An action plan is a list of sequential activities and well-defined steps that outline the most important priorities to focus on so you can get your small business off the ground. Starting a business as an entrepreneur is an exciting process. The idea of working for yourself can be very appealing and motivating, but moments of self-doubt may also arise. Having an action plan in place will help you move past those moments of self-doubt that threaten to stall you. As you meet one objective on your plan at a time, you will gain the necessary traction you’ll need to launch your startup successfully.
Creating an action plan is the next crucial step to take after building your business plan. An action plan is a list of sequential activities and well-defined steps that outline the most important priorities to focus on so you can get your business off the ground.
In essence, your action plan will be the wheels on the wagon that move your business forward and the road map that shows you where to head every step of the way.
A well-formed plan of action will set your business startup on course for many days into your first fiscal year. It will provide you with clarity to better prioritize and allocate your time and other resources. Essentially, your actions plan will become your guidebook, setting you back on track on those days you might feel overwhelmed with competing priorities.
As a business owner, you’ll likely face many tasks that are out of your area of expertise. Your action plan will help you identify potential obstacles and items you might want to delegate or outsource. For instance, it may be more beneficial to hire a graphic artist to create your logo than to spend valuable time trying to create one yourself.
A comprehensive plan will also ensure all the bases are covered. It’s a good idea to purchase a good business-planning software tool that has action-planning functionality built in. An online template of this nature will typically include the most important categories you’ll need to address. Built-in prompts will help you understand and choose key actions that will serve your particular business best.
To start creating your next action plan, begin by listing all the possible outcomes you’d like to achieve. For instance, if you’re about to build a landscaping business, your list might include buying tools and a truck, obtaining a business telephone, staying on top of payroll and accounting functions, and having plenty of good-paying customers. You might also want to rent storage or office space one day, buy a trailer and backhoe, and participate in local home and garden shows.
Once you’ve created your dream list, prioritize it. Be sure to assign priority to the actions that are legally necessary and those that will provide the quickest payback to the business. Schedule the fun and frivolous ideas for a later time.
In the landscaping business scenario, it might be fun to shop for a shiny new truck, trailer and backhoe, but buying a used truck and renting a trailer and backhoe as needed will probably ensure better payback. You might gain new business contacts through home and garden shows, but initially your participation will cost you time and money. Keeping overhead low by working from a home office instead of renting space will leave you with better cash flow. Schedule these other “wish list” items for later time.
Once your priorities are set, you can then add the achievable action steps you’ll need to take to make your objectives a reality.
Again, in the landscaping business scenario, the first step toward buying a truck and tools may be to visit a bank to gain financing for them. Your first step in assuring good bookkeeping and payroll might be to hire an outside agency that does that type of work.
Of course, you’ll need to tailor your road map to your particular business. A typical plan of action follows this process:
- Identify desired outcomes within each business category.
- Identify preferred solutions.
- Set goals and steps toward making the outcome a reality.
- Assign each goal to a person whether yourself or someone you hire.
- Assign a desired start date.
- Assign a desired end date.
- Schedule milestones and status updates.
- Allocate money and time to each objective.
Once you’ve slotted each of your objectives into a spreadsheet or online project plan tool, you can plug the assigned dates into your business calendar.
Your action plan will be something to refer to regularly. You can also use it to track your results and compare them against your master business plan.
There are several categories business startups have in common. A few of them include:
- Finance and Administration: Start-up capital, bank account, internet service, email address, business phone, rental fees, office supplies, etc.
- Government Accounts, Licenses, and Insurance: Business or trade licenses, permits, payroll, taxation accounts, benefits plan, etc.
- Marketing: Branding, marketing, trademarks, business cards, website, social media, etc.
- Professional Support: Lawyer, accountant, banker, etc.
- Work Space: Leased/purchased facilities, furniture, fixtures, etc.
As you can see, there are many details to cover. Using a cloud-based action planning tool, built by professionals who know the art of building startups, will help you cover all the important aspects.
An often-surprising benefit of having an action plan in place is the confidence it gives the entrepreneur starting his business. Having targets in place and knowing where cash will be required helps the entrepreneur make better decisions along the way.
In the excitement of starting a business, it’s tempting to start doling out cash on non-necessities. Most successful business owners will tell you, though, it’s important to commit to a solid plan and stay on course, adjusting as needed, if you want your business to remain viable.