Ready, Fire ... Aim!

by : Kimberly Stevens



Almost every book about starting a new business begins by telling you to write a business plan. Many readers run in terror, others jot some notes on a pad and a very few sit down to write out a comprehensive strategic plan for their business.

After all, the majority of business owners start their businesses without outside financing, so why do they need a business plan?

But, along the way, with millions of great ideas pulsing in their brains, most business owners begin to write things down. They begin to devise strategies, set goals, create plans, lay-out timelines, etc. This is good … unless you get stuck in this stage like Bruce did.

"I don't believe I'm admitting this to you, but I can't find any other way around it. I have been struggling with this problem for the whole time I've been in business, and I'm embarrassed to share it with anyone else. But, I know I'm holding myself back from being really successful, and I need some help to work this out," he told me.

I was truly surprised by his candor, but not by his problem. Bruce was suffering from what I had experienced myself .. perfectionism. And it was draining all of his energy. He started his financial planning company 2 1/2 years ago wanting to provide clients with informed and honest advice - things he felt were lacking in other providers in that field. But since then, he had gone from being idealistic and enthusiastic to being discouraged and disillusioned.

"I really thought I could make a difference and make money at the same time. But my best ideas get stuck on the page. I can't seem to get any one idea rolled out completely. By the time I come up with the idea, do some research, pull together some numbers, lay-out a plan and develop some marketing strategies, I have about 10 more ideas I want to pursue."

"It feels so invigorating when I'm thinking about the idea and creating the plan and strategy. I always think that the idea I'm working on is the one that will truly make my business take off. But as I look back over the past two years, I feel like a complete failure."

"I started this business thinking I could provide a great service and make great money doing it. But, now I'm starting to doubt if I really have what it takes to be successful. I'm ashamed to talk to my wife about it after I told her how great I would be at this."

"I just don't get what I'm doing wrong. My clients really like me, and I do a great job for them, but I'm stuck at this sort of survival level and can't seem to implement the ideas that I think would really establish my business. Maybe I should just go back to working for someone else."

"Is that what you want to do?" I asked him. He jumped in almost before I finished, "No, I really want to make this work. I just don't know what I'm doing wrong."

"Don't sell yourself short, Bruce. You aren't doing anything wrong. You've done a great job at establishing yourself as an honest and informed financial planner -- your clients told you so. You certainly aren't a failure, but I definitely understand why you feel so disappointed and frustrated. It sounds like there is just one thing that's holding you back -- fear."

Bruce was experiencing what many perfectionistic people do. They are so concerned with doing everything right the first time, they continue to work and re-work their ideas and never reach the implementation stage.

The planning process is a safe haven for perfectionists. They can craft the perfect, controlled, predictable strategy. But, they tend to get paralyzed when it's time to move forward. They fear that executing the plan will show that the plan was not perfect -- that they are not perfect. So to avoid being "found out", they continue to re-work the plan.

It takes awhile for most people to recognize this pattern in themselves and many never do. But, for Bruce, it was a lifesaver. After selecting one idea to work one, he created a timeline for his roll-out plan. Each week, he had specific tasks that would take him through the implementation of his strategy.

After only three months, he had taken on six new clients, created an additional stream of income, and established five relationships with centers of influence who could sell his services to their clients.

The last time I talked with him, he could hardly believe that he had been so disillusioned about his business only three months before. "I feel exhilarated again," he told me. "I'm finally having fun, providing a great service, and making money! Thanks so much for helping me move forward on my ideas. I was right ... they were the key to my success!"

Are you anything like Bruce? Are you stuck in the planning mode? How long have you been working and re-working your strategy? Could it be fear that is holding you back?

Remember, many times we don't recognize it as fear, so just look at your patterns. Are you spending a lot of time planning projects and strategies that never get implemented?

If so, set aside one afternoon this week to look at all of the potential projects you would like to implement. Force yourself to pick just one that you will implement now. I know it can be hard to pick just one but doing so will give you the best chance of success. I'm not telling you to burn the rest -- just set them aside. They'll still be there when you come back.

Now, for the project or plan you want to implement, create a timeline for roll-out. Make a list of everything you would have to do in order to implement the plan, then assign realistic dates to each one.

Plot those dates out on a calendar and make sure to set aside time to complete whatever tasks are necessary in order to stick with your roll-out plan.

Is this plan guaranteed to succeed? I can't say that and neither can you. You don't learn anything from your plan just sitting there. Roll it out and see what happens. That is the ONLY way you'll ever know.