Are You Missing this Important Piece of the Business Puzzle?

Image of Puzzle PiecesYou’re feeling great and motivated to accomplish your goals this week.

Well, do you even have any goals  set to reach this week? Please don’t tell me you’re just leaving everything to chance.

A little planning goes a long way. Imagine the headaches and impending deadline stress you can avoid if you just look farther down the road.

But don’t feel like you’re alone; we’ve all been caught up in the moment and feel like we don’t seem to make any progress for weeks. I shared the news of my slow week with you a few articles ago.

My priorities were colliding, personal deadlines had been blown and I was keeping late hours to get everything done.

Let me tell ya, sleep deprivation robs you of your energy and creative flow. When I did sit down to churn out some work it wasn’t my best.

Now let’s take a look at planning to keep our progress in check.

Business planning

The next several months here at JonAlford.com are already mapped out in terms of content and even specific post topics. Reviews, podcast interviews, monthly themes and more have been typed into place. I have an outline laid out for the rest of the year but I’m going to keep fall and winter flexible at this point because, well, life happens.

You’re thinking, “who cares, Jon?”

I mention it because this type of planning keeps me on track. It works for me. It helps me match my final output to the forecast and see how I did. It makes it so when I have time to knock out a project that takes a few hours, I know which project I should be tackling.

Having it on paper keeps me accountable. By planning ahead I free my mind (and time) to execute on the plan instead of brainstorming and having to rush through big projects.

Risks of planning

There are some risks when you’re a planner.

You could write down your plan for creating a new product to sell online or starting a joint-venture deal and find that none of it works out. Your partner backs out of the deal or your product wasn’t thoroughly researched and you wind up with a half-completed product.

You risk falling in love with your plan. It seems so crisp and makes sense. The way it all seemingly flows perfectly and delivers on your desired outcome makes you feel like a genius. But as I said, life happens. You can’t be too rigid.

The plan has to remain flexible because the world changes. The marketplace is fickle, and the things you think will turn out great could, two months from now, be torn down due to the unforeseen.

Planning may also limit you. If you premeditate everything and create contingency plans for your contingency plans, you:

  • Can’t account for every variable
  • Run the risk of being outdated, irrelevant, or miss out on connecting with current events
  • May be overly conservative in the spirit of making your plan work on paper

Planning too far ahead, with too many specifics, cuts into your “oops” margin.

Make your plans anyway

If you set out aimlessly to start or grow your business this month you’ll be disappointed where you wind up. Hmm…well, maybe you won’t because you wouldn’t have anything to compare your progress.

But I’ve been there. I’ve tried winging it, in the past.

What’s always surprised me the most is how far you can go when you know, at least approximately, where you’re going. You benefit from reducing the “what’s the next step” doubts and questions when you take the time to map things out.

It’s tough to clearly see clearly what that next step is if you’re living in the moment. Cut through the fog by planning ahead.

Think about what you want to accomplish starting with this week. Take baby steps. Learn, first, to plan a week at a time and expand on that until you’re outlining progress several weeks and then several months out.

Measure yourself against your plans and stated goals; don’t measure yourself against anyone else.

Plan it now

Just starting out? Determine your “why” for starting a business in the first place.

Already a business owner? Then what does your community want? What are you currently not delivering that you could or should be? What offer can you start firming up with proper planning that your competitor isn’t? How can you improve upon your competitor’s solution?

Take the time to think these things through and write down what it’ll take to get it done. Then be bold enough to take action, of course. Follow this advice and by the end of the year you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you’ve accomplished.

Are you a “fly-by-the-seat” type or do you plan? I’m interested in having you share your thoughts and feelings about this in the comments.


Photo: horiavarlan


28 Responses to Are You Missing this Important Piece of the Business Puzzle?
  1. Adrienne
    May 2, 2011 | 3:11 pm

    Hey Jon,

    I’m somewhat of a planner. I say that because I may not have my months in advance planned but I know what needs to be accomplished every single day in order to continue my steady growth as far as traffic to my sites and sales go.

    As we spoke just last week, I’ve got it mapped out in my mind where I’m going from here even though I may not have it all figured out quite yet. As long as I have that overall plan in my mind how things will go, guess that will do for me.

    You know you are making us look bad or I know, you want us get it into gear. Okay, you win!! I’ll pick it up more. More planning, here I come.

    Thanks for sharing how productive you are! :-) Have a great week!

    Adrienne

    • Jon
      May 3, 2011 | 10:44 pm

      Hi Adrienne,

      The thing is I know you get the job done! You stay up as late as you have to and you stick to your plan once you put one in motion. We discussed that before and I admire your perseverance. Thank you for visiting – enjoy your week as well :)

  2. Danny @ Firepole Marketing
    May 2, 2011 | 10:21 pm

    Hey Jon, very interesting post! It’s funny, because I’m big on business plans, but I don’t really believe in them… it’s one of those “plans are nothing, but planning is everything” kind of situations, I think.

    I ran a couple of really good interviews about this that might interest readers of this post. One is with Randy Komisar, who wrote “Getting to Plan B”, which is basically about the premise that the “Plan A” business plan of almost every business ends up not working out, so he talks about pivoting and dashboarding and stuff – very interesting, I think: http://www.firepolemarketing.com/blog/2011/04/13/interview-randy-komisar-monk-and-the-riddle-getting-to-plan-b/

    The second is with Marlee Ward, who developed a one-page business plan concept that is different from the traditional lengthy plan, but does a pretty good job of answering all of the real key questions that need to be asked: http://www.firepolemarketing.com/blog/2011/04/04/interview-with-marlee-ward-of-metamorphoself/

    I hope you don’t mind the plugs – it’s unusual that I see such a good fit with something that I have to offer. :)

    • Jon
      May 3, 2011 | 10:42 pm

      Hi Danny,

      Good interviews man and I will certainly give them another listen. Thanks for sharing them here, I know you hustle to connect with entrepreneurs and it’s always a treat to see who you bring on your show.

      Thank you for the value-add!

  3. Janet @ The Natural Networker
    May 2, 2011 | 10:23 pm

    Jon, aloha. What a great post topic, Jon. In my opinion, it should be “required reading” for everyone because planning applies to all aspects of your life. Interestingly enough, people will “plan” the steps they are going to take to improve their tennis or golf game yet they fail to plan for their business. Go figure.

    Benjamin Franklin’s words uttered long ago are a perfect fit for your blog post:

    “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

    Jon, to me that says it. How can you possibly get there if you don’t know where you are going? If you don’t know what you want or where you are going, how on earth can you figure out what you need to do to have it or to get there?

    To me, Jon, planning is both essential and freeing. When you have a project laid out, you know at a glance what you have to do, you can easily make adjustments and not wonder if you have forgotten something. Also, on the off chance you ever find yourself with extra time, you can accomplish one of the “to do” items early which is such a wonderful feeling.

    Business plans, project plans, sports/musical improvement plans allow you to see the steps necessary to achieve what you want. Inherently, they set you up for the flexible persistence which is key to success.

    Jon, this post is a terrific way to start the week. Thank you, Jon.

    Best wishes for a magnificent week, my friend. Until later, aloha. Janet

    • Jon
      May 3, 2011 | 10:41 pm

      Janet,

      People spend more time planning their next television or sofa purchase than their retirement, investments, insurances and the like. Sad. Maybe we need to plan our priorities. for starters?

      Great questions. How can we know if we’re progressing or backsliding if we just float along? We can’t. Without anything measurable you’re just drifting along and if that’s your plan then don’t complain where you wind up.

      Wonderful input here, Janet, thank you.

  4. Sarah Russell
    May 2, 2011 | 10:23 pm

    Jon – Great post! Personally, I’m someone who’s guilty of having too many plans in place at any given time. The challenge for me isn’t coming up with a plan to follow, it’s to stop making plans, pick one of the many I’ve drafted and actually get down to business :)

    But I do agree – in the long run, having a plan to provide direction to your business is crucial. If you don’t have a plan, you won’t move forward in any meaningful way, so I’m glad you’re writing on this topic.

    Thanks for sharing!!!

    • Jon
      May 3, 2011 | 10:38 pm

      Sarah,

      You aren’t alone…trust me. It seems many of us place a few too many irons in the fire. At least you’ve identified the problem :)

      Moving forward in a meaningful way – right on.

  5. Tosin@Home-Based Business Coach
    May 3, 2011 | 11:35 am

    Hey Jon,

    I have always been a planner. But there was a time when i would lay out my plans and it would not see the light of day, so i quit planning and let it all flow.

    I got in contact with personal development and picked it up again. The truth is that most plans, if not all, do not go 100% the way we plan them out, but still the process of planning is so important because it helps you focus and enriches your faculties.

    I would rather plan and achieve the plan 100%, than not plan at all and get nowhere fast.

    Thanks Jon!
    Tosin

    • Jon
      May 3, 2011 | 10:36 pm

      Hello Tosin,

      Very well said. Our plans rarely go 100% the way we envision them but it’s the practice of structuring and following-through that count for so much. I’m glad you’ve come back around to plan because “letting it all flow” sounds good but it’s tough to track progress against it :) Thanks!

  6. Oliver Tausend
    May 3, 2011 | 2:26 pm

    Hi Jon,

    well you know how that Brian Tracey said that failing to plan is planning to fail. There’s no alternative to plannning, but of course, as you note, we’re not supposed to fall in love with our plans. Plan, do, review, adjust – that should be the strategy.

    Thanks for sharing your insights.

    Take care

    Oliver

    • Jon
      May 3, 2011 | 10:34 pm

      Absolutely agree w/you and BT. Plan, do, review, adjust: that’s it!

      Thank you, Oliver.

  7. Terje Sannarnes
    May 3, 2011 | 2:35 pm

    It goes without saying that before to start any business everything has to be planned properly in advance. An entrepreneur has to take into account all possible risks and do the best to minimize them.

    • Jon
      May 3, 2011 | 10:33 pm

      Hi Terje,

      Welcome and thanks for stopping in. Some folks are the fly-by-their-seat types but I’m with you supporting a plan. We should be reasonable about our planning and certainly aim to reduce and eliminate risk. Great to have you here, Terje.

  8. Stacy | Grow With Stacy
    May 3, 2011 | 3:10 pm

    Jon,
    Lately my downfall has been follow-through. I get distracted and end up going in different directions not accomplishing what I set out to accomplish. I’ve gotten my eyes off my “why” and I’m sure that’s the problem. Thanks for pointing that out!

    Stacy

    • Jon
      May 3, 2011 | 10:29 pm

      Stacy,

      Follow-through is a tough one. There is SO much opportunity and information in front of us everyday that we can’t blame you for coming off track a bit. But best wishes getting back on!

  9. Jon, what a great post! I tend to find that it helps me to plan, so I greatly admire you for having the rest of the year mapped out.

    I did that loosely, by month, so I’d have a written account of the biggest things that are coming up & how I might want to take advantage of them in my blogging. But for planning specific posts, that only seems to work month-by-month. I created a 3-month plan a couple of months ago and already have changed it nearly completely.

    But planning at least a month ahead seems to work very well for me!

    • Jon
      May 3, 2011 | 10:13 pm

      Hi Jeanine,

      That’s just it, you will find your own groove. I do best when I outline a ways down the road but I know it’s subject to change. I’m glad you at least try to firm up some type of plan because without one you wouldn’t do anything that requires “changing it nearly completely.” So, kudos to you for having something in place.

      Thank you for sharing your approach.

  10. Allie
    May 3, 2011 | 7:19 pm

    Jon,

    That is perfect “By planning ahead I free my mind (and time) to execute on the plan instead of brainstorming and having to rush through big projects.” I have posts scheduled out until July and a few more big ideas that I have scheduled. It really does help to remain focused.

    Also, if I already know what I am going to be doing the next few weeks or months, while surfing, socializing, and commenting I can be on the look out for great articles to use as reference for my posts. In other words I already know I may be writing about vlogging so when I go out and read I keep an eye out for “vlogging” and then can give kudos to my favorite bloggers by linking to them when I post.

    Have a great week!

    ~Allie

    • Jon
      May 3, 2011 | 10:10 pm

      Hey Allie,

      You’ve got some good lead time on posts as well, fantastic! It gives you some wiggle room in case the unexpected comes up (and it always does, right?). That’s a very good point. If you already know what your content schedule looks like, then all your surfing time will serve as market research since your hot topics will jump out at you.

      You’re a pro :)

  11. Devesh
    May 3, 2011 | 9:39 pm

    Hi Jon,

    Interesting Post, bud. Planning is very important to get success in any business.

    I have always been a planner, but there was a time when i started so many projects without a proper plan.

    Anyways, Thanks for sharing this great post, Jon.

    Dev

    • Jon
      May 3, 2011 | 10:07 pm

      Thanks, D!

      Planning is key, I don’t leave home without it :) Just like you I’ve gone through those times where I threw caution to the wind and learned the hard way that planning is wise.

  12. Samantha Bangayan
    May 4, 2011 | 4:42 pm

    Jon, I really loved this post! I’m naturally a planner, but the lifestyle in the Central Andes and my partner’s personality is more about living life in the moment. I value taking life as it comes, but I tend to make plans here and there anyway.

    Your post has me thinking that I should really have a guideline, especially because I’ve left tons of tasks on the backburner for the past three months. That’s the thing about taking life as it comes — it’s easy to ignore all those other ideas and plans that you want to carry out *eventually.*

    I like the idea of planning monthly themes for my blog, but I also agree that flexibility is key. Not only do we not know what’s going to happen in life, but we also don’t know if our perfect plan is going to vibe with our target audience. We need to measure, assess and analyze along the way.

    Thanks for having me think about this, Jon! =)

    • Jon
      May 4, 2011 | 10:32 pm

      Samantha,

      Getting caught up in the “eventually” or “I’ll start next weekend” cycle is a tough one to escape. But you’re a bright gal and it seems you’ve identified that you’re doing it to yourself ;)

      You know what the best thing is about planning the overall monthly theme and posts? You wind up writing a few of those up and you don’t worry about having content to publish because it’s already scheduled (or in drafts). Some folks will argue that you don’t have to worry about posting because you should post whenever inspiration strikes.

      Hmm…

      My issue with that is it’s very easy to fall into a highly irregular pattern of content publishing if you say “yea, I’ll publish when I feel like I have something interesting to say.” I don’t condone publishing rubbish but you should make an effort to just show up (I’m not saying YOU specifically, Samantha). It’s like the days I don’t feel like going to the gym are the ones I have to make sure I go because, if I don’t go, it’ll be that much easier to blow it off next time.

      Make sense?

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on this.

      • Samantha Bangayan
        May 8, 2011 | 10:08 pm

        Absolutely! It has made all the difference that I made the commitment to post on Tuesdays and Fridays since I transferred over to my new server. I try to be flexible in and around commitments. =)

        Jon, is there any way I can suscribe to replies on your blog comments? Sometimes I forget to check back for replies, but I *so* want to make sure we continue our conversations! =)

        • Jon
          May 12, 2011 | 10:13 pm

          Hey I’m glad you made the commitment in your post schedule. As of right now I don’t have a follow-up comment plugin installed. Thanks for asking; it may be soon to come…

  13. Rowena Bolo
    May 5, 2011 | 2:55 am

    Hi Jon,

    Pretty interesting how your post seems like it’s directed AT me :-) . If I remember it right, you had a similar post, about how important planning is to online entrepreneurs/bloggers, and after I read it, I was truly fired-up and I did make the commitment to at least do my weekly planning.

    Well, life gets in the way, and my recent trip to France has put me in “leisure” mode (which is supposedly on weekends only). So thank you for this comprehensive post (all the comments are thought-provoking too!), and that’s it! There are no more excuses :-)

    You posted a brilliant word picture using the gym analogy in response to Samantha’s comment. Ok Jon, I’ll just-do-it. Thanks again for post chock full of lessons.

    - Rowena

    • Jon
      May 5, 2011 | 10:06 pm

      Hey Rowena,

      Well – don’t feel lonely there, we’ve all slipped into leisure mode when we should have been at full throttle hehe. Thank you for reading that comment of mine.

      A trip to France is “life getting in the way?” Gosh, I’d like to have your problems ;)

      You know how to take action so just get on out there and do it! However, you’re allowed a short break for Mom (if applicable/appropriate) this Sunday. Thank you for stopping in.

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