What must an entrepreneur do after creating a business plan?
Now that you have written up a business plan for yourself, it might feel like it’s time to charge ahead. But before you do, you’ll need to set yourself up for success. Wait, what? Didn’t I just do that by writing a business plan? Not exactly. You’re about to embark on a journey and you’re definitely pointed in the right direction. You’re saddled up and you’ve got a map of where you’re headed (your business plan) but if you dig in your spurs before you’ve got a grip on the reins, that horse of yours (your business) is going to run wild. It’s time to put some structures and systems in place for yourself so you can stay on course.
First, if you don’t already have one, you need a mission statement. A mission statement is your company’s reason for being, the “why” behind your business. It will be your guiding principle on this journey, and you’ll come back to it over and over. Sticking with our horseback metaphor, your map is important and useful, but it’s not going to show every detail of the terrain. You’re going to come upon unexpected forks in the road, and you’ll need to make decisions as you go. Remembering your mission statement, the whole reason you’re on this journey in the first place, can help you avoid straying from your path.
Next, let’s talk about your calendar. What are you using to plan your time? You may be thinking, “I don’t need a calendar, I already know I’m going to spend every waking moment of the next 6 months or more working on my new business.” However, structuring your time is the best way to ensure that you’ll waste less of it. There are a few things that need to go into your calendar right away.
The first is designated time to update your books. Whether you’re doing your own bookkeeping or organizing your receipts and invoices to hand over to a professional, it’s important that your books are updated on a frequent regular basis. (Sidenote: be sure to have your bookkeeping software set up and operational before you start making business purchases or accepting payments.) You’ll find a rhythm that works for you, but to start out it’s wise to enter all your income and expenses on a weekly basis. Don’t let other priorities bump it off your calendar! Having accurate books positions you to be able to review all aspects of your finances, and since this is a business and not just some hobby you’re doing for fun, the money matters.
Next, set a recurring time to review your financials on a monthly basis. This will help you see trends in your business and allow you to make informed decisions about where to invest more or less of your resources. To make these financial review sessions more efficient and useful, decide on a few KPIs that are going to give you the best insights at a glance and use those every time so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel and get overwhelmed. (If your books are up to date, you’ll be able to throw these reports together in a snap, and you’ll be able to make decisions about your business based on what is happening currently instead of what was happening a couple months ago.)
Just as important as routinely truing your financial bearings is ensuring your business is staying the course culturally. Make sure customers (and employees if you have them) can share their experience of your business, and schedule time to review feedback and metabolize it. Kudos are great, especially those that contain specifics, but criticism is important to hear; it can sometimes show you ways in which you have strayed from your mission. Remember that mission statement? Read it over before you sit down to review feedback. You don’t have to change something about your business just because someone gives you a one star review, but if while looking over the comments you discover that you have strayed from your original vision, you’ll be able catch the deviation and correct it before it’s a glaring issue.
Create rules to live by that will support you (and, therefore, your business) on going. You’ll need to put some boundaries around your personal life so that your business doesn’t drown you while it’s trying to learn to swim. Designate times when you won’t be working, and be uncompromising about it. If you love to run in the morning, don’t give that up to benefit your business. If you love to cook healthy meals for yourself, don’t slip into a life where all the food you eat comes out of the microwave. Caring for yourself as you start and continue to run your business is critical, and you’re the only one who can do it.