My “How We Went Planning” article has been published a few times in the Circular, most recently in the 100th issue (page 28). So far, my wife Cecilia and I have had four such planning weekends, and at the end of the month, we’re going for our fifth.
Why do we keep doing this?
- It’s exciting. At the end of the weekend, we know exactly what we need to do to make our dreams come true. We have an amazing sense of clarity. And above all, it’s liberating.
- It’s fun. For a weekend, we get to play games: hows about a holiday on the beach in Jamaica for Christmas and New Year? Or a nice new car? Or maybe we should go to Disney in Florida? Oh, and maybe our daughter would like her own pony…
- It works. All of the examples in the previous paragraph are real: we decided we wanted them and we got them. That’s why we do all the hard work, remember?
After four years, we’re getting the hang of these weekends, so here’s a little guide so that you can run your own planning weekend.
You need the right environment: undisturbed time. Taking time first, we always allocate three nights away. That gives us two full days.
I’ve heard people say that they can’t manage two days away and they’ll dedicate an evening to planning. Trust me; you won’t get the full value without dedicating two days.
We go to Llwyn Helyg Country House near Carmarthen in Wales. It’s an amazing place, beautiful walks nearby, excellent local pubs and restaurants, and the owners, Caron and Fiona, keep us topped up with coffee and biscuits.
They give us room to work in with an enormous table: it’s recommended (and I’m not on commission).
Undisturbed: no interruption, no children, no “just checking Facebook” (if you need to be told that, maybe you shouldn’t run a business). You need the time and space to focus.
Before you go, you’ll need to collect a few things together:
- A year wall planner (Sasco or similar)
- Household finances – how much do you spend on what?
- Business accounts (or access to them)
- Whiteboard (yes, we take our own 900×600 whiteboard)
- Whiteboard pens and eraser
- School holidays for next year, if applicable
- Your dreams and aspirations (and any notes you may have about them)
We start day one by putting the fixed dates on the planner. For us, with our daughter at school, the school holidays must be marked. We’ll add in the plethora of horsey events my wife and daughter indulge in, and then we can talk about holidays.
Where to go? When to go? How many holidays? This is dream time: don’t be constrained by misplaced ideas about what’s “normal”. If a private jet to take your friends to Las Vegas for a long weekend features, go for it – but ensure you really, really want it.
What other dreams and wishes do you have? Cars? Private school? New house? More horses (not recommended)? City breaks? Bigger yacht? New hobbies? Write them all down and put a cost against each.
Day one is a time to describe in detail what a fabulous life would look like. For me, building the ideal life for my wife and daughter (and me) is what it’s all about. Don’t fall victim to impostor syndrome: running a business is *naughty word* hard, and you deserve to reap the benefits. Add in all the mundane costs you incur (food, council tax, insurance and so on).
At the end of the day, add up all the costs. Be a bit scared. Go out for dinner and talk about how amazing life will be when you can tick all those things off.
Before we move on to day two, let’s talk about money.
A lot of people have confused ideas about money. Some think more money will make them happy (see Hollywood for examples of that myth). Some just want to be a millionaire. That gives you a big number on a bank statement: so what?
Money was invented to make bartering easier. Rather than persuading BMW to take 273 sheep in exchange for a nice car, you simply sell the sheep for money and pass some of the money to BMW. The money in itself is worth nothing.
We’re using money to glue the first day to the second. Our dreams have a price tag, and our business generates money. That’s all it is.
The first part of day two is working out how your business can provide you with the money you need to fulfil the dreams identified yesterday. Don’t forget you need to pay tax on the money you take from your business. Consider what sales volumes you need for each of the product lines you sell.
What will the mix between them be? Can you add a high margin top of the range product? Are there complimentary products you could offer, partnerships you could set up?
This is where a support group is invaluable. The EC provides that in some contexts (e.g. Mastermind), but there’s nothing to stop you forming your own mutual business support group. Read Napoleon Hill’s ‘Think and Grow Rich’ if you need inspiration.
Identify the other external support you’ll need. Again, the EC can help, particularly with marketing, but maybe you’ll need other specialised help (legal, copywriting, IT, etc.).
What infrastructure will your business need? That includes people as well as premises, computers, websites and so on.
At the end of this process, you’ll know what the business needs to look like to generate the revenue you need. But we’re not quite finished yet.
Putting It Into Practice
Saying we want to increase our sales to, say, £500K isn’t enough. We need to define what we need to do on a repeatable, predictable and measurable basis to make that happen.
In other words, what habits do we need? Maybe it’s ten cold calls a day; maybe it’s two blog posts on LinkedIn a week. It almost certainly includes doing your 90 minutes every day. Your job is to define the habits that will lead to the sales that will raise the money to pay for the dreams.
Habits in. Dreams out.
It works for Cecilia and me; it works for Nigel and Sue. Maybe it could work for you, too?