Over the years, after countless strategic planning retreats, what I know is there are 4 essential steps to achieving results.  These steps hold true for organizations of all sizes from 1-person solo-entrepreneurial ventures to global business empires.  The steps may seem simple – they are very straight forward and easy to understand.  But, that does not mean every business will find them easy to complete.

Solo-entrepreneurs, independent business representatives, and leaders of very small businesses sometimes think they don’t need strategic planning. They think strategy is something only large organizations do. But, that type of thinking is a quick way to sabotage success.  So, here are my best tips for approaching the 4 essential steps for solo-entrepreneurs, independent business reps, and leaders of micro-businesses:

Step 1 Connect With Your Core. 

Larger companies have an organizational culture that seems to organically grow from have many people working together and figuring out how to communicate to get the work done effectively. Strategic planning retreats often start with the leadership team trying to understand this culture and develop some sort of values, principles, or code to guide the team.  However, this step is also deeply important for solo-entrepreneurs and small businesses.  It’s important to understand yourself very well, how you work with others, how you network, how you communicate, and how you sell your products or services. These are things independent business owners need to know in detail. Along with this understanding is really becoming sure of your own core values and what is most important to you.  If you are simply “pretending” in your business because someone told you to “fake it until you make it” then you are probably experiencing a ton of stress all the time.  It’s not easy or fun to continuously act in a way that is not supportive of your own values and your own personality.  Planning your business to fit with what is most important for you, and with the way you most effectively communicate and interact with others, is vital to creating a life you will love and a business that will grown to be what you hoped for.

Step 2 Dream Big.

Here’s where casting your vision happens. Knowing what you want for your business and your life in the future starts with dreaming big.  If everything went perfectly to plan, what would your dream life and your dream business look like?  We dream big for today and for 10-20 years in the future. Then, we start bringing the dream into focus by look at milestones 5-10 years out. Finally we get a very realistic picture of what is possible in 1-3 years. This is where the strategic plan starts to develop.

Step 3 Know Your Numbers.

To achieve your 1-3 year plan it is very important to know what revenue you are bringing in right now, and what are your costs of doing business. I am astounded at how many solo-entrepreneurs have no idea how much income they receive on average each month. Plus, they do not know what are the income producing activities that they must focus on. This is the only way to get more clients or customers, so they can sell more products and services, in order to cover all their business costs and pay themselves a salary.   Too many spend the majority of their time on actions that are not moving them forward toward their 1-3 year vision, let alone their longer term dream life.  In this step, there is no room for pretending, it’s time to figure out what’s working well and what is clearly not working to bring in the revenue needed.  This is the time to set goals for revenue, client attraction, operational excellence, and personal leadership growth. Fortunately, my 12-month mastermind program covers all of these things. Each of these goals will have a plan attached to it for how much time to spend on each area and activity depending on where you are in the life-cycle of your business.

Step 4 Take Action.

This can be the most challenging and the most rewarding step of the process.  If you are a “do-er” you’ll be ready to jump in and work your plan. Those who create a solid plan, based on knowing their numbers and understanding exactly what they should be doing and when – will go far!  Those who jump straight to taking action without knowing their numbers and understanding what they need to focus on – will struggle.  Those who love planning and contemplating, and revising the plan, and doing a lot of behind the scenes work – will not be focused on doing the revenue generating activities and they also will struggle until they become comfortable with working the plan rather than perfecting the plan. Taking action is the only way to achieve desired results, but the other steps ensure you’ll be taking action on the right things at the right time.