The first thing most aspiring entrepreneurs do to move their great idea forward is create a business plan. This is a critical and important step, but if you create it without first considering what kind of life you want to live, you may find yourself disillusioned with your business success.
So before you create a business plan, create a life plan.
A life plan details the kind of life you would have that would make you happy, healthy and fulfilled. It includes things like:
- Where you live
- What kind of home you have
- Who you are working with
- What kind of work you do
- How you spend your day
- How much money you make
- The state of your physical and emotional health
- Life priorities such as amount of time working vs. spending time with family vs. community involvement
If you have a family, your life plan is created as a joint effort. Each person in the household (wife/husband/partner/kids/parents if you are caring for elders) should weigh in on the kind of life that would be ideal. Of course everyone won’t agree with each other’s priorities, but you should be able to gain agreement on some major areas.
Rich and Jeff Sloan, founders of Startup Nation and authors of Open for Business put creating a life plan as the first step in their Ten Steps to Open for Business program. This is a practical, informative and free online resource that help you create a life plan document, as well as work through the other 9 steps to open a business. (I shamelessly plug Startup Nation all the time since I have found Rich and Jeff to be the real deal – passionate, thoughtful, committed and truly out to serve their market with great information. And I did not receive one cent to say that, for any of you cynical folks out there 🙂
Your life plan will serve as the guide for all decisions that you make about your business, from the type of business structure you choose to the market you serve and the products and services you offer.
I will use my own life plan as an example:
Our five-year plan includes moving to Sedona, Arizona from where we currently live in the Phoenix area. This is important to my husband and I because:
- Our baby son Josh loves the outdoors and will have to spend at least 4 months of the year indoors if we stay in Phoenix (which gets to 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer)
- The land of Sedona is physically beautiful (see the picture in this post) and there are lots of areas for hiking, exploring and meditating in nature, which are our all-time favorite activities
- I want to build up a set of retreats as part of my business, and Sedona would be a perfect destination. Its natural beauty is great for introspective work and it includes many top-notch hotels and resorts
- It is closer to the Navajo reservation where many of my husband’s relatives live. He has a construction business, and his long-term goal is to train young men and women on the reservation in his trade so that they can be prosperous and self-sufficient
- It has personal significance for my husband since he used to ride to Sedona by horseback to collect herbs with his grandpa, who was a medicine man. He feels peaceful and at home there.
There are many more personal and professional reasons why we love Sedona, but the point of this example is to show that all decisions we make about our business will keep our long-term goal in mind.
In my husband’s business:
- He must continue to buy new equipment and train operators to run and service it without him nearby
- He must take advantage of the tremendous development in the Phoenix area in the next few years and build relationships with developers to ensure that business is steady and strong
- He must remove himself from the day-to-day operations so that he can focus on the big picture
In my business:
- I must continue to build community and gain exposure so that I can continue to run a viable coaching business from my home
- I must research the Sedona area extensively to identify good partners for the retreat business
- We both must save money and keep cosmetic improvements to our house at a minimum so that we have the capital to fund our long-term goals (and buying land and building a house in Sedona isn’t cheap!)
Once you have a life plan in place, it becomes very easy to make decisions about the kind of business you want to create. The best part is that it ensures that once your business takes off and you experience financial success, you will be happy with the life that you have created. I cannot tell you how many miserable multi-millionaire entrepreneurs I met in my years in Silicon Valley. I believe they were miserable because they got too enamored with business growth at all costs and didn’t see creating a great business as a means to create a great life.
Even if you are not planning on becoming an entrepreneur in the near future, your life plan will be invaluable for career planning. Try it and let me know how it turns out!