When we talk about planning for the future, we often talk creating a plan. The idea of creating something as big as a plan for the future can imply a ton of from-scratch work (as is often the case), which can cause you to want to put that ton of work off to another day. As a successful (and likely busy) owner, you may not think you have time to create a plan. However, there’s good news, because when it comes to planning for a successful future, it’s more a matter of shaping than creating.
Shaping a Plan vs. Creating a Plan
You understand how much work creation requires. You created your business, its processes, and most of the aspects that make the business successful. As you age and approach the next stage in your business life, you may not want to put that kind of work into a plan for the future. How, then, can you avoid the feeling of helplessness that can come from knowing you have something big to do and either no drive or guide to pursue it?
The key is to reframe creating as shaping.
This isn’t merely a semantic trick. You likely have a general idea for what you want your future to look like, even if you don’t have a formal plan. For example, you may have an idea for when you want to be out of your business. You might have a preference for who will take over once you exit. You might have desires for what you will do with all the money you’ll have from successfully selling or transferring your business. The ideas are there. They simply don’t have any shape.
How can you give these nebulous but high-potential ideas shape? It all starts by collecting data and setting strategy.
Collecting Data and Setting Strategy: Step 1 in Shaping a Plan
Planning cannot truly begin unless you know what you want and need. For example, can you confidently say exactly how much money you’d need to one day exit your business with financial security? Do you know what it would take for your family to continue living their current lifestyles if you chose to never exit your business or, worse, were forced from your business (by death, incapacitation, or otherwise)? These are big, introspective questions that have real, often negative consequences if left unanswered. How can you approach them and still successfully run your business?
A good way to begin shaping your plans is to collect data and set a strategy. To do this, you should start by establishing a few objectives.
Though there are many facets to a successful plan, there are three overarching objectives that you should establish. Without knowing these three objectives, it’s nearly impossible to shape a successful plan for the future.
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