Is It A Business or A Legacy? Planning For The Future

Anybody who runs a business knows about the importance of goal-setting and planning for the future. Whether you make business goals or personal goals, it’s important to  know just exactly where you want to go, and know whether what the actions you take and the choices you make will get you to your goals.

Just as important is understanding and planning for things that can affect your progress towards your goals. Practicing flexibility and foresight in making plans for your business (and yourself) for the future is a vital skill for any entrepreneur. Here’s some advice to help you with that:

Have a clear picture of where you want to be. Envision.
Any business, no matter what its size, is challenging work. Aside from the daily ops, there are  countless other issues that can take up your time: crunching the numbers, juggling finances and balancing accounts,  going after delayed collections, dealing with  disappointed customers, facing the imbalance of family-time versus time spent on the business…when you’re busy dealing with all of these things, it’s easy to lose sight of what you’re working for.

Why do you have your business? What made you choose it and keep with it? What did you want to be from it. What did you see it make possible for you? You want to live your dream? What is your dream? Be specific.

Knowing why you’re doing this can give you the  strength to deal with all the things that can irritate you, aggravate you or just plain  infuriate you about your business.

And having a clear picture in mind encourages you to be aware of where you want to be — in the next quarter, or the next 6 months,  the next year, the next 5 years, and so on. Knowing what you want to happen and where you want to be by a certain time, you constantly have goals to works towards and pull you onward. You won’t coast, you won’t assume everything is going well. You’re maintaining awareness of the intimate health details of your business.

No matter where they come from, truly successful people keep working towards their particular goals.
Take time to write down your goals . This solidifies these goals in your mind and in your heart, giving you the drive and the energy to shoulder the workload, stomach the disappointments and downturns, and  help keep you steady. Goals can change with each stage our our lifetime and our business, but successful people are motivated by their desire to accomplish these goals. They focus. They shoulder aside distractions. The know that the things they choose to do have an end in mind, and they want to reach that goal.

When we’re tempted to throw up our hands in frustration, or throw in the towel in despair,  clear goals can help  us weather those dark times. Knowing the important reason why you’re working so hard lets you figure out how you can adjust so you can keep going.

Got a goal? Have a good map to show you how to get there.
Write down your plans. Plans give you a map to follow and directions to take. Plans can also give you back-up options in case the first choice doesn’t work out.

Whether the plans your draw up are business or personal, they are done to draw you attention to the areas in your life (or business) that you believe need more work. You can write in milestones in order to have targets to work closer to,  and include special events to have something to celebrate and look forward to. Plans train your brain and your focus to work together.

For example: Plans can also include financial targets to benchmark what you want to achieve, in the next quarter,  in the coming year, and so on. Having financial targets in mind can help you gauge how much business you need to get to meet these targets, as well as prepare your expected costs for business outlays and expenditures to be. Aligned with business plans, they can establish the direction you want to go in that specified time.

These plans can cover the kind of marketing campaigns you create, the type of customers you want to get more off (ex. high-value targets), the focus of your attention as to where your efforts, would go into — for example, business generation, customer retention and relationship building, strengthened networking, or perhaps even business expansion, if the conditions are ripe for it.

Brainstorming, writing down and gaming your ideas for improvement can challenge you to be more aware of how you work, and how you work with your resources, time, and energy, as well as task you to identify the areas where you can stand to make some improvement. Have a  plan, have back-ups, and practice flexibility so you can adjust when it’s needed.

Keep updated with trends and events in your industry and your market.
Adaptation is survival in this hyper-competitive world. Make yourself comfortable with using new technology so you know how and where to get the information you need when you need it. Signing up for  trade newsletters is an easy way to get the news delivered to you.

Joining industry associations are also a great help when it comes to staying in-the-know.  
You can build a network of  resource persons, mentors and business partners as well as gain access to events, publications, and information you would find difficult to get any other way. you can also gain an insider view on consumer and industry trends critical to your business’s continued success. Other ways of keeping up to date is attending trade shows or expos, training seminars, or the usual conferences and networking functions in your industry. Whatever way works for you, use it to keep  in touch with the times.

You need to better than you were before.
There is always some room for improvement. Taking the status quo for granted can lead to backsliding or stagnation, which can be the herald of bad things happening. Ask for feedback. Ask your customers and your clients how you can serve them better.  Polls and surveys can help here–but what’s important is that you commit to being better than you were before, because there are always other businesses committed to doing that same thing, and you need to stay sharp to get ahead.

Have back-up plans set in place.
Things just happen. That’s life.
Accidents happen. Equipment breaks down or gets obsolete.
Prices rise. The market experiences fluctuations.

Have fall-back plans in place before ‘things happening.’ Part of disaster prevention and preparation is crisis management. Crisis managements deals with situations in order to minimize their impact on the flow and running of the business.

When you already have a plan in place when something doesn’t work out the way it was meant to, it can help save your business from imploding under the weight. Also, it’s psychologically, mentally and emotionally very relieving and assuring for all involved to know that  things are still covered.

Just like in worst-case scenarios – having a crisis management plan in place, informing people where it is, and ensuring everyone knows what to do just in case, is excellent business practice.

Keep an eye on the the high and low seasons.
There are times in every business where not much money is being generated, and times when they’re swamped with work.  Think of restaurants; off-peak hours are generally between mealtimes, right?

Some businesses have seasonal booms (ex. turkey farmers, Christmas tree farmers) Others can have busy and lean years. Learning to spot your busy and lean periods is an important skill, one that can help you navigate hard times. And it isn’t always about the bottom line that this this skill can help you with.

When you learn to identify and spot trends, you can adjust. You become more flexible. You get more informed.

  • You can spot when your business makes the most money, and where. This helps you plan better when  you’re thinking of making any major purchases, so you won’t interrupt your cashflow.
  • You can adjust staffing resources when needed. This can reduce stress and uncertainty about how many people need to show up.
  • You can narrow down on the most optimal periods to be open, if you run a brick and mortar establishment.
  • You can think of other means to maximize the lean times –perhaps a related side-venture.
  • You can plan your vacations so you can rest and recharge as well.

 

Now, you’d think that doing all this would be enough, but there’s more.
See, things change. People, circumstances, goals, dreams…everything changes in time. We all go through stages in our lives, and when we get older, we become more and more aware of just how precious the time we have left is.

Make provisions to protect what you’ve built and who it was  built for.
Build security for the things you’re responsible for. Not only for your business but your family as well. This means planning ahead so the people you love and the business you built will be shielded from the worst even when you’re gone.

Think ahead and work on passing the mantle on to the next generation of leaders and care-takers , making sure you have documented procedures and important key data, and financial and legal papers drawn and secured  in a known location or placed with a trusted  executor, so nobody will be left groping in the dark. The more you work on things now, the easier it will be when it reaches the point where you choose to hand off your responsibilities to your successors.

Really, it’s just a  extension of your professionalism.  If you plan things right, and you work on your plan, you don’t leave things a mess for other people to clean up — you leave a legacy.

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