How An Action Plan Can Take Your Vision To Reality

Which way should I go?

Every successful entrepreneur knows that going from point A to point B needs a plan or a clear direction.  The path to a profitable business requires planning. You would not drive cross country from California to NewYork with out a map or GPS (Global Positioning System). Right? So, why would anyone attempt to build a business without a plan? Or, launch a promotional campaign with out a plan, or produce an event without a plan?

We all know the high failure rate of startups. It’s a rare business that is still around after five years and even rarer after 10 years. Why is that? Based on our experience of working with many entrepreneurs, small business owners and non-profits over the last 25 years, we believe it is because of lack of planning. Whether it is a financial plan or marketing plan or action plan, it seems that many entrepreneurs fall short in the planning department. They have great ideas, great passion, and even great follow-through, but may not necessarily understand the right action-steps to take at the right time because they have no “blueprint” to guide them to success.

Here Are 5 Great Reasons For Using an Action Plan

1. Brings clarity to your vision.

When you put your idea to a plan, it forces you to think it through before you spend a lot of time and effort going down the wrong path.  The challenge for many entrepreneurs is that they immediately go from idea to action and skip the planning phase. An action plan helps bring structure and organization to  your idea and thoughts.  When you add structure and organization to your thoughts and idea it makes them cohesive. Cohesive ideas and thoughts are a lot easier to work with and bring clarity to your vision than scattered ideas and thoughts.

2. Turns your idea into a reality.

Action plans help you identify the necessary steps you need to put in place to pursue your vision. It turns the dreamer into a methodical doer versus an aimless action-taker. You’ve heard the analogy, ‘Throw it at a wall and see what sticks.’ There is a time and place for that mentality. It’s called,  ‘I’ve got a lot of time and cash to burn.’  I am not completely knocking that school of thought, because in some instances that strategy works. Twitter is a perfect example. The Twitter folks were working on a different product when Twitter began to get traction and take off. So they dropped the other project and pursued Twitter. Unfortunately, most small businesses don’t have the luxury of VC funding and Angel investors.

3. Helps you keep track of who is responsible for what by when.

Action plans are beneficial because they can help keep track of who will be taking action on what by when. Think of it as an accountability system. Action plans are helpful in identifying timelines, deadlines, and specific details on the actual steps you will be taking. If you have a team you are collaborating with, things can quickly become messy and confusing.  By tracking the results of the action allows you to gauge the level of success.  If you are not meeting your goals, then you can quickly adapt your strategy because you are tracking and measuring the results of yourself or your team members.

4. Helps you understand how you are going to take action.

Action plans bring abstract ideas into tangible and practical methods of How Tos.  For example, it forces you to think through how you are actually going to land that big client you’ve been thinking about for sometime. An action plan can help you lay the ground work for securing that client by identifying how you are going to do it. Each How To may have as few as one action step or as many as ten or more depending on how complex and time consuming they are. In addition, when you plan the How Tos, it allows you to think about possible obstacles and hurdles that you may not have considered otherwise.

5. Helps you do the right thing at the right time.

Action plans help you establish priorities. They are great for helping you understand what steps to take first, second, third and so on. I have seen so many entrepreneurs waste a lot of time and money focusing on the wrong things at the right time or the right things at the wrong time. Action plans help you establish the critical steps that you need to take in the right order. It’s about doing the right thing at the right time. It’s about sequencing. For example, no sense in investing in a big office space when just getting started if you don’t have the sales coming in. Get the sales first and then pour the money back into the business as it grows to justify that office space.

Did I miss any other reasons why action plans are important to use? Do you use action plans?  Would love to hear why you do or don’t use action plans. Please post your comments below.

Brenda Horton is the president of Hware LLC., a software company that designs planning tools for small businesses. She will be speaking at TheSmallBizTechTour in Mountain View California at the Computer Museum on Tuesday September 28th.

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