Here are three steps to help you create your own plan of action to grow your business:
Step 1: Assess Your Current Situation
The first step is always the hardest—mostly because it is difficult to look at your own business and correctly identify what is and isn’t working. However, this step is the most important.
When assessing your business, you should determine where you are. What is happening in your business? What are you doing well and what can you improve? As a business owner, what do you need to improve personally to help your business?
If you have a difficult time assessing yourself and your business, contact a few customers that you have a good relationship with and ask them how they view your business. If you have some close associates, ask them what they think about the state of your business.
A good rule of thumb is to contact five to six people and ask various questions that allow them an opportunity to expand upon their thoughts. Look for common ground and areas that people tend to repeat, and use those things as areas to improve.
Step 2: List Your Ideas
Many business owners start here. The reason that you should list your ideas is that you may realize that some of the ideas are not going to work at this time (or ever). If you have a good assessment of your business, the ideas that make sense for your business will be listed. The ones that do not will be eliminated.
Once you list your ideas, take the time to think through each. What is the basic premise of this idea? How does it improve your current business? How will you implement it? How long will it take to put this idea in motion?
Really spend time on this process. You do not want to spend time implementing a new idea only to realize halfway through that it is not right for your business. You should determine the amount of resources (human, technological, and monetary) that are going to be necessary to get this idea off the ground. Is it worth it? Do you really have what you need to implement the idea? If not, where do you go to get what you need? Once you have done this for each idea, you are ready for step three.
Step 3: Implement
List your ideas in order of importance, ease, and time to implement. Start with those that are first on the list. Do not make too many changes at once. If you have several simple changes, you can implement two or three and take an assessment of each change every three months. Make changes as necessary to ensure that you are not continuing with a bad strategy if the idea is going to take time to implement.
Once you review the list of resources necessary to implement, begin making a timeline for implementation. Make a weekly or monthly set of tasks and timelines to help guide you through the process. This will require you to be accountable to yourself and your business.
Give the list to another employee or business partner (friend) and make a schedule to follow-up to make sure that you are on task. This is the stage that many ideas go into the drawer never to see life again. Stay focused!
The most important thing to do is write it down! If it stays in your head, it stays an idea and will never become a plan of action. Never lose sight of the goals, and hold yourself accountable. Plans are made to be actionable!