Yes, It’s Possible to Make a Business Plan for 2021. Here’s How.
by Connie Vanderzanden
There is something special about opening up a brand new planner… so clean, so fresh, and so full of possibilities.
Yet when I opened up a new planner on the weekend, (by the way, the Full Focus Planner in French Blue has the most gorgeous inside cover) I stumbled when it came to filling out the goal sections.
In all honesty, me and planning have a bumpy past.
My natural style is to fly by the seat of my pants and even though I have taken many classes, have ALL the tools, and yes, the skillset to create a plan for myself, when faced with blank pages... I freeze.
After some reflection, I’ve come to understand there are a few reasons why:
- When considering what has happened historically… such as pivoting in my business about a year ago, I’m still figuring out what the “new normal” actually is. (And the pandemic hasn’t helped matters much, either!)
- Getting myself into the right mindset. I’m a firm believer that if you aren’t growing, you are dying. Every workshop I’ve attended, class I’ve taken, and coach I’ve hired has encouraged some type of growth year after year. But with the current unknown of today’s society, jumping off that cliff to plan for growth is more than a little scary.
- Imagining or declaring what I really want is downright daunting. As I wrote in last month’s post, I am finding that my personal resiliency bucket is close to running on fumes. Dreaming about a potential future is replaced with zoning out to Netflix or simply sleeping.
And, I’m not the only one.
The business owners I interact with are experiencing similar things:
- Not planning into the future, because they are avoiding looking at where they currently are.
- Unsure how to rebuild trust in the plan, after months of not hitting a single goal.
- Scarcity is stopping them from pivoting and innovating in their business.
- Thinking abundantly (or even about abundance) when everything is so uncertain is practically impossible.
These statements are just as true for the businesses that have been able to maintain steady cash flow as it is for the businesses who are struggling to keep the doors open and the lights on.
As I write today’s blog post, I find myself in a “chicken vs. egg” moment.
Does focusing on what the business entity desires to create, even grow into for 2021 come first?
Or does rebuilding our own personal resilience bucket come first, so that as we move forward, we are more confident as leaders and resourced enough to hold that vision?
If the blank page of planning is creating decision fatigue for you, like it is for me, then rebuilding our personal resilience bucket is likely the best first step. Right now, make one decision on what you can do.
- Pull your calendar out and find some rest and recovery time, just for YOU. Long weekend, half a day, or even just a few hours where YOU are your Number One Priority.
- Brainstorm on where you could go to be with your own energy and thoughts:
- You could get in your car and drive to an empty parking lot, perhaps one with a great view.
- If resources (and safety) allow, Marriott hotels are now offering day passes in some cities (unfortunately not here in Portland), or perhaps you can run away from home to an Airbnb or hotel for a longer stay.
- Get outside for a hike, a walk, or simply doing some Earthing (outside, bare feet, soaking it all in) - weather dependent of course.
- Create space in your home that is NOT in front of your computer, the TV, or with other peeps. Like, hiding in the bathroom taking a bath, or locking yourself in the bedroom for a glorious middle-of-the-day nap.
- Take a snack, some water, and some sort of writing material, AND just go. Nothing to prep. This is about restoring energy and giving our brains some rest.
Will it take more than one self-prioritizing break to help you feel like your cup is filling up again? Depends on if you have been on full tilt this year. If so, yes this one small little break will not be sufficient to clear enough space in your brain to dream and plan for the new year. Here’s a link to the post I did back in May about crafting your own Personal Resilience Plan to look at other areas to shift.
For those that have the bandwidth to dream and plan, but are getting stuck on the how’s, here are some tips on crafting that new financial goal after a down year.
- Start with blocking out some planning time where you can focus and dream.
- Make sure you are rested, nourished, and grounded.
- Gather all the things - calendar, note-taking device/tool, access to your numbers.
- Bring plenty of water and snacks.
- Plan and schedule a reward that you will look forward to.
Set the stage:
- Do you need music?
- Space that is different from your normal office?
- Tidy space!
- Candles, scents, maybe even a Tarot card or two for inspiration?
How much time depends on you and how distracted your ego will be. I start with a three-hour block with the caveat that I have a weekly standing Money Monday date with my business finances.
What is Your Available Bandwidth?
Grab that new calendar and plan for your rest and recovery time. Family vacation, time away with friends, holidays, or simply quarterly retreats for you to work ON your business (dreaming, reviewing, and planning). A lot of the planning will be a guess, throwing a dart in a dark room hoping that you are at least pointed in the right direction. This is not set in stone, so take a moment to craft the availability you desire.
Why start here?
By knowing how much time you have to work IN your business is key to figuring out pricing after you have set your revenue targets.
Where are You Starting? Know Your Numbers
Every good adventure requires a starting point. Your financial plan is no different, you need to know where you are and if you have historical information, lean into that.
Yes, this means getting your bookkeeping up to date into some type of system (Excel spreadsheet, accounting tool, or piece of paper). It also includes doing a bit of analysis:
- Revenue - by month, by customer, and by type of sale; figure out the natural rhythm, what are customers most interested in, and who your top customers are.
- Expenses - bare minimum overhead vs future desire or growth.
- Cash Used (or Profit Kept) - just looking at expenses you may miss any debt reduction payment or owner draws/distributions; include those and evaluate how much profit you are keeping.
Now that you know where you are, time for future planning. What can be cut moving forward? Where do you want to invest?
Have a Heart-to-Heart with Your Business
Start with a general analysis of what has happened. No judgment here. Park that negative ego to the side, take off the rose-colored glasses, and simply consider the following:
- What actually worked this year? Find the positive.
- What didn’t work in the business?
- Pull out your prior plan - evaluate it against where you are.
- Did you hit your targets? Explore why or why not that was the result.
- Can you identify the areas that need to shift? Find 3-5 minimum.
“There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.” ~ Oprah Winfrey
Now, tap into the energy of the business you are creating. Ask it - what does it want to create? What does it want to shift?
I’m not joking here. Get out of your ego-mind and tap into the heart of what you want to create. Here is a technique I learned from my mentor, David Nagel, that you can try to change your perspective.
- Sit at one end of a table.
- Imagine you are going to have a conversation with a mentor or someone you admire or respect.
- Start the conversation.
- At the point where your mentor will chime in, physically get up and move to the other end of the table and speak as they would.
- Switch chairs until you feel the conversation has been resolved.
Beginners Mind - What Would You Create?
Here is your permission slip to leave all the “shoulds” and “coulds” outside of this planning space. This is where you get to DREAM!
Imagine you have the opportunity to start a brand-new, shiny business.
What would you create?
Does that align with what the business wants?
Do you have any ideas that feel heavy? (That heavy feeling normally shows up in the body as a lump in your stomach area or heaviness in your legs.)
Explore that heavy feeling a bit further. It usually means there’s something there that isn’t true for right now. It might be an idea to ponder later in the year or even the year after. It may also be an outdated business-model belief you learned from someone else that is still niggling in your brain.
Lean in towards the ideas that are light, exciting, and most importantly, joyful. We can all use a little joy right now! #ConniesJoyChallenge
Call in the Support Team
Let go of the idea that you have to figure all of this out on your own. Yes, it is your vision, AND why not let your team help fill in the details?
Who is this team?
- Bookkeeper to help gather the data and put them into a report that you can use, rather than you spending the time getting stuck in the details.
- Tax Pro to consult with on a deeper plan around finances and tax savings.
- Office Support to help pull sales or client info analysis.
- Coach or Mentor to give additional emotionally-detached support and perspective.
- Business Intuitive to speak for the business.
- Mastermind or Accountability Partners for fresh perspectives and motivation.
(If you don’t have all of these people on your team, that doesn’t mean you’re doing things wrong. Use the same process as above to tap into what your business wants and needs. While some of these team members are essential - *cough* bookkeeper *cough* tax pro *cough* - not every business or entrepreneur needs or is ready for some of these other roles.)
Sometimes we just can’t see what is right in front of our face, so getting support to see another perspective or dive into the details, leaves us to be the visionary our businesses require to move forward.
If your first thought was I don’t have the money to do that - hello lack mindset! There could be an option to barter or go on a payment plan, and some of those options may have no costs involved at all! You won’t know until you ask.
Planning after a down year can be a little tricky. Do we plan for growth? Was the prior year a fluke or was this an indicator that our business model and services need to pivot?
The answers aren’t as black and white as you may have wanted from this post.
The truth is, what you plan for the next year is up to you.
The only suggestion I will provide is that when it comes to your financial plan, make sure to be aware of what your bare minimum is and have at least one additional column to reflect in numeric form what your new business dream is.
We don’t know what 2021 will bring, just like all good adventures. There will always be a bit of the unknown. Since excitement and fear have the exact same bodily reactions, you get to choose which one you move forward with.
So, how do you plan for 2021?
Carefully, with a resourced mind/body, and optimistic outlook that if you truly desire it then the universe is already working to make it happen.
Still have questions about planning for the year ahead? I’m available for a free 30-minute call. Just click the button below.