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PSU Insight

Writing Your Business Plan

Visions, Goals, and Plans -- Oh My!

Your vision (or mission) for your business, your goals for your business, and your business plans are all essential to your success... but they're very different things.

First, let’s consider the difference between a vision and a plan. Your ‘vision’ (sometimes called a ‘mission statement’) for your business is usually a single sentence describing, in very broad terms, what you aspire your business to accomplish or achieve.

As an analogy to a journey, your vision is like your destination. It’s where you want to get to. Your business plan, on the other hand, is like a set of directions. It details how you’re going to get to your destination.

Having a vision is important because it’s what you’ll base your decisions and plans on. As the old saying goes, “if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably never get there.” But having a mission statement is not at all the same as having a business plan.

There are a number of differences between your vision / mission statement and your business plan(s):

  • A mission statement should be no longer than fifty or a hundred words; your business plan could easily be dozens of pages in length.

  • A mission statement is necessarily vague and general; a business plan should be as detailed as possible.

  • Your vision will probably not change appreciably over time; but your business plan will almost certainly change as business conditions change — probably frequently.

And then there are goals. Goals are also important. Many speakers are ‘goal driven’ and that is usually a good thing. Goals can be great motivators; they also provide a convenient way of measuring your progress. But a set of goals is not the same as a business plan.

You can generally tell the difference between a goal and a plan by asking the question ‘how am I going to do this?’ For instance, I was talking with an aspiring speaker the other day. He was ecstatic about his prospects. “Imagine!” he exclaimed. “Professional speakers charge $5,000 to $10,000 per speech. I could give just two or three speeches a month, and I’d make all the money I’d ever need!” (You’ve probably encountered similar enthusiasm from new speakers that you’ve talked to.)

Yup. That’s a wonderful goal… but it is hardly a plan. How will he develop a speech that people will pay five to ten grand to hear? How will he find those meeting planners willing to pay him those big bucks? How will he line up two or three speaking engagements every month?

Answer those questions, and it might seem like he’s got a plan. But usually it’s just more detailed goals. For instance, what if he decides that he’s going to market himself by cold calling? Let’s get more detailed and say that he vows to cold-call one hundred individuals each and every day. That sounds like a plan, but it’s actually just another goal. (And not a particularly good goal at that.) Consider these problems with that goal —

  • Where will he get the names of the people to call? How will he get their phone numbers? What time of day will he call them? What will he say? How will he get past a protective assistant?

  • Has he estimated the time required to do this? If each phone call takes five minutes, then he’s going to spend over eight hours on the telephone, each and every day. When will he have time to develop his program, much less deliver it?

  • To call 100 prospects a day for a year, he needs the phone numbers of roughly 20,000 people in his target market. Are there 20,000 people in his target market? And even if there are, how will he determine who they are? How will he get their phone numbers?

  • And finally, while calling one hundred prospects daily is certainly commendable, how many of them will actually hire him? Is that sufficient to generate the two or three engagements that he wants each month?

Until he can answer all these questions — and any others generated from those answers — then he really doesn’t have a plan of action. He has a dream, and he has a goal (maybe a bunch of goals). But he has no plan.

And the sad truth is, without a business plan, he’s probably going to fail.

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