I’m a big film fan and one of my favourite clips from ‘The Untouchables’ is Sean Connery chasing a baddie, then gasping ‘Enough of this running sh*t!’ And I’ve read a few articles recently denigrating business plans which put me in mind of that line. So I was intrigued to know why people held this view.
I found some common themes:
And I suppose that there’s the rub. It’s not business plans that are useless, it’s more a question of how good your planning process is. If your plan is just a wish list, too complicated, if it hasn’t involved the team and it’s merely been done to tick a box then I would wholeheartedly agree. But when used well, I believe it’s a powerful tool to give focus and energy to your business.
Planning is the platform on which your innovation and creativity can blossom and shine. And that’s just one of my top ten:
The benefits of Planning:
1. Helps you to spot opportunities
A consistent planning system, and planning calendar, forces you to step off the hamster wheel once in a while and get your head up. To go from being a hamster to being a meerkat, if you like. It gets you to review your progress to date – what’s worked well, what hasn’t, what lessons can be learned. It provides space and time to think – about what you want to happen, what might get in the way, how you can get round any obstacles. It opens you up to opportunities, that you might otherwise miss.
2. Brings individuals and teams together and breaks down silos
All too often, specialist teams, or individuals within a business, even a small one like yours, can get lost in their own little world, and not be able to see the value that others bring to the business, or the challenges others face to get things done.
Regular planning creates the opportunity to bring people together from different areas of the business to review the way work is done from the customer’s perspective and make plans based on what is best for the whole business.
3. Creates a safe environment for new and creative ideas
Meet ‘that’s not the way we do things round here’ – first cousin to, ‘we tried that before, and it didn’t work’
It’s this type of statement that will prevent the flow of ideas in your business, and even your best people will not put their creative heads above the parapet if they know they’ll be shot down in flames.
Your planning system offers a structured way to talk openly about the challenges facing your business, and ask for new and creative solutions to overcome them.
4. Gives everyone the chance to contribute
How motivating and exciting to be part of something that is growing and achieving success, thanks in part, to your contribution.
Involve your team in your planning, and you involve them in your Vision for the future – you give them the opportunity to create it.
How much more engaged do you think they will be? How much more ownership do you think they will take?
5. Exposes your blind spots
We all have them. We can all be blind to our own strengths and weaknesses, to our innate prejudices, to other people’s talents and the value they add; and often we need others to shine a light on our blind spots.
It’s the same in business – we all see things from our own view point, and benefit enormously from understanding how others see things. Planning gives us a framework for this.
6. Puts the customer first
Life planning puts you first. Business planning puts the customer first, and ensures that the focus is on what’s best for the customer, building trust and ensuring that everyone is focused on what really matters.
7. Keeps your products relevant
It’s your customers who decide whether your products are relevant to them or not, and it’s your planning system that will ensure that you check in with them - that you look for more innovative and effective ways to meet their needs and satisfy their wants.
8. Builds a stronger management team
Regular planning, focused on the business as a whole, brings the management team closer, and helps them to see the value – skills, experience and expertise – that they each bring. It’s also a great way of developing them, teaching them to focus on the end goal, and the strategies and tactics that will get you there.
9. Determines priorities
Your planning system is a key element in your continuous improvement cycle: plan – implement – review – plan. You start the exercise looking at what’s possible, and by the end it’s all about results.
You understand your long term goal and you’ve plotted your course to get there. Together you’ve agreed your priorities, you’ve decided on your 90 day goals, you have your action plan, you know your first step. It’s simple and it’s logical, and it’s all about getting the right things done.
10. Builds ownership and accountability
Any effective plan assigns the who as well as the what, where, how and when. It gives everyone ownership for their own little piece of the business – their role, their goal, their action plan.
Ownership and accountability are the key differentiators between a regular team, and a high performing team. Your plan will drive this.
Do one thing: Start planning this week for a successful 2019
Thanks for reading. Have a great week.
'If you don't know where you’re going, you'll end up someplace else.' -Yogi Berra
My parents as they got older, often got into their car without knowing where they were going exactly. Okay, they knew roughly they were heading for - the Lakes or North Yorkshire or Northumberland but their precise destination or their route? Not really. ‘I wonder where that road goes?’ ‘Do you know, I don’t think we’ve ever gone that way, shall we see what’s it like?’ It was often a magical mystery tour and the start of many an adventure!
But can you imagine trying to run a business like that? You’ve got an idea and you just set off and see where the wind takes you. This might sound far-fetched but you would be surprised how may business owners don’t have a true vision for their business or a plan for how to get there. There are also those who plan their business but don’t factor in their life.
Just stop and think for a minute of the planning you do for a long drive:
You do all this planning for a pretty straightforward car journey. Why would you not put the same effort into planning your business journey?
‘If you want to scale, grow or sell your business, you need to plan.’
It all has to start with you, and what you want for your life!
Whilst working my way through my career in the world of big business, we talked about personal development, and how we could become better at our role within the business or progress to the next level. But what we wanted out of life or what we saw as our ideal future never really came up. Maybe we were all too young, too focused on progression, to recognise that you only get one crack at life, or that, if you plan for it, you can have both - a happy, successful life and a successful business.
I do understand why people say they don’t want to plan their life though. As with any plan, you have to recognise that things happen, things change. We change as we grow and develop. It goes without saying that every successful plan needs to be adjusted and tweaked when the opportunities, or the challenges come.
It’s been a real eye-opener with clients at times when we explore their ‘Vision and Values.’ It’s that light-bulb moment when someone realises that life and business plans are inexorably linked. When they look ahead and say ‘I want great relationships with my kids in the future,’ but realise that leaving the house when their children are asleep and returning when they’ve gone to bed isn’t going to build that bond.
We get to asking: ‘If this is what I want in life, how will my business support and enrich this? Can I find better ways of working so I’m at home for bedtime stories three nights a week, that Sundays always a day off for family?’ For example.
Without that Vision, that wider focus, you’ll start planning for a future you may not want. So put the time in and really drill down to what that is. There’s no right answer, it’s down to you. So I recommend:
3 essentials for Personal Planning
Do one thing: Take some time to answer these crucial questions:
Have a great week and thanks for reading.
Our Systems4Scale Bootcamp on 10&11th October 2018 starts with your Vision and Values. So if this blog resonates with you why not sign up? Here’s a link to our brochure
I know it’s the onset of Autumn and downtime for nature but for me September is my business springboard. It’s a great month for planning.
It always just feels so right, and just this morning I was reminding myself why.
For some, January may seem like the obvious choice, the beginning of a new calendar year with new year’s resolutions, and a full twelve months stretching out ahead of you.
The downside is that you’re coming out of the Christmas holiday period, possibly still feeling bloated and hungover, certainly feeling that little bit poorer, and maybe you still have the kids off school – you’re probably already half way through January before you can even think about fresh plans.
It’s a foggy time of year too – the weather’s awful, usually dank and dull, and business-wise January and February may be slow, so there’s really not much to get you energised and excited enough to start planning.
April is the next obvious choice with spring in the air and new beginnings.
But April is all about tax and getting your finances sorted – personal tax, business tax. It’s all very numbers oriented, which is great, if you’re building your plans entirely around numbers, but not if you’re looking at the other crucial areas of your business, like people, products, promotions. It’s a busy time for a lot of businesses, so you’re not necessarily in the right head space to plan.
June, you’re then going into the holidays. You’ve got July and August round the corner, and the challenges of the long school break, your team taking their holidays, maintaining a healthy cash flow etc.
September on the other hand, is the perfect time to plan.
With September comes excitement!
Think about it.
It’s the start of a new school year, the start of a new term, stepping up to the next year group – I don’t have children but I do still remember going to school and looking forward to what the next year would bring.
You’re often just back from your own holiday away from the business, you’ve had quality time with family and friends, you’re feeling refreshed and re-energised – you’ve had time to think, to take stock. Maybe you’ve just finished reading, ‘Simple Logical Repeatable’ on the beach and you’re bursting with ideas that you’re dying to put into practice :)
You’ve got three meaty months ahead of you – September, October, November. Even if you only finish your plans mid September, you’ve still got three full months to mid December before the whole ‘I haven’t started my Christmas shopping’ panic kicks in.
For me it is the perfect month to plan.
So here we are heading into September – time to get preparing. Have you jotted down all those ideas you had whirring while you were on holiday? Have you gone from beer-mat to mind-map, expanding on those initial thoughts? So you’ll be ready to turn them into goals with deadlines? Are you going to make them happen?
Or have you been sucked back into the day to day, reacting to your mobile phone, slave to your inbox?
Are you going to be looking back in another twelve months wondering where the year went, and what happened to everything you were going to achieve?
Do one thing: Take back control of your life!
Download our How To Mind-map for some great advice on getting those initial thoughts down onto paper - see below.
Take one day away from your business this September – yes you can if it’s important enough to you – and plan out the next twelve months.
Or, if you feel that you’ve just been repeating the same year after year in the same Groundhog day fashion, join us for a two day bootcamp and learn how to evolve from startup mode.
“The Systems4Scale Bootcamp was invaluable to our business in being able to take key team members out of the office for 2 whole days to work on the business instead of in it. I've been working on this for a while (not always successfully), but taking team members along too made this shift a lot easier for all of us.
Marianne makes everything clear and simple. She encouraged and supported us to think differently and help us to implement the systems she was teaching. I felt like she was on my team with us.
We gained so much from the two days - a vision of where we are going, excitement over it, ability to implement systems that will help us get there and make everyone's life easier.
We've implemented several areas which have had great benefit and are already ahead of our 1 year goals! Thanks Marianne!”
Jennifer Page (no relation!) - Business Owner, Affinity Gymnastics
Thanks for reading. Have a great week
I saw a tweet the other day by a business owner saying that we should all be teachers - his mate was off for his third trip to the Northern hemisphere this year!
Just imagine those six weeks+, how switched off, how re-energised you could be…? I’m not saying that teachers don’t have a shed-load of work to catch up on and prepare for the next year, but to have that space away from work, and to be able to travel…
It’s a sad stat that 52% of all small business owners in the UK say they only took five days holiday or less last year, with 21% per cent not taking any days off at all!
I hear business owners all the time, saying that they’re working hard for their children, to give them a better life, a better future. But if they asked their kids which they’d prefer, you can bet they’d rather spend time, having their fun with mum and dad right now…not at some distant point in the future.
When I ask clients what their ideal future looks like, one of the first things they say is they want ‘a great relationship with my kids’. What many don’t get is that it’s hard to pick things up when you’ve made your millions and your kids are turning eighteen. You need to build those blocks from a young age, by being there for school sports days, reading stories, teaching them stuff.
Of course it’s not just relationships that suffer; working without breaks can break you. Your health can suffer both physically and mentally. And how can you do your best work if you’re constantly tired? Holidays re-energise you, re-invigorate you, and re-focus you, and if you’re anything like me, you always come back refreshed and bursting with ideas and inspiration for the business.
The more holiday the better - for you and your business.
So how can you holiday like a teacher?
How can you go away for weeks at a time, and completely switch off, no phone calls, no e-mails, no stress?
Well, you need systems in your business…of course; that ‘one, right way’ to do everything.
And then you need someone to be you when you’re away. Someone who is your voice with the team, who shares your vision and values.
Someone you know will use their initiative if things don’t go to plan.
Someone who takes the day to day in their stride, and has the respect of the team. Someone who you trust.
When business owners realise that they need this person in their business, they often throw money at the problem - offering a big salary, thinking that money, and a great CV will guarantee them a great manager.
They throw out everything they’ve learned about hiring to your values, and go for the best CV, which as you know, doesn’t always work out. Sometimes they get lucky, and their new (very expensive) manager works out well. But sometimes it doesn’t, and they’ve not only wasted time and money, but also often upset and unsettled their team.
The other route that many business owners take is to promote someone from their team - very often the person who is the best performer, great at what they do. But of course, the best workers don’t always make the best managers. Not everyone wants to be yanked away from a job that they are really good at, and that they love, to manage a team.
The person you’re looking for is already respected by the rest of the team - they listen to him or her. The person is solid and dependable, but also motivates the rest of the team when the pressure is on. They have high standards, and they love training new people, and picking up on any sloppiness with the old hands. They’re not necessarily the most technically gifted, but you love working with them
Identify that person in your team, and then develop them as a manager. Skills can be learned if there’s a sound base, so invest in their development - either teach them yourself if you have the skills and the time, and if not, get someone like me to do it for you.
The investment you make will pay dividends in a happy and engaged team, and not just great for your business but for your life.
You want to holiday like a teacher?
Build your systems | Develop your managers | Free yourself
Do one thing: Send an email requesting to join our mailing list at: firstname.lastname@example.org for free tips, advice and information about how we can help you to holiday like a teacher.
‘If your business depends on you, then you don’t own a business, you have a job, and it’s the worst job in the world, because you’re working for a lunatic.’
So says Michael Gerber in the ‘E-Myth’, the bible for so many entrepreneurs, and rightly so, in my opinion.
In the E-Myth, Michael Gerber talks about this whole idea of being a technician i.e. people who start their business because they’re really good at something. They’re a florist, an electrician, a carpenter. Or maybe they’re a dentist, and I pick on a dentist because I’ve just been to mine and his business is a good example so I’ll refer to this dentist as ‘him’. A dentist spends years and years learning his trade, honing his skills, learning everything that he needs to learn to be a really good dentist, to serve and satisfy this customers/patients.
So, you go to the dentist, either for your regular checkup, or because you’ve got tooth trouble. He’ll invariably sort you out. Ideally, he hasn’t caused you that much pain, and so you leave the dentist, and you tell everybody what a great dentist you have, and how it’s pain-free, and he’s lovely, and so on. In most cases, the dentist will do the job himself; certainly the one I go to, there’s rarely anybody else in the room during my appointment. Some may have an assistant or a receptionist but mine is a self-contained system just like the electrician, or the carpenter, or the florist. They don’t really need anybody else.
The problem is that when the dentist goes on holiday, so does his income, because he is his own self-contained system. Really, this is a huge problem for many business owners, because as Michael Gerber says in the E-Myth, “If your business depends on you, then you don’t own a business, you have a job, and it’s the worst job in the world, because you’re working for a lunatic!’ He’s right, because quite often, as business owners, we are lunatics. We’re control freaks. We’re demanding. Demanding of ourselves. We insist on long hours and hard work, and really, that’s the technician, in us, the person who feels that they have to do everything.
Proper business owners and entrepreneurs can take time off whenever they want and their income still comes in. They have two fundamental things. They have systems, and they have good people to run the systems.
When I go on holiday for three weeks, I won’t be taking any work with me, and I don’t plan to get into it with the team while I’m away. I’m not saying this to boast. I’m not saying this to get you mad at me. I’m saying it because it actually took me a while to get to the point where I have that level of trust. That trust has come from now having the strong systems in place that I need, having the team in place to get on and follow the systems, and achieve the goals. And I know that they’re going to get there. It took time, but I do trust that everything will go well. I trust that it’ll go better than well. They’ll probably do things that I wouldn’t have thought of, because that’s the sort of environment and culture that we’ve created, within the business. Simple, logical, repeatable systems, and a good team to run them, are the root to stress-free holidays, to long weekends off, to any weekend off, and to financial and time freedom.
Simple, logical, repeatable systems, and a good team to run them.
So let me ask you, what did you do this Mayday bank holiday? We’ve got another bank holiday weekend coming up shortly. Will you be having three days off work, or do you see it as a great opportunity to catch up on odd-jobs or to stop and take stock, because you never have time to do that when you’ve just been too damn busy managing the day to day palaver?
So will that long weekend be time off with your family and friends, or just relaxing and doing what you love to do, or are you going to be working? Now of course, there are always going to be business owners who really look forward to things like bank holiday weekends and Summer holidays because it’s when they make their big money. If you’re in the leisure industry, obviously that isn’t the time to take off, but I’m talking about generally. I’m talking about taking that precious time to rest, to relax, to recuperate, to re-energise.
Certainly holidays, for me, are absolutely vital for continuing to do good work for my clients, continuing to come up with new ideas, or better ways of doing things. That all just comes out of resting my brain, stopping the relentless running and rushing around to see clients, or to develop and deliver programmes. It’s really, really important that you take that time to rest and relax, and you can only do that, as a business owner, if you have the systems in place, if you have the team in place.
I’d love you to think about that, if you recognise yourself here. I’d love you to think about how you’re going to use the next bank holiday weekend. Great systems and well trained people equals financial and time freedom. So here’s my challenge to you;
by this time next year,
Instead, you’ll be spending quality time with the people that you love, with your animals or whatever you love doing beyond your work.
If this resonates with you, but you feel a bit overwhelmed thinking of how to even begin, then we can help. We run a two day bootcamp where you can come away from the workplace, away from all the day to day hassle and distractions and start to work ‘on’ your business, not ‘in’ it, to quote Gerber again. Come along, with your team, to our Systems4Scale Bootcamp, where over those two days, you really get to work on your systems with our support and expertise. Our clients hit the ground running on their return armed, not just with know-how, but with the firm belief that this ‘freedom’ is achievable.
Do one thing: follow this link to find out more here
Our next Bootcamp is 13th & 14th June 2018 – email email@example.com to register your interest
Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)