Why a great plan isn’t enough to grow your business

Opinions expressed by entrepreneur Contributors are their own.

If you’ve heard Antoine de Saint-Exupéry say, “A goal without a plan is just a wish,” you’ve probably only heard the TL;DR version. Here is the full version:

A dream is written down with a date a target. A goal is broken down into steps a plan. A plan supported by action makes your dreams come true.

That is why your plan will not suffice. A plan itself is just a piece of paper or a bunch of zeros and ones forming words. Luckily, I’ve had experience of both failure and success in business (more of the latter), and these are the five things I focus on to turn my plans into reality.

See also: Planning to grow your business? Five tips that can help you

1. Focus

Focusing on one primary goal each quarter is critical. As much as we like to brag that we can multitask, we can’t. When was the last time you saw a population throw 10 balls in the air and catch them before they hit the ground? Exactly. A much better skill is learning how to pick up all the tasks and recognize which ones will have the most impact.

2. Transparency

To be more precise, internal company transparency. Does your team understand the finances of the company? Do you understand what a burn rate is and that revenue doesn’t mean you’re profitable? Internal transparency means educating your team on how a company works and bringing them into the inner circle that used to be reserved for leadership only. On top of that, adding stock options can induce an ownership mentality that makes your team your partner.

3. Accountability

Now that your team has become your partner in success (and failure), they must be held to a different standard, and holding them accountable is crucial. There can be 3-10 people responsible for a priority (remember, only one per quarter), but there is one person at the top, or what I call the champions, who makes sure everyone is doing what they need to do. However, this person needs to understand something. You are not “the boss”. When someone is given this type of responsibility, they often believe that they can just shout orders and get credit only when they succeed, and blame others for “not listening” when they fail. That’s not the case. Accountability goes both ways.

See also: 5 keys to promoting accountability in your organization

4. Attitude

This is probably the most difficult part of the process. Your company is only as good as your weakest employee. When you’re small (under 50 employees) you don’t have the luxury of holding hands – you’ll either find a team that’s a quick learner or one that already has experience. Again, I suggest the latter. You will thank me later. Understand that salary will be your biggest investment and you should treat it the same way – an investment.

Rent quickly and fire fast, especially if you’re smaller. Yes, I know that’s not the usual rallying cry (“Hire slow…”), but it’s important to realize that a day in the life of a small, growing business is like a month in the life of an established company. When hiring you need to trust your gut feeling or trust someone else’s. I also strongly encourage you to set expectations for new employees to understand that they are on a probationary period and need to improve. This may seem harsh, but as you grow you can be a little more forgiving and nurture with a gentler touch.

5. Stay healthy

It is important to stay healthy financially, physically and mentally. Create an environment that supports the importance of all three. Physical and financial are usually easier concepts to understand and fix (I said easier, not easy), but mental is a tough nut to crack. Just saying that there is an open door policy is great and needs to be said, but sometimes that’s not enough. Remember that the time you spend on one thing — focusing on sales, for example — usually prevents you from focusing on the well-being of your employees. Finding that balance is sometimes not worth the effort when you’re smaller, but should definitely come up on the table when you’re growing and can afford to put in place a mental health screening system.

See also: Keys to Planning for Smart Business Growth

Have you noticed a trend towards plans here? There was only one point that spoke directly to action, and the rest was helping others to carry out their duties effectively – which always made me think about Antoine’s quote. I’ve always wanted to add…

But remember, a dream is nothing without someone to cherish it with you

Without a smooth flow of your team, a plan cannot be implemented. And if you really want to make it big, you’re not going to do it yourself. Do not you agree?


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