completed in the morning, and then I take a little mid-day break to go to the gym. It helps to relax me, and when I come back, I do the less important, more administrative tasks.

I know not everyone has the luxury of being able to spend their entire day working on their business. Some entrepreneurs have family responsibilities like watching children, keeping up with the house, or preparing meals. Some others also have full-time jobs during the day. This can make it especially difficult to work on your business when all your energy is going towards your full-time job.

When I was in this position, I promised myself that no matter what, I would work on my business for at least 90 minutes once per day. Every day, including weekends. Once things come together, all the hard work will be more than worth it.

There are lots of different time management strategies you can employ. Some strategies will feel more natural to you than others. That’s OK! You can try lots of different strategies until you find what works for you.

 

Time Blocking

Time blocking is where you schedule your day in blocks of time. For example, I might say that 7am – 9am is for my morning routine where I eat breakfast, exercise, and shower. Then my second block is from 9am to noon. In my second block I make sure I am working on my most important task for the day, no matter what that might be.

I might also have smaller blocks for breaks, blocks for meals, and blocks for personal tasks. This allows for the many things we have to deal with in our business, while also keeping our days structured efficiently. After trying a variety of different things, time blocking was the easiest for me to stick with. If things pop up, which they always do, it’s easy to move different blocks around to different time slots to allow for changes.

 

Delegate

One of the first things you’ll want to consider is delegating some less important tasks to others. Using the Pareto Principle again, identify the 20% of tasks that are most important for you to do, and then do your best to delegate the other tasks. If you don’t have a team, you can consider hiring a freelancer from Upwork or Fiverr temporarily, or even find a virtual assistant you want to work with long term.

 

Batch

If delegating the less important tasks isn’t possible, another great timesaving technique is to batch your tasks. You’ll have many tasks that you repeat regularly, such as researching blog posts or engaging with your audience on social media. Try to group all of your like tasks together at one time during the day, the week, or the month, depending on how often they need to be completed.

You can even create themes for your work days such as an Administration Day for paperwork or filing, a creative day for making content, or a client-centric day for meetings and providing services.

 

Routines

Batching your items into like groups will lend itself to creating routines. You can create a routine for pretty much everything you have to work on in your business. You can have a routine for writing a blog post, creating images, checking and responding to emails, organizing files, and tons of other routines. Having a routine will help you create habits. When you do the same thing the same way, at the same time, it will become second nature, and you won’t spend as much brain power figuring out what it is you should be doing.

As a business owner, some of your most important routines are going to be self-care routines! These could be many things that help you stay healthy and energized. Some self-care routines might include:

Documenting each of your routines will help you establish habits faster, as you won’t be trying to remember exactly what it was you did the last time you had this routine. You can make a routine for documenting your routines! (*Head explodes*)

 

Scheduling

After you have routines or batches defined, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing everything at the right time. This is where scheduling comes in!

You can use several tools to create your schedule, but one of the most effective ways is to use a planner or a calendar. Items you’ll want to include in your planner or calendar include:

  • Identifying themed days
  • Scheduling blocks of time for batches or routines
  • Client meetings or appointments
  • Team meetings
  • Important industry-related events
  • Dates you’re running promotions
  • TIME OFF! (Wait, does that happen?)

As you can see, planning and staying productive as a small business owner is no simple task! Just as with anything else in your business, there are a lot of moving parts to keep up with, and a lot of variables to consider.

To help make sure nothing is slipping through the cracks, download our business planning checklist. It will take you step by step through each piece and help you craft your own complete planning system!

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Hey you, I´m Lauren.

An entrepreneur and systems nerd for the last 7 years! Combining my education & experience, I want to help you love your business and leave the overwhelm behind.

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