Last week, I was running through the forest and listening to a podcast interview when the host asked her guest, what is one thing you think every business owner needs?
Her response? A business plan.
That’s interesting, I thought. Because while I highly encourage my clients to plan for the present and future in their business, I never make them write a formal business plan.
Formal business plans can require page upon page documenting every little detail of a business. They’re the kind of thing you present at an investors meeting to drum up funding. They’re what you bring to a bank to get a loan or what you present to a potential business partner before they come on board.
They’re useful and have their place. But if you’re a solopreneur or small business owner who wants to run a simple, sustainable business, I don’t actually think you need one.
Instead, you need a long-term vision for your business, and your life.
A long-term vision paints the picture of where you want to head. It describes what your business and life will look like a few years down the road. It brings you clarity, and helps you be more intentional in how you grow. It also helps you know with certainty that you’re putting your energy into the right things because the right things will always be in service of your long-term vision, and the wrong things will only steer you off track.
And, unlike a formal business plan, a long-term vision does not require hours upon hours of your time to research and write. It can come together in about an hour by taking the following steps:
1. Set aside 60 quiet, uninterrupted minutes to think about where you would like your business and life to be 5 years into the future.
2. Ask yourself the following questions, answering as if it were 5 years from today.
How old are you?
How long have you been in business?
What are you known for?
What kind of lifestyle does your business make possible?
What revenue have you reached?
Has your role in your business changed? If yes, what is it?
How many hours or days do you work each week?
What does your team look like?
What big projects have you completed?
What big goals have you reached?
What accolades or awards or recognitions have you received?
What’s the thing you’re most proud of?
3. Create your long-term vision, letting the answers to the questions guide you. You can write it out in the pages of your journal, create a list of things it includes or even make a vision board if you prefer pictures to words.
Once you’ve created your long-term vision, you'll have a plan to guide you as you take steps forward in your business. It will help you decide what kind of support you need to grow. It will help you decide what new projects or revenue streams you want to pursue. It will help you see what you need to keep doing and what you need to let go of.
And it will help you set intentional goals for your business, which is especially useful as we start approaching a new year.
So please, take the time this week to create a long-term vision for your business. I’m not asking you to write a formal business plan, just to spend an hour thinking about what you really want your business to look like in the future.