Dear business owner, please burn your business plan

“Congrats on being official,” a friend-of-a-friend-turned-client said to me. He had just filed my license to become a sole proprietor in the state of Nevada. He went on to explain renewal fees and my newly-minted EIN number, of which I was very proud to have, especially after three years of not having all of my t’s crossed and my i’s dotted. 

Despite finally being official (along with 34% of the US population) and having done freelance work with a couple of clients, I still wasn’t earning enough money to live independently. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the skills to earn a sustainable income. I just didn’t know how to do it. 

I remember thinking that the problem was that I needed to be posting more on social media or that my sales pages weren’t compelling enough. When I asked other entrepreneurs for advice, they would generally tell me the same things. I needed to grow my audience. I needed to be doing more networking. 

In an attempt to feel more like a business owner, I followed suit of one of my clients and put together a one-page business plan.

And a master plan. And did three-year visioning exercises. And basically whatever everyone else was saying was what I needed to do in order to build my business and feel less scattered. 

But the majority of my plans would get lost in the abyss that is my Google Docs account, and it wasn’t because they weren’t good tools to use. 

Fast forward to 2016 and I’m chatting with a client of mine who is trying to transfer her business from being solely in-person to creating “passive” income online. 

Over the course of six months, we attempt many tried and true tactics. We create freebie opt-ins. We host webinars. We develop products. But the progress is so slow that it feels nonexistent and I’m starting to feel like I’m failing her. 

And it’s not just her. It’s all of my clients. I come to the very sobering realization that they’ve been paying me to help them fill holes in a leaky bucket. 

As they offer suggestions for new opt-ins and ways to be interesting on social media from business plans put together in psat coaching programs, it starts to feel like I’m listening to a song stuck on repeat.

Because having the plan isn’t working.

The plan isn’t the problem, but the way we’re thinking about it is. 

So how do we change the way we think about our businesses? 

In my experience, the structure of business plans doesn’t facilitate the kind of thinking that will help create a sustainable way to create income and stand out in the marketplace. 

So dear business owner, it’s time you burn your business plan in favor of something more effective -- a strategy that gives you a sense of direction that’s both focused on the long-term vision and the everyday tasks that bring it to life. 

The best strategies aren’t the most complex ones. They’re the ones that you can carry around with you as a guiding light as you do your work. Then you can craft substrategies for sales, marketing, and growth. 

You can start by asking yourself three questions. 

What’s my long-term vision? - When you answer this question, focus more on the perception you want to shift in your industry as opposed to how you want to be perceived within it. For example, my long-term vision is:

To shift the behavior & perception of online business owners. We do that through delivering unconventional strategy. And yay for us, it earns 15k a month / 180k a year. Entrepreneurs look to us to build the path forward, and we have a team of pioneers hungry to do just that from a blend of disciplines. Our clients rave about how fun and challenging it is to work with us -- how they now think differently and behave differently, how they feel more in love with their businesses than ever and how taken care of and accepted they felt throughout the entire process

What is my current reality? - This one requires your complete honesty. What isn’t working? Let it all out. Here’s mine.

The reality is that right now I am one person who is working 60+ hour work weeks with a contractor who works only 10-13 hours per month. The business is making on average 4k a month and I am paying myself around 50% of that, which means we are netting around 1500 per month. I am behind on tasks, at least to my old standards, because I am so obsessed with fleshing out this new business. I am bored of tasks that use to semi-interest me, but I feel torn about how to start delegating those. Oh, I also run another unprofitable business called The Iceberg Project. I have a gap in knowledge when it comes to business finances and economics.

What’s the energy behind the action we’re going to take to close the gap between my current reality and my long-term vision? 

This business provides a container for growth -- one that truly challenges me. The actions we’ll take will be fueled by deeper thinking. We’ll unpack the standard practices, throw away what no longer works, and experiment with things that might. We will become masters of experiments. We will take risks. We will ask the hard questions that no one else will ask. We will tell the truth. We will admit when we’re wrong. We will make space for a different way to do things. We will examine why people are jumping on certain bandwagons, and we will champion the ones that courageously jump off or never board. We will choose to sit in uncomfortable situations. We will create uncomfortable situations. 

These aren’t easy questions to answer. 

But without starting with questions like these, being reactive to what everyone else is doing and getting cozy on the bandwagon become your normal routine, which is a shame because running your business could be more profitable and so much more fun.  

Answer them and let me know what comes up by leaving a comment below or shooting me an email at cher@cherhale.com.