I don’t know about you, but it feels like the older I get, the more quickly time seems to pass. It seems like it was just last week that I was picking blueberries in my backyard. Usually it’s berry-picking season when I recommend my clients start marinating on what they want to do next year in their business. Particularly major initiatives like program launches, live events, or booking speaking engagements that require more planning.
In reality however, many coaches, start to think about the next year’s plan in December or January. I am a big fan of keeping it simple, so I recommend doing a one page business plan that focuses on answering 6 questions. This isn’t your typical one page plan. But I think it gets my clients more of what they really want in their business than the traditional (boring) plans that focus primarily on revenue and top line goals. These plans generally lack the key motivators that inspire us to take action. Most importantly, they rarely breakdown specific dollars and cents each strategy or tactic will bring or save them, thus making revenue and expense projections arbitrary.
If you want to hit your revenue and expense goals in 2016, I recommend you start your planning by answering the following 6 questions:
1) What is the experience I want to create with my business next year?
Stephen Covey wisely said “start with the end in mind.” Most people start business planning with revenue goals. I love money just as much as the next person, but research shows that after our major needs are met, the amount of money we make does not change our level of happiness. So I always start with this question because, ultimately what I really want is to have a joyous experience in my business and my life.
What constitutes a joyous experience not only differs person to person, but it differs from year to year. One year, I wanted to travel to as many places as I could and get paid to see the world. That year was also about excitement, momentum, visibility, adventure. The year after that, I decided to create a nest here in Sonoma County and only travel for pleasure. It was also about building relationships in my own community and spending more time volunteering with kids and animals. That year was also about presence, simplicity, flow, healing, giving back.
Each year I focus on the experience I want so I can make choices that support that experience in my life. And since I love diversity, it’s not a surprise to me that each year’s focus and experience is different.
The important part to remember with this question is to be honest with yourself. So many people create plans that they don’t implement because it really doesn’t honor the experience they truly want to have. Make sure your saboteur voices are kept at bay and that you aren’t choosing an experience you think you “should” choose to have vs. the one you really want.
2) What is the theme I will choose next year to anchor me to the experience I want to create?
Pick a theme that represents the experience you want to have in your business. As an example, last year, Shonda Rimes (the creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal), had “The Year of Yes”. She normally said “no” to everything so this completely changed her life. In contrast, 2014’s theme for me was “Let Go & Say No”. I used to say “Yes” to everything and it really distracted me away from creating the life and business I wanted. That was also the year I said “no” to getting on airplanes for work. This year’s theme was “Leverage and Simplicity” and it was about deepening my existing strategic alliances and my clients’ experience, while doing more of what was already working (like in-person speaking events in the area).
Like Ally McBeal, it’s also fun to pick a theme song if you can find one that fits to help get you into your zone. Even though all the lyrics didn’t fit, I used “Let it Go” from the Frozen Soundtrack as my theme song for my “Let Go & Say No” year. You may have noticed that song was everywhere that year so it really helped anchor me to my theme!
3) What are 3-5 main focus areas I want to embark on to create the experience I want and move my business forward?
Most solopreneur coaches focus their business plan on business development and client enrollment (absolutely key indeed!). Additionally, there are probably other areas of your business that you could focus on to create more of the experience you and your clients want. As an example, this year, one of my focus areas “Create a Wow Client Experience”. I created more content and training modules, increased the number & quality of guest speakers to my client mastermind calls, and started to incorporate things that made my clients feel as special as they really are to me, like sending handwritten notes when they reached a goal, plus birthday and holiday gifts. And I still have a lot more I want to do in this area.
Some other interesting examples my clients have had include “Content Development”, “Operational Excellence”, “Scaling Up (Staff, Systems, Processes, Content)”, “Outsource and Delegation”
4) What is my revenue and client goal each quarter?
In addition to knowing what a “full practice” means to you and how much annual revenue is associated with that, you want to map out a plan for each quarter that keeps your pipeline full. That way you’ll have new clients coming on board as others are approaching completion. I have 6 and 10 month programs, with incentives for clients in the 6 month program to upgrade to the 10 month during our first 3 months with a financial incentive (and 75% do!). Based upon my average statistics on who upgrades and continues with me past 10 months, I can map out the number of new clients I want to enroll each quarter to meet my goals. With this in hand, I’m ready to answer question number 5.
5) What specific strategies and tactics will I use to achieve my revenue goal each quarter? And what specific strategies and tactics will I implement to address my main focus areas?
These questions get to the nuts and bolts of what you will do each quarter to meet your goals.
As an example, let’s say I want to enroll 5 new clients a quarter. Then I need to determine what specific strategies and tactics I will employ, and how many clients I expect to come from each strategy/tactic. I always have more tactics and strategies outlined than I will likely need and therefore use to meet my goal. I list them in priority order. As an example, this Fall I had a goal to enroll 3 clients. My first strategy was to have one live speaking event with the ICF. Then I had 3 other strategies listed as well (an email campaign to past clients, an email campaign to my followers, and an educational webinar with a strategic alliance). However, since I got 2 new clients from the speaking event (and many prospects for a January or March potential start) plus 1 referral, I didn’t need to activate on the other 3 strategies to continue having a full practice. If my first strategy didn’t fill my practice, however, I would have done the email campaign to past clients, as planned. And I did do the scheduled webinar with my Strategic Alliance but offered a free gift that enrolled them as a follower vs. make an offer to have a Business Breakthrough Session with me.
Once you have outlined your specific, prioritized strategies and tactics and how they will help you reach each goal, then it’s time to think about the final question.
6) What support (People, Technology, Training) do I need to support my plan and assure my success?
This is an important question that most solopreneurs don’t usually plan out, which leaves them scrambling when the time comes and they need support. Although we cannot always anticipate what support we need, any pre-planning we can do around this will help us create more ease and flow in our business.
As an example, if you want to do a program launch and you’ve never done one before, you’ll want to get some training, mentorship or both to insure your success. You may start with free trainings (there are a lot out there) if you are tight on budget or simply want to make better educated choices about where to invest. Through your training, you’ll learn what type of administrative needs there will be, if you want to hire support for that, or what technology and technology support you may need.
Another example may be that you want to create a way for your clients to access workbooks or exercises you’ve created to support your “Creating a Wow Client Experience” focus area. You’ll need to determine what your technology options are to create that, such as a Facebook group for your clients, or membership plug in for your website.
Voila! Now you have the 6 questions that will help you create your ideal business plan for 2016! Did you ever think business planning could be so simple?
As always, I love to hear your questions, comments and feedback, so please leave a comment below!