Ten Easy Steps to Action Plan Your Business

Whether you are just starting out, have been working on your business for a while or have a thriving going concern this short article and the links contained within it are to help you plan your business – to make sure it takes you where you want it to go.

Why Plan?

Before we get into how to do it, let’s understand the reasons why planning is important.
Firstly, there’s that old adage “Prior Preparation Prevents P*** Poor Performance” and the reason that this holds true is that when you do the planning up front you are working out what you want and how to achieve it and breaking it down into manageable chunks of work you will do.

REASON #1 for planning – You will get better results with a step by step plan
Secondly, as a Sergeant Major from the Army once told me – “No plan survives first contact with the enemy” – if that is the case, then why should you plan? Because by doing the planning you think through scenarios, you anticipate what might not work as expected and then it is easier to adjust as you go as you have already thought about it.

REASON #2 for planning – You will find it easier to adjust to the reality once you start if you have thought it through before hand
And thirdly, when you build your plan you will set your Reticular Activating System (RAS).
Your RAS is a really clever part of your brain which is responsible for filtering which out of all the millions of things going on you pay attention to. It’s the same part of the brain that means when you decide on your new car you then drive out of the garage and see lots more of them on the road – when you signed the paperwork you programmed your brain that that car was important so now you are tuned in to look for them. When you do the same thing with planning you will be tuned in to the opportunities for your plan and your business.

REASON #3 for planning – by setting your RAS you will spot more opportunities to implement your plan.
So, when you consider all three reasons together – your plan is critical to you achieving the results you want.

Action Planning

Business plans mean different things to different people. If you have ever studied business or filled in a form for a bank loan you will probably be sitting there thinking of a long document, written and then filed away and never used…. I would question how helpful that is… sure you have done some thinking, and by writing it down you are more likely to remember it, but wouldn’t it be better if your plan was something that lived, that you used to set up and run your business, that was your list of actions and activities to reach your goals?
The Ten Tips below are to help you to do that – creating your plan in a way you can really use it.

Get some pens and blank sheets of paper

Most people find it easier to think with pen and paper than by typing straight into the computer. With pen and paper you can scribble, draw pictures, cross things out, link things up with arrows, brainstorm, add things at a later date, use colour to help you remember etc. So start with a pen and a piece of paper. Remember the plan is for you and you can always type it up at a later date.


What do you want to achieve?

Before you write a plan of how to do something, it’s really important to understand what you want to do. If you are writing the plan for your business – what are your dreams?
What do you want personally? How much money, how many hours do you want to work, do you want to employ others and grow your business or is this a hobby or to fit around family commitments etc. – there’s no right or wrong – understanding what your dreams are will help you to build your plan to suit you.

What does that mean your business needs to deliver in 5 years, 3 years and the next 12 months?

Once you have a good idea of your long term dreams, think about how you want to build towards that. What does success look like for you and your business in 5 years, 3 years and 12 months’ time? Make some notes.

Think about:

  • Where you want the business to be financially – profit, costs and revenue are good metrics to look at.
  • What your customers will be saying about your business.
  • What your product/service lines will be.
  • Who your customers will be.
  • Who else (if anyone) will be involved in your business.
  • How many hours will you be working and what specifically you will be doing.

Bring it closer to now – break the next 12 months down into quarters

What do you need to have achieved by the end of each quarter in the next 12 months?
Particularly for your first quarter from now – what do you need to have achieved?
Make these Specific, Measurable and Timebound so you can tell if you have achieved them and whether you are on track with your plan.

What do you need to learn?

Are there things you need to learn to achieve your plan? Identify what these are -they may be functional skills or business skills or systems and processes or many other things.
Take a step back and add some learning objectives to your plan – what do you need to know by when? And how are you going to learn it? Who can help you?

Look at the Goals you have set for the first quarter – and break them down to tasks

Again – you might find this easier with a pen and paper. Take each goal for the next 90 days in turn and brainstorm what you need to do to achieve them. Put each of these tasks into a logical order so you have your list of activities to do.

Add timescales

Now you have your list of tasks work out what time you have available to do them and set yourself deadlines of when you want to have achieved each.
Congratulations – now you have an action plan to achieve your goals.


The next important thing is to set your targets and measure your progress towards these. Not only do you want to have achieved the activities by the deadline – you also need to measure your results. For example if you had a goal to set up your new website by the end of the month, you may then want a target to have a certain number of leads coming through the site by the end of the quarter. Decide on what you will measure, how you will measure it and set the targets you want to achieve.


Review your results versus your targets – daily, weekly or monthly depending on what you are measuring and the volume of work you are doing. Your goal in reviewing your measures is to work out what is working well and where your challenges are so you can adjust and refine your plan.

Replan at 3 month

Every 3 months is a great time frame to step back and look at what you have achieved. Review your actions and results and identify your learnings and build confidence from your successes. Then look at your longer term plan and the goals you set for the next quarter. Are they still relevant? Do they need to be bigger or to be adapted? Set your new goals for the coming quarter and repeat steps 5-9 to get your next Action Plan in place.

If you have an accountant, they should be your first stop for business advice. If you don’t have an accountant or they can’t help, BuBul has a wide range of experts available. For more advice on action planning, contact our expert* Jenni on LinkedIn.

*We’ve picked experts we know and trust who are good at what they do. All of them will give you at least an extra 30 minutes free advice if you contact them and would then charge their normal prices. They don’t pay to be on BuBul and don’t give us any money from anything they earn as an expert.