3 Keys to a Successful Business Plan | The Zebra Blog

3 Keys to a Successful Business Plan

It’s that time of year again.  As 2009 heads toward its close, it’s time to put together your 2010 business plan.

Not so fast.

First, let’s talk about what makes a successful business plan.  I’ve identified three essential keys that are absolutely necessary to write and implement a plan that works.  I came up with these three keys because I had seen too many business plans that looked great on paper but just didn’t work in the real world.

Most agents make the same mistake.  They sit down with last year’s business plan.  They analyze what they did this year.  Then, they rewrite the same business plan with a little more flowery language.  They make elaborate (but empty) New Year’s resolutions to “try harder”, to “work longer” and “put in more effort”.

That’s not the way to do it.  A business plan is not simply a document you work on once at the beginning of the year.  It’s a living and breathing plan of action that stays with you every day of the year.

Let’s talk about the three keys to a successful business plan:

Key #1: Fully describe your exact vision of what your business should be.

Before writing your actual business plan, you need a clear mental snapshot of what you want for your business.  The only way to craft this vision into a crystal-clear picture is to ask yourself some critical questions.  Here’s some of what I ask agents when we sit down together to write a plan:

  • What is your vision for your business?
  • What do you want your business to look like?
  • What systems do you want in your business?
  • What kind of time off do you want?
  • What do you want your collateral to look like?
  • Is there someone else’s business you’re inspired by and would like to emulate?
  • What do you want to be known for?
  • What kind of client care do you want to give?
  • What sets you apart from everyone else?

Only by answering these questions in depth will you discover what your true vision for your business is.  Without a clear-cut vision, a business plan means nothing.

Key #2: Identify what’s currently missing from your business.

This is imperative.  It’s a very different task than creating your vision.  It requires you to get face-to-face with your weaknesses.  You need to confront what’s lacking in your business head on.  Without doing so, you won’t even be able to see what you need to change.

Here are some of the questions I ask agents about the current negatives of their business:

  • What’s missing from your business?
  • What are you not satisfied with?
  • What bogs you down?
  • What frustrates you?
  • What is your biggest time-losing activity?
  • What do you struggle with the most?

This can be a very difficult task, but it’s necessary.  Before you can get to what’s right about your business, you have to face down what’s wrong.

Once you start, though, it becomes liberating.  Agents get really honest with their faults and frailties once we begin.  Once they let loose, then we can address these issues by creating new action tasks for each of them.

Key #3: Break your business plan down into specific action tasks and put them on a year-long calendar.

This is the most important step.  Once you’ve painted a clear picture of your vision for your business AND you’ve addressed what’s missing from your business, it’s time to create actionable tasks and put them on your calendar.

For example, let’s say one of your lacking items is a really good follow-up program for past clients.  You would break it down into tiny tasks and put it on your year-long calendar, filling in the times you will work on your new follow-up program in segments from January through December.

Then, do the same for all your plans for the year.  Put follow-up for current and potential clients on the calendar.  Put lead generation on the calendar.  And definitely put time off on the calendar.

By being so detailed about your time, you will always know where you stand in your business.  Your business plan becomes much more than a list of New Year’s resolutions, and more of an action plan.

That’s what you need for your business—something that will be with you every day so that you always know what you need to work on.

By Denise Lones CSP, M.I.R.M., CDEI

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