written by Racheal Cook MBA
A plan only works if you work the plan…
… but what if you’re struggling to stick to the plan?
… or what if the plan goes completely out the window?
Sometimes, we are dealing with personal challenges that disrupt our business.
Sometimes, we have to navigate external challenges that we can’t control.
These days – we’re all experiencing the disruption and impact of ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic with continuing distance education for our kids and working from home.
And with new variants popping up and threats of more lockdowns to come….
…It’s enough to make anyone want to throw in the towel on attempting to plan for the future of their business.
But a smart CEO knows that the key to sustainable success is a combination of being focused and flexible with the strategic plans they have put into place.
If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that every CEO needs to be resilient in the face of an uncertain future.
This series is about letting go of all the hype and all the hustle, putting the blinders on to the latest trends, tips, tricks and tactics, and saying no to all those shiny objects that are holding so many women entrepreneurs back from the real sustainable success that they are looking for in their business.
We started out talking about why so many people are getting overwhelmed by the information overload.
This constant stream of the latest trends, tips, tricks, and tactics leaves them empty handed when they are no longer as effective – and those entrepreneurs are constantly chasing the latest thing instead of having the confidence that comes when you have a clear strategy to achieve your goals.
We talked about when it’s time to level up your business – once you’ve gotten through the startup stage (and you’ve validated your business idea with paying clients), it’s time to get out of the information overload mode and into implementation mode.
Then we talked about creating a 12-Month Profit Plan and the components of that profit plan to help you start seeing how your business should be consistently bringing in new clients and cash-flow each and every month.
The timing for this series was perfect – because Coronavirus was literally illustrating why we needed to be both focused and flexible with our plans.
We want to make sure that we’re actually setting you up for success by learning to follow-through like a pro so you can adapt and adjust your plan like a confident CEO.
When most people create their 12 Month Profit Plan, they may start to feel a combination of relief and overwhelm.
Relief because they finally have a plan down on paper.
They know what their marketing strategy is going to be. They have a clear promotional calendar. They have clarity on where they want to go in the next 12 months.
Overwhelm at seeing what it really takes to achieve their goals.
When everything is finally mapped out, it truly sinks in that keeping that marketing and sales engine running takes a lot of focus. Adding in more goals can feel truly impossible.
What I hear from my clients are things like – “I need to get a new website. I want to write a book this year. I want to create this new awesome program.” We have all these big goals that we want to accomplish.
It starts to get overwhelming because some of these projects take a lot more work that we actually realize!
How’s it all supposed to happen? It can feel overwhelming to look at everything as just a massive 12 month to-do list. Then, throw in a challenge like a global pandemic, and it can feel like we might as well scrap all of our plans for the year.
That’s Why We Create
90 Day Plans
90 days it’s just long enough to stay focused and short enough to be flexible!
When we don’t have clear priorities for how we are going to work this bigger 12 month plan, then suddenly the sexy stuff (aka the shiny objects) start to take over and the unsexy stuff that’s going to move your business forward starts to fall to the wayside.
Here’s an example I’ve seen happen over and over again – entrepreneurs who jump on a huge rebrand project. They get immersed in the planning, the photoshoots, the copy, the website – and they stop showing up and marketing their business.
They stop marketing.
They stop making offers.
None of that seems as important as the huge rebrand project.
Now, it’s not as sexy to show up and write emails to your community every single week. It’s not as sexy to consistently create content via a blog or podcast. It’s not as sexy to make sure you’re asking people to work with you consistently each and every month.
It’s so much easier to go back into that top secret entrepreneur lab and work on other projects.
The foundational elements of your 12 Month Profit Plan – including a clear marketing and promotional plan – are essential to the future success of your business.
How you show up TODAY will impact the sales your business generates in the next 3-6 months.
Showing up for your clients and community is like putting a deposit into an account that your business will draw from in the future.
You are depositing social currency by showing up and sharing useful, helpful, relevant content. You are depositing social currency by building relationships.
Then when the time actually comes to announce that awesome new rebranded website, you will have clients and community who are excited about it!
But I get it – being consistent with marketing and promoting your offers can be tricky when you are trapped IN the day to day of running your business. It’s literally like living paycheck to paycheck, like many entrepreneurs are, right?
If your business is operating day to day – your business is dependent on revenues from launch to launch – and you in turn are living paycheck to paycheck, it doesn’t leave any room for error. It doesn’t leave any room for the challenges that may show up and throw you a curveball.
The 3 Types of Curveballs Every Entrepreneur Faces…
Last winter, my family was sick a lot more than normal. The beginning of February, everybody had this terrible cough and sore throat. We had the kids home for several days. I ended up with a sinus infection, and then bronchitis.
Two weeks later, we all came down with what we thought was the flu.
All five of us.
Looking back… there’s a good chance we had COVID before the rest of the USA even heard of it.
Even though I was out sick for more than two weeks, my business continued to hum right along thanks to our 90 Day Planning System.
I know that if I hadn’t worked ahead of my plan, so many things would have fallen through the cracks. I wasn’t able to record podcast episodes because my voice was gone, and I was coughing non-stop. If my podcast depended on me to record it the week that it was going to go out, we would be in trouble. You wouldn’t have heard any podcasts episodes in February 2020.
We all got sick the same two weeks that I really needed to promote the March CEO Retreat. If I hadn’t already had a plan and worked ahead of the plan, the promotion would have fallen apart because I was focused on taking care of my sick family.
Because I have a plan with clear priorities and clear systems in place – even though I spent two weeks on the sofa with sick kids watching all the Harry Potter movies – the business continued to run without me.
My team had everything that they needed from me to run the promotion. We were working far enough ahead of the plan that having to take off most of February was no big deal. It made no impact in the revenue that we brought into my business.
That is pretty amazing!
I know that this is the type of security that so many entrepreneurs truly want in their business because we all know that we are going to be thrown these internal curveballs.
If you haven’t listened to the episode with Mindy Totten, she shared how having a plan in place really helped her when her brother unexpectedly passed away. She had very little time to prepare in between hearing the news that he was sick, and then realizing that he was going to pass away within a few weeks.
Ask yourself – could your business handle an illness or a family emergency that required your full attention for 2-4 weeks?
Do you remember the ramp up to the presidential election in 2016?
As it became clear that the election would be between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton, the tension was palpable. We were coming up on the debates in September 2016… and it had a real impact on my and many other businesses that election season.
See, at the time, 80% of my revenues were coming from the launch of my online course. And a huge part of our launch strategy was running Facebook ads to a free webinar followed by an invitation to join our program.
But at the same time, the super PACs were dumping massive amounts of money into Facebook advertising, driving up the cost of ads. This had a massive impact on launches from September all the way through the inauguration in January.
Our sales were HALF of what we expected based on previous years’ data. And as we watched the campaigns get more and more intense in October and November, we knew that we needed to shift our approach before our planned January launch of the same program.
We started to shift towards a more evergreen enrollment model – where instead of depending on just 2-3 big launches a year to drive revenue, we could continue enrolling clients more consistently, which would in turn stabilize our cash flow.
I was so glad that we did because come January, many of our clients were at the Women’s Marches, not focused on joining our programs. It took another year before a big launch did as well as they did before.
This experience in 2016 helped me plan for how I would navigate the 2020 election cycle with more clarity and less stress on the business.
We went into this past election season using all of our prior experience to spend most of 2020 focusing on other approaches to getting in front of new audiences, such as media and podcast interviews.
In 2020, I did over 45 interviews, 5 TV appearances, spoke at 4 virtual events, and was featured in Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., Business Insider, and more.
And we still ran ads on Facebook and Instagram throughout the year to consistently build up our audience, but we weren’t solely dependent on them for a successful year.
External challenges tend to be like that election year where the public may be focused on something OTHER than your business – and it’s your job as the CEO to come up with a flexible plan to adapt and adjust so you can still achieve your goals.
Ask yourself – What is happening in the world that has the attention of your clients and community? What external factors out of your control do you need to consider as you implement your plan?
The third curveball.
2020 was an entire year of these types of challenges starting with coronavirus, then the social justice movement for Black Lives Matter, followed by a turbulent election season, and an attempted coup of the US Capitol.
These events affected EVERYONE.
And the combination of this internal and external challenge has put many entrepreneurs out of business.
Between the months of lockdown and restrictions placed on small business owners who didn’t have the financial safety net to weather the storm…
… to working parents who suddenly had to figure out how they were going to both manage virtual schooling and continue to run their businesses…
… to the sheer emotional exhaustion as entrepreneurs have had to pivot and pivot and pivot again to keep their businesses going.
We know – without a doubt – that the only way forward is to have a plan that is both FOCUSED and FLEXIBLE.
We know that our role as CEO is to be AWARE of the challenges we are faced with so we can ADAPT and ADJUST quickly.
We know that building a RESILIENT business, a SUSTAINABLE business, starts with::
1. Plan Your Work
2. Work Your Plan
When we are flying by the seat of our pants, making everything up as we go, we aren’t building a strong foundation for our business to lean on when things don’t go as planned.
This is why weekly CEO Dates and quarterly CEO Retreats are so crucially important in helping you turn those 12 Month Profit Plans into 90 Day Action Plans, and then following through in your implementation.
In the next installment of The Unsexy Secrets to Sustainable Success, we’re wrapping up this entire series with how you can use CEO Dates and CEO Retreats to help you stick to your plan!
1:: Planning is essential – but you also need to have a strategy to adapt the plan for whatever challenges come your way.
2:: How you show up TODAY impacts the business you have in 3-6 months – that’s why we MUST continue showing up consistently.
3:: We must be able to adapt and adjust our plan to face internal or external (or in the case of 2020 – both) challenges that test the stability and sustainability of our businesses.