2020 has been the year of the unexpected. We started the year on a high with aspiring goals – and then COVID-19 hit, flipping everything upside down. It halted how we not only ran our businesses, but also how we managed our personal lives. For several months now, we have had to rethink and reconfigure every aspect of how we run our firms.
Now, as reopening phases are happening all across the nation, you may be asking yourself how you move forward with your firm, or more specifically, how you build a concrete go-forward business plan for your firm in this crazy time of COVID-19. With physical contact limited and the requirement for people to wear masks in public, it makes it extremely hard to maintain a connection to the outside world, which we need in order to run a successful practice. Here are some things you can do in your firm to create a safe and structured go-forward plan.
Decide how comfortable you are with in-person contact
I know this doesn’t sound like it has anything to do with a business plan, but I promise you it does. So much of our business can depend on the type of interaction we have with other people, such as our staff and clients, so it’s important that before you make any future-forward plans, you understand how closely you want to be connected to others.
Maybe you have an external office that mostly dealt with clients in person, and had to shift to a virtual practice. How is this sitting with you now? Would you like to continue building this virtual practice, or do you want to go back to your brick and mortar location and interact with people in person? Knowing this will form the base of your future-forward plan, so don’t be afraid to ask for your family’s input because they ultimately will be impacted by your decision to continue to work from home, or to go back to your office.
Assess what’s working and what’s not working
After getting an understanding of how you want to move forward, you need to know what services you will offer or continue to offer. I always recommend taking stock by writing down a list of your current services and grading them by a few measures. Do you like performing the service? Is it profitable?
I also take this time to analyze who my favorite client is. I generally start with how I feel about a service because I don’t believe people should run a business based on profit alone. Profits should be a side effect of doing the thing you love well. So, if you are currently offering services that you don’t like to do, but are making tons of money, you have to understand why you don’t like the service and if you should transition out of the service altogether.
Maybe you don’t like it because there are bottlenecks and it takes too long. Can you automate or delegate? If you truly don’t like it, consider finding a partner or someone you can outsource to, and arrange a referral or commission fee instead. If it’s a service that you love to do, then you need to ask how you can improve it. What would make it even better for the clients you’re serving? What can you automate and delegate so you can offer even more of these services to more people or at a higher rate?
Finally, take stock of who your favorite client is. Analyzing why they are your favorite will help you know exactly who you are looking to serve going forward. You can start a marketing plan that speaks to that particular type of clientele. Knowing these things will help you outline exactly what your firm will be known for in the future.
This wouldn’t be a good business plan if you didn’t add a stretch goal. We’ve already analyzed what we are doing well and will continue to do, but now we need to look at what we want to do that we aren’t already doing. Once you have figured out your major goal, it’s time to do some research:
- Will you need to take a class to learn how to do this thing?
- Will you need special equipment or tools?
- Do you need a mentor?
- Who can you ask to help guide you along this new journey, or who can you use as a model to serve as inspiration in this new process?
- How much money will you need to make the dream a reality?
Visualize your new firm with your stretch goal. Whether it’s a new employee, new office, or new service, imagine what the end result will look like once it’s in place. How much money will you be earning? How will the space be decorated? How will you enjoy doing less day-to-day work and supervising a new team? Having this stretch goal gives you inspiration to continue to intentionally build the business of your dreams.
Write it all down
Now that you have done the analytical work, it’s time to put the plan in writing. This document will help you get clear on your business’ new direction. Start with your firm’s mission and vision. Knowing what your firm stands for will help you align your services along that path. Next, outline your service offering. We spent time learning what we are doing well that we will continue to do, but with improvements. List out each service and spend some extra time writing out how the service will be improved within the next month, quarter, or year. Having it in writing makes it concrete and means you are committing to it. Finally, write out what the future looks like with your stretch goal. This stretch goal could be adding a new service, bringing on new staff, buying a piece of property, or something else. Whatever it is, you need to write it out so you can create a step-by-step plan with a timeline to put it in action.
Set your financial targets
Having your plan written will help you set your budget. You can start with your historical data and adjust for services you are removing and/or ramping up, new software, payroll or training costs, and any loans or external funding you may need to not only continue operations, but also make that stretch goal a reality. One of the best things about QuickBooks® Online is that it has budgeting built in. You can continually monitor and see how your reality stacked up to your business plan once it’s all in place.
Taking time to envision the future for your business is necessary, especially in this new time of uncertainties. Not only will it help align you with the mission of your business, but it will also help center you in the process. Hopefully, it can also help you feel inspired to see the possibilities of a new future that you may not have realized existed in these unprecedented times.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Firm of the Future.