It has been a year since I left my Vice President of Sales role with a vision of helping travel professionals realize they really can earn a sizable income in the travel sales business by selling to affluent travelers, and 6 months since we launched WealthyTravelAgent.com. Like many of you, I started with a business plan. Nothing fancy, just something to define the purpose and direction of the company. Mine is probably different from most, in that I tend to plan for one year at a time. You may say this is contrary to what is considered a “standard business practice” and you would be correct. Long term planning works for large, established businesses which tend to move at a much slower pace and have years of data to base their assumptions, but for a small business just starting out, the reality is we have no idea what our business will look like in 3-5 years. However, most of us probably have a very clear vision of what we can control and accomplish in a year.
In their book, RE-Work (which has been called a “must read” by the likes of Mark Cuban, Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, and even In Search of Excellence author Tom Peters) Thomas Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson founders of Basecamp, make this point: “Planning is Guessing.” Assuming that’s the case, let’s call a business plan what it really is – a “guess”. Then ask yourself this question, “Do I want to base my entire business on a ‘guess?'”. It’s an interesting concept, especially for us small business people who may literally have everything to lose if we “guess” wrong.
The point is we can spend a lot of time planning and “guessing”, or we can spend that time “doing”. Don’t get me wrong, it is very important to have a plan – every business needs a sense of direction. But particularly for small businesses, it should be based on our actions and things within our control rather than a bunch of SWAGs (Scientific Wild Ass Guesses).
As an army of one (or two), we wear many hats. It is important not to get distracted by shiny objects. I have annual objectives that I break down into quarterly or 90 -Day Action Plans focusing on my core competencies.
These plans, based on my priorities, help keep me focused on what’s important and what I need to work on daily to grow the business. I keep the plans on my desk, under my keyboard -where I am reminded of them every day.
They also allow me to quickly make course corrections as needed. For instance, when I saw the demand for my e-learning program “Secrets of Selling to the Affluent Traveler” far exceeding my plan expectations, I temporarily shifted my priorities from other projects to focus my efforts where they could be of the most benefit.
What does your business look like today, and can you clearly see it a year from now? We all need a vision; a business must serve a purpose or there is no reason for it to exist. Don’t get hung up on perfecting the plan – its ok to make some of it up as you go along. Just remember, no matter how much planning or guessing you do—nothing happens until someone buys something.
Dan Chappelle is President of WealthyTravelAgent.com where he develops sales leaders for the travel & tourism industry. He assists sales professionals achieve their full potential by expanding their vision, shifting their mindset, and transforming their businesses to produce tangible results. An internationally known travel industry expert, sales executive, and speaker, Dan has earned an enthusiastic following among travel agents and industry leaders worldwide. He has been featured in numerous trade and consumer publications and is an instructor for the Travel Institutes’ Professional Educators Program, providing insight for travel professionals. You can contact Dan by email at Dan@WealthyTravelAgent.com.