Kicking & Screaming
Most accountants, financial planners, as well as most business owners don’t use business plans to drive or guide their business. Working with hundreds of these professionals only four clients possessed a written plan; only one was using it.
Why don’t practitioners, especially those who help their clients plan create a plan? The explanations go something like:
“I don’t need funding, so I don’t need a 50 page business plan.”
“My plan is going to change anyway, so why should I waste my time creating it?”
“It will take too much time.”
“I started to and found it overwhelming.”
“I didn’t start a business to do the types of things I did when I worked for someone else.”
“I don’t want a big company. I don’t want employees.” (I just created a J.O.B. for myself.)
“I don’t know which planning program to use; there are so many out there.”
“It’s expensive to plan and I need to spend my money on other things.”
“I don’t need to plan; I just want to work in my business.”
Yes, ask them, and they’ll tell you “I know I “should” have a plan”. In the report The 7 Stages of Enterprise Growth by James Fischer, Fischer reminds us that the states of growth, for a business or department are Start up, Ramp up, Delegation, Professional, Integration, Strategy, Visionary. Going through a planning process helps create that roadmap through those states.
For the most part, “winging it” from day to day works—until it doesn’t. They could be at the $60,000 or $2 million a year level. It takes time (and some amount of pain) before an owner is willing to spend time or money to create/update processes or hire employees. Looking at a business from a wider scope is made more difficult when a person is running a business alone or on a shoestring budget.
I find that most owners or managers will work on a plan if someone else does it for them. That’s a big no-no in my book. The tangible result of planning—the written plan—is only half of end result. The other half is the experience of the process including talking the questions they’ve put off answering. If someone else creates the plan for you, you lose those two parts. But just like creating a plan with your clients, if you create your plan “with” an expert planner, you’ll walk though the process and end up with a written plan. A win-win.
The Care and Feeding of Financial Professionals
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” That old quote is appropriate here. Financial advisors feeling a “pain” (or two, or three) are usually ready and compelled to take a “drink” from the strategic planning process. Here are some common pains advisors have reported:
They have been producers and are ready to be more entrepreneurial – in fact they have to change their mindset in order to grow their business.
They’re not attracting enough of their ideal clients and are tired of working with clients who drive them nuts.
They need to be making more money so they can grow their firm.
Their spouse has informed them that if they don’t spend more time together, they’ll likely to file divorce.
They’re retiring in “x” years and want all the work, time, and money they invested in their business to be their nest egg.
They realized that a business is an entity to grow, not just work at.
“Someone” important to them told them they had to create a plan.
“Someone” told them that their marketing is “all over the place”.
They need help managing their company or department.
They’re turning 50 and want to examine the next “x” years of their business with someone who isn’t as vested in their business.
They want to eventually put their business on autopilot and take more time off to start a non-profit.
The bottom line is that the “pain of growing” occurs when it’s time to get better (or more) clients, grow a team, take more time off, and live a more enjoyable life. As we look at what’s hindering growth, we find a lack of clarity of vision, mission, objectives, or strategies. IF they’re written at all. There also can be no action plan, marketing plan, or financial plan to follow. Luckily, there are planning processes, such as the One Page Business Plan® for Financial Services methodology that bring these planning processes together.
When the Light Bulb Flickers
Eventually, the financial professional considers creating a strategic plan. Here are some reasons they’ve given for finally taking the plunge:
“My original business vision has been thrown to the wind and all I’ve been doing is looking at ‘today.”
“There are so many fires to put out each day”
“I woke up and realized that the business in my vision is not the business I have. I don’t like the business I have.”
“I read Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited and realized I need systems.”
“I’m getting older. In order to get top dollar for my business in (5, 10, or 20) years, I have to have a turn-key business. My business is anything but turn-key.”
“I’m getting bored of running my company, and want to get it ready to sell/hire a CEO.”
“I have tried to grow my business for the last two years and what I’ve done isn’t working.”
“I want to start my business right; I know I need a plan.”
“I want to earn more money.”
“I’m frazzled. I network and market all the time and am not seeing the results I once saw.”
“There is a position in the company I want to create and I need to bring the concept to my boss in an organized way.”
“Although I work for a company, I’m paid on commission, and I need a plan to expand.”
“I want to open a branch office, but I can’t see having two unorganized offices. I need to get one office organized and systems created before I start the second.”
“I don’t like my business model but don’t know what to change or how to do it.”
“My business does not have an inner brand, niche, or focus.”
Fifty-page plans are helpful because of the process they provide. However, a majority of financial advisors – like many other business owners – need something much shorter. A process on 1 to 8 pages is more apt to be used daily to guide and monitor business. What’s important is that planning strategically is created before attempting execution or implementation. And while you may think, well, that’s how it’s supposed to be, many entrepreneurial financial advisors spend time implementing and trying on new strategies, the latest “bling”, before they sit down to create a plan.
Implementing before conducting a planning process is sure to waste a lot of time.
Find a flexible planning process you’re willing to do and learn a system that can be reuse in the future to make your life easier—and create a more profitable business that will be your nest egg, when you’re ready to exit.
© 2011 Elevating Your Business. Maria Marsala has helped hundreds of financial professionals and business owners create one-page planning processes they’ll use to grow and monitor their business. To gain immediate access to her planning video visit www.CoachMaria.com or www.BusinessAndMarketingPlan.com