Story time. Yay!
Around 1998, I was working with a partner selling commercial real estate in the Peterborough region. Actually, he’d taken me under his wing and one day introduced me as his partner.
I owe that man everything.
The market was very slowly crawling out of the recession created by the real estate crash of 1990. Yes still. And you know what? We were incredibly busy. I say busy rather than truly successful because we had very little direction in our business. We had about 25 listings at the time and a stable of prospects that numbered in the dozens. But…
We were reactive every day. We were at the beck and call of anyone with a property need. Whether that person would actually lead to increased income or not, we made it a point to be there thinking that great service meant jumping when a potential client said, “Jump.” We jumped from project to project and threw ourselves into them all. We spent far too much time away from our families and took far too little time off. Our stress levels were at ridiculous levels and we felt like we were adrift.
Then, one day, we decided to spend some time out of the office and actually do some planning.
I really should have known better – I have a diploma from Sir Sandford Fleming College in Entrepreneurship and we were taught the importance of business planning. In fact our culminating project was the development of a full business plan. But when I got my real estate license, all of that training somehow went out the window in favour of all the cool things I could do as a real estate rep.
We made some tough choices that day and the results were miraculous. (Stay tuned for the rest of the story…)
Here are 10 Things You Don’t Want To Hear About Business Plans
- They take time to create
You aren’t going to like this, but I think you really need to set aside at least a full day to properly build out a one year real estate business plan. I know, I know, you’re ‘too busy’. Suck it up, buttercup. You NEED to do this EVERY year. This one day of pain will make the rest of your year so much better!
- This will be really hard
This will not be easy. How hard will it be? Well, let’s put it on a scale of 1-10 where 1 is relaxing in a hammock on a beach in Fiji and 10 is giving birth to a 10 pound behemoth of a baby. This will be about a 12. Granted, there won’t be any (well, not much) physical pain, but trust me, you’re going to find this to be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done in your business.
- They force you to look at your personal life and finances
Do you really have a good picture of your personal finances? I hope so. But you would not be considered unusual if you really didn’t know what your debt load is and if you didn’t really know what your monthly expenses truly are. The process of building a business plan forces you to acknowledge what your real expenses are, and that’s a good thing! It means, that at the end of the process you’ll know exactly how much you need to earn to both meet your monthly expenses and to meet your long term income goals.
- They force you to be critical of your business
In the same vein, when you really look at your business holistically, you’ll start to see some activities that you’ve been undertaking that really aren’t adding to your bottom line. It’s classic 80/20 time! You know what I mean, 80% of your results come from 20% of your activities. You’re probably spending an inordinate amount of time, as much as 80% of it, on activities that add nothing to your bottom line. Getting clear on your priorities via your business plan shines a light on these poor choices and force you to take a proactive stance moving forward.
- You need to take some time to decide what you really want
Don’t expect to be able to articulate exactly what you want as soon as you sit down. Spend some time imagining what it is you want out of your business. When you have a clear picture of your goal, designing a plan to get there becomes far simpler. Don’t forget, you’re in business to live, not the other way ‘round.
- You’ll have to do some math
No magic here. If you’re like a lot of sales people, you are a master of the personal relationship, a marketing marvel, and an expert on explaining everything about the buying and selling process. But…you likely aren’t a math whiz. Don’t worry though, spreadsheets are your friend! If your company doesn’t have readymade tools for you to use in this regard, drop me a line. I’m sure I can dig something up for you.
- You’ll have to finish it
I’m pretty good at starting projects, and not so good at finishing them. I like the process of coming up with ideas, getting them started, seeing some growth and nurturing the expectation that goes along with that process, but, if I’m honest, I don’t really care if projects get finished. That’s not my forte. Well, that’s not really true, I’m just not good at seeing them through. Now, I recognize the need to finish projects, so I do my best to work through them and I’m not afraid to delegate tasks in order to see things completed. But I recognize my shortcomings and make allowances for them. You will too. Be prepared to push through and actually finish your business plan; it won’t do you any good to get part way to the finish line – to win, you need to cross the line and feel the ribbon of success! …was that metaphor too weird?
- It doesn’t end once you’ve written the plan
Once you have a plan, you’ll need to put your ideas and plans into practice. Planning and deciding on your goals isn’t enough. You need to implement your plans and processes or else this entire exercise will have been wasted.
- You’ll need to schedule reviews
Implementation isn’t enough either! You need to stop and reflect every so often to make sure you’re on track. Be prepared to make adjustments to your new plan as you go along. Set aside time every week and every quarter to review your results as they relate to your business plan. Don’t be afraid of these changes, they don’t mean you wasted your time in the planning stage. View them as an opportunity to fine tune your business. You’re lucky in this respect – if you were running a multi-million dollar company, it’d be really hard to make changes quickly and that can cost you your business – meanwhile, you’re probably just a sole sales rep and the ability to make changes on the fly makes you agile and adaptable. Your clients will thank you for this ability.
- It’ll force you to have more direction
Ever wake up in the morning and wonder what you’re going to do that day? Ever wonder if you’re doing the tasks that are truly necessary? Sure you have; we all have at some point. The act of creating a business plan and then working that plan forces direction on your business. No longer will you wonder what it is you ‘should’ be doing – you’ll already know – it’s written right there in your plan!
- Bonus: You will have more free time, more money, and more satisfaction!
You made it! You have a completed plan and you’ve scheduled time for periodic reviews and adjustments to your plan. I know, it was a TON of work, but you did it. Congratulations! Now you get to reap the rewards of your efforts. With a clear plan of action and clear goals, you’ll know what to work on and, more importantly, what NOT to work on. You’ll have more free time, more vacation time, you’ll make more money, and your stress level will drop dramatically.
Trust me, this process works. Remember my story about taking some time out of the office to do some serious planning back in 1998?
Here’s what happened:
- We stopped working for everyone else and started working for ourselves. In fact, we fired a bunch of ‘clients’ and sent their keys back to them. Life is too short to deal with jerks.
- We decided who our ideal client was and actively pursued people that fit our model.
- We started taking more time off. Six weeks a year. Each.
- Our families appreciated seeing us more often and we couldn’t believe we had been spending so much time working before.
- Our stress levels dropped dramatically.
- Most importantly, our incomes DOUBLED that year.
- We went through the same process the next year and our incomes DOUBLED AGAIN.
I truly have been in your shoes. This stuff works folks.
Not sure where or how to get started? Give me a call and I’d be more than happy to help :)
Wishing you continued success in all that you do,