This is from a blog post I wrote a few years ago and I still encounter these issues every day with clients.
Most of the people who hire me are busy. They have important jobs designing financial plans or drafting complex deals, negotiating mergers or fighting evil – yes these are indeed important people. In addition to all of their important, fascinating work, my clients have clients of their own. These game changers also have families and would like to get more than ten minutes of sleep a night. Needless to say multi page business development plans are about as useful as a canoe in the dessert. Business development plans are often just one more thing to feel guilty about. You worry that yours isn’t robust enough or pretty enough. And let’s just be really honest, it’s so intimidating that you spend most years without one flying by the seat of your pants and telling yourself at least once a quarter that you need to address your non-existent business development plan. I’ve seen so many pretty, multi-page, multi-colored plans that sit in an electronic folder or collect dust in a drawer; they are beautiful and useless. What we all need is something manageable that we’ll actually do!
For individuals seeking to build a robust book of business I advise user friendly, clean plans unencumbered by indulgent language and complex graphs whose only purpose is to impress someone for about twelve seconds. Most actionable plans I develop with clients are two pages long and if we can get it down to one page – all the better!
Despite what I do for a living, I’ve spent a fair share of my own time being reactive, overwhelmed, and inefficient developing business. Oh, don’t gasp. You know how it is. The cobbler’s children have no shoes. Having said that, last year I forced myself to sit down and do what I require of my clients. I built my business development activity plan from the ground up identifying both input and output goals and scheduling everything. It was nothing like a trip to Paris, a walk on the beach or hot bath with a glass of wine. I’m not going to lie to you. I had one moment when I wanted to just eat gelato and take a long nap. But alas I trudged on and indeed finished my plan. It was not that hard once I stopped whining and searching for gelato. Quite honestly, it’s been like a gift to myself. I’m more sane because I’m less reactive, more calm because I’m in control of the plan and more excited because I have a damned plan in the first place and I see all the possibility. I should have hired myself a long time ago!
My very strong advice that comes from a place of vast direct experience is to spend the time you are currently spending avoiding a plan to actually build a plan. Don’t be overcome by the pressure of what you think it should be but focus instead on what it needs to be to be actionable and useful to you. Be incredibly specific – this is where most plans suffer mightily in the mire of generalization. Include both input and output activity. There’s strong research that indicates that monitoring your own personal pipeline has an impact on results. Once you’ve completed your plan congratulate yourself. If you’re a wine drinker have a glass, if you happen to finish at 10 am, well maybe wait until 5 pm. If you’re a runner go for a mid-day run, although I myself only run while being chased, good for you for being so athletic! It so happens that our “now” brain is so powerful that it overrides our “later” brain so we all struggle to make high quality short term decisions that will serve us in the long run. Isn’t it comforting to know that you’re just human? So help your human self out by rewarding yourself. Let me know how you do and share your success or struggles. I love all the dialogue so please do keep e-mailing and posting.