Do You Have a Plan?Mar 07, 2021
By Dino Tartaglia
In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll tells of a situation where Alice encounters the Cheshire Cat. It's a piece I use a lot to talk about ‘Strategic Direction’, or simply having a Plan to execute and a Place that it'll take you to, if you will. It also underpins the difference between a Persistent Entrepreneur and a Tenacious Entrepreneur (but that's for another time ... )
Here's how the convo goes:
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where …” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“… so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough."
I spent the first few years of my business life being Alice-like, sure that I'd get 'somewhere’, and I'd know when I got there. Does this resonate? Or have you always had a 'main thing', as Stephen Covey put it? What would you like to have known or done better (or differently) when you started out on your business journey?
In January, we started working through our super-simple 3-Step process to help you Build a Joyful, Dependable Business around Being Brilliant at What You Do, so that you can get closer to What Matters Most to you. If you haven’t read the January and February articles yet, go back and do that now as they cover Step 1 - a critical piece of this process to ensure that you:
- Get Clarity
- Get a Plan, and
- Get to Work.
In this, the final article of the mini-series, we’re going to look at what makes a Plan work, and how you build and validate your Plan - your Strategy - that allows you to connect where you are (your ‘Point A’) with where you want to go/what you want to have/who you want to be (your ‘Point X’).
What IS a Strategy?
It’s easier (almost) to say what a Strategy is NOT. It isn’t Tactics, the ‘doing’ stuff that we execute on to work a process, like putting out content every day, or running Facebook ads, or making cold calls **shudders** -these are ‘doing’ things, not ‘directional’ things.
A Strategy helps you build a line of sight and a path to where you want to go, to take you towards What Matters Most (as we discussed in January and February). It, therefore, follows that ‘Strategic Thinking’ and ‘Strategic Direction’ are just business-speak for considering anything you might do (or spend) in terms of whether it gets you closer to What Matters Most.
Make sense? Cool. Actually, there’s a context and a flow for this that might help.
If you want a business that lasts, you need to build your business around being brilliant at what you do, not the other way around by trying to shoehorn yourself into a business model that simply isn’t a fit. That means that you MUST pay attention to your unique disposition. Which then means that we have to discuss Principles.
Principles flow from identity, values and an understanding of who you are. The average coach, consultant, creative, service provider - in fact, the average business owner of any persuasion - inevitably focuses on exactly the wrong thing as a way to get ahead and make progress in their business. They invariably search for tactical-level ‘shortcuts’ as their ‘solution’, and it creates a never-ending ‘hamster-wheel’ of activity that burns energy and takes them nowhere.
Questions come up such as:
- What’s the best autoresponder for me?
- ClickFunnels, Kartra, Thinkific or something else?
- Should I be more active on Facebook or LinkedIn?
- Would a webinar or a livestream on Facebook work best?
- Should I use Messenger bots?
- Should my ‘free challenge’ be 5 days, 7 days or should I actually charge for it?
Unsurprisingly, ALL of that is pointless and a HUGE waste of brain space – until you understand both the Principles and the Strategy that power those Tactics.
Tactics are tools, things you use to ‘do’, to execute, to action. They’re the HOW of the job. But they’re not the tools that make the job doable. First, you must understand the WHY and the WHAT of the job; then the HOW will fall into place.
No Principles - no Plan
If you ask a tactical question (check out the February article for a deep dive into this), you’ll get a tactical answer. And, as we’ve already said, Tactics don’t give you ‘direction’; they simply keep you busy ‘doing’. To add direction to the activity, you need velocity (speed, movement AND direction), and that can only come from being strategic, having a Plan; something that points you to where that activity should lead to. And before the Plan, you must know your Principles.
Let’s say, as an example, that you’ve decided to take a year out and travel. Now, you need to figure out the HOW. BUT, before we get to that, we need the WHY and the WHAT (in the case of travel, the WHAT is simply where you might stay).
- Principles are the reasons WHY you want to travel.
- Strategies help you choose WHAT places to see/stay in.
- Tactics are HOW you're going to get there, the transport to use and the routes to take.
If you hate flying, your Principles, and therefore your Plan, will identify this and determine that you will not use flying (a Tactic). If you stumbled across a blueprint for how you should travel and it said you HAD to fly in order to have a successful trip, how would you feel?
And yet, we run our businesses like this all the time, working against our unique dispositions, doing things that are not right for us because some ‘guru’ gave us their solution; working without a clear Plan that resonates with us.
Having a Plan Flushes out Busywork
A more concrete example of this ‘flow’ in action might be this:
- Principle: I want to have more impact and I love to teach, so I’ll teach more. I believe that people respond to information that's valuable to them (teaching) over being sold to.
- Strategy: Run a live training/mini workshop on a topic that my core audience finds hugely compelling. Use Facebook Live and deliver it in a Facebook group so people have to join your community.
- Tactic: Use Messenger bots and an autoresponder as a way to register people for the training.
- Busywork (most people worry about this stuff way too much at the outset): Organising a photoshoot, agonising over 3 or 7 bullet points on the options page, going round in circles over the registration button being red, green, or blue … and on ... and on.
Is this feeling horribly familiar yet? In a perverse kind of way, I really hope so!
One of the great things that comes from our moments of understanding of where we have been going wrong (usually through no fault of our own), is that it immediately provides the opportunity to do things better, more effectively or just plain right. I am hoping that this is one of those moments.
Follow the Process
As you’ve now seen, there’s a basic process to follow to create a Plan that will work. Without a set of guiding Principles, and a Strategy (or Strategies) that power our Plan, we unwittingly follow or fall into an ‘unplanned Plan’ without realising it (remember Alice’s conversation with The Cat?).
When things aren’t working, guess what we change? Yup, the Plan - which we haven’t really got a grip of anyway. Guess what we SHOULD change IF we had our own Plan? The Tactics!
There’s much more to this, so let’s break it down into bite-sized chunks. Take a look at Fig. 1.
Now, don’t allow yourself the luxury of overwhelm here. If you read the diagram from left to right, and then follow the arrows, stage-by-stage, things will become super clear. Here’s the flow:
- Decide What Matters Most (see January and February articles).
- Now you have this, decide on some goals.
- Figure out what you have, who you are (in terms of your understanding, abilities, characteristics and skills) and what resources you have access to. This helps to identify your starting point – ‘Point A’.
- Identify and apply your Principles.
- Figure out your Strategy and form a Plan to get you from your ‘Point A’ towards your ‘Point X’ (goals).
- Identify the Tactics you’ll use (the HOW/Activities).
- Work out the implementation (processes, systems and actions). These will form and build over time.
So far, so good. Now we hit the bit where this usually falls down or goes awry:
- Identify, based on your goals, your Plan and What Matters Most, what your Key Metrics are. What do you need to track and measure to ensure that you’re on track, or need to modify or change something? These things might be the number of qualified leads, total monthly revenue, profit margin, conversion ratios, etc. Pick 3-5 high level metrics - no more - for your ‘dashboard’ so that you can see what’s happening without a lot of clutter.
Most small business owners do not track, measure and hold themselves accountable to metrics that matter. DON’T be one of them.
- And here’s the biggie - Review, Revise & Adapt.
You’ve more chance of finding rocking horse or unicorn poo than of building and executing a successful Plan without regularly checking and adjusting your business’ performance.
IF you implement (especially) points 8 and 9 here, you’ll transform your business like you wouldn’t believe. Far too many business owners act as if they simply own their own job, and don’t hold themselves accountable for delivering on key goals and metrics. Again, DON’T be (or stop being) one of them.
- Finally, avoid the trap of continuously (and unwittingly) changing the Plan. The Plan will usually be sound if you’ve followed the advice and the process here. Use the metrics to tell you if you need some course correction and adapt the Tactics and the implementation/process accordingly.
Ideas for Growth - Putting this Together
Now that you’ve got some concepts, a guiding process and a method, you’ve got some work ahead of you. As ever, if you want help with this, tag me in TFCEO Group, drop me a message or, if you really want to get motoring with your business, come join me in Success Unlocked, our Coaching Environment.*
For now, and to help you get your creative and strategic juices flowing, here are some final examples you can use:
Find a crowd that’s hungry for what you do. Provide value through content that displays your empathy and your brilliance, and that builds your authority and presence.
Sell what sells or, as my old mentor used to put it, “Push on the open door.” Provide your solutions to problems people ALREADY WANT TO SOLVE and sell them to people who have already decided to invest in a solution. (Read this a few times - trust me, it’s so obvious that it’s easy to miss how powerful this is, and why we don’t actually do this instinctively).
[Key point] Deliver on your promises. Do what you said you’d do when you said you’d do it. Your business is the Ultimate Product; it's your #1 asset. Don't fall prey to trying to build it on tricks, gimmicks or half-assed effort. Invest in Strategies that will help you build an audience of raving fans that will drive sustainable, long-term, profitable growth.
Using these Principles, we could create a lot of different Strategies. These are just a few of the possible examples and the Plan would fuse a few of them together to create your Business Model [more on this at the end]:
Build an email list.
Grow a Facebook group.
Build a following of ideal prospects - your kind of people - on social media.
Turn your brilliance into a time-bound service-based Solution System delivered 1-2-1.
Host a monthly 1- or 2-day workshop.
Create a group coaching program.
Create a tight selection and onboarding process to sign only ideal (‘right-fit’) clients.
Create a process to predictably and reliably deliver on your promises.
Invite first-time buyers to become repeat clients (a BIG one).
And, finally, we arrive at the doing - the activities and the HOW.
Master organic Facebook.
Use ClickFunnels, ConvertKit, or Kartra (for example).
Host a free Facebook-based challenge every quarter.
Employ Zoom sessions to do live training and edit the recordings for social proof and further content.
Use Thinkific to build out a membership platform to deliver your client-only content.
... and a gazillion other Tactics.
If you find yourself too busy and still accomplishing too little, as we’ve said earlier, you're most likely chasing too many Tactics without having a sound Strategy in place. But what if you're gaining traction and building momentum yet not enjoying what you're building? Then, you're probably following the wrong Principles.
If you want to Build a Joyful, Dependable Business around Being Brilliant at What You Do, something that creates a lasting impact and earns handsomely whilst getting you ever-closer to What Matters Most - follow the right sequence, the optimal sequence.
Start with the WHY. Then focus on the right WHAT. With those two in place, much of the HOW will fall into place automatically. And you’ll find the resulting experience almost ‘magical’.
Need more help?
DM me, tag me in the group, come find me in Success Unlocked, bring your problems and challenges to ‘Clarity over Cocktails’, or simply jump on our mailing list. Building a Plan That Works is a simple task, but it requires a LOT of thought. And one of the great things about being in TFCEO Community is that you, alone, are responsible for the success of your business - but you’re not ON your own.
Until next time.
Here’s to your Inevitable Success.
Dino Tartaglia is a former Electronics Engineer, now a businessman, mentor, coach and troubleshooter working to help you, if you’re a coach, consultant, creative or service provider, to Build a Joyful, Dependable Business around Being Brilliant at What You Do.
In his own coaching, and together with world-class coach Simon Hartley, the other half of Success Engineers (their joint business), he helps you to improve your thinking to ask better questions, so that you solve the right problems in your business at the right time, develop your own personal performance as a business owner and get closer to What Matters Most.
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