Every successful business leader I’ve encountered is in some way a prolific goal setter. For this reason, the single most important piece of advice I give any aspiring entrepreneur or business professional is to figure out exactly what you want, document it on paper and then attack it every day.
A personal business plan is something that I develop each year to help me put my own advice into action. Creating a plan can clarify your objectives for the coming year but don't just shove it in drawer. It is something that should become weekly, if not daily, reading material.
1. Start with a simple brainstorming list.
Break down your role in the company into small parts and be sure it’s comprehensive. This could mean taking each department that you oversee or are involved in, and breaking it down into further segments. For instance, for my company's graphic-design department, I would create separate objectives for its leadership development, equipment and software needs, anticipated hiring, the continued education plan and efficiency.
2. Prioritize objectives.
Your brainstorming list probably contains an overwhelming number of potential starting points. The key is narrowing them down into a manageable and realistic number of goals. Since you'll review the finished personal business plan often, don’t write a novel.
I made the mistake of developing a massive 100-page personal business plan that I never looked at. The very thought of reviewing it was scary. A user-friendly one- to two-page document will do the trick.
Take your brainstorming list and organize it according to the biggest potential impact. You’ll also have some must-dos (if not tackled business will fall apart). Then you’ll have some items that aren’t necessary or don’t require much of your focus and perhaps can be delegated.
My company's CEO, Duane Hixon, does a wonderful job of narrowing down his list into what he refers to as his “rocks.” These are the biggest areas of impact, the areas to which a person should offer most of his or her attention. These will make up the heart of the personal business plan.
3. Be specific.
Once you’ve narrowed things down to a handful of rocks, be sure the plan includes specifics that will allow you to measure and track progress. For this year's plan, one of my rocks was maintaining company culture while building the team. Obviously, this is a broad, difficult-to-measure objective. For my plan, I developed a strategy for accomplishing the mission by including more details such as creating a company culture slide show and a plan for both current employees and new hires.
4. Set challenges but be realistic.
A goal that doesn’t take much effort to accomplish isn’t really a goal. Setting an objective that has a slim chance of realization, however, amounts to little more than a hope and can leave you feeling discouraged. Aim for a perfect balance between the two -- something that stretches you but doesn’t break you.
5. Set deadlines.
The beautiful thing about your personal business plan is that it’s yours. You don’t have to wait until the start of a new year to create one. While I create a plan annually, that doesn’t mean that each objective has a deadline that's one year out. Set a deadline no matter what it is to keep you focused and provide a call to action (as opposed to adopting an open-ended objective).
6. Share the plan.
I recommend that you show your plan to a colleage whom you respect. Ask for feedback. This individual may think of an angle you have not. Equally important, this person will hold you accountable. It’s a lot tougher to hit the eject button on a plan after you’ve shared it with someone you respect. And everyone can use a cheerleader in the workplace from time to time.
I personally love it when an employee shares a plan with me. It shows initiative and forward thinking. There are few things more impressive than when an employee has clear-cut objectives and works hard to meet them.
7. Revisit the plan weekly.
Creating the plan is just the first step. Put the plan in a prominent spot where you’re going to remember to review it or place reminders in your calendar.If you’ve got a great plan, it can and will inspire you every time you see it.