Episode 249 - Featuring Lee Matthew Jackson
January 15, 2020
Running your agency without a plan, you are inadvertently planning to fail. We learned the hard way many years ago. The purpose of this episode is to provide you the framework for a simple one page business plan that you can review regularly:
If you and your team don’t understand where you are heading then this is the episode for you.
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Lee Matthew Jackson: Welcome to this presentation on the one page business plan. I think you may have heard me say in the past that most entrepreneurs are actually lazy, and it’s true. I am, despite the fact I do produce so much content, so much material, I’m actually quite lazy. I like to find the most efficient way or the shortest or the least impactful way to do something or to achieve something. So as a great example, every Monday I will crack out three to four videos back to back and then will edit those or have someone else edit them. So that allows me to spend an hour producing what might normally have taken me multiple hours and it’s the same process with a business plan. I want to find the most efficient way to make a business plan, essentially to remove all of the blockers. There are essentially blockers in our mind when it comes to doing those things that are necessary for our business and a business plan is one of those things that often goes to the bottom of the list because it sounds the most complicated or it’s the least understood. So the purpose of this session is to provide you with a framework for a very simple one page business plan that you’re going to be able to review regularly and we are going to cover: What is a business plan? Why do I need to have a business plan? What should it contain? What should I do with it? And of course more information on getting further help. So the outcome that you should be looking for is that you and your team will understand where you are heading so that you can steer that ship together in the right direction. Remember as well, if you are a solo entrepreneur, you need to know where to direct that ship as well.
So I feel like I’m going to be stating the obvious, but it’s worth us just exploring what our business plan is. Best way I would say is to think of this as a detailed goal document. If you’ve watched any of the recent videos I’ve done on Motivation Monday where I’m saying if everybody has a shared mission, a shared goal, then everybody can get behind it. Well that’s very similar to this. Our business plan is that goal document, but it’s just in a little bit more detail as opposed to here is our base mission. The business plan will contain a little bit more of what the base mission is, but also how we’re gonna achieve that and it will also contain information. Live information compared to projected information as well. It’s going to outline our business objectives, how we plan to achieve those and of course it’s gonna combine that live projected data so that we can make those relevant decisions. Like I alluded to, a business plan need not be one of those huge documents that’s full of B2B speak. We’ve all heard that B2B speak, which kind of is words that mean nothing, but instead it can actually be a really simple document that you get, but also your team gets and also has some sort of use to you in your business.
So why should we have a business plan? Again, I want to stay all of the obvious things, but if we set this up, then we can understand what it is, why and then that might lead you to actually beginning to create that plan. So if we fail to plan, we essentially plan to fail. Most of us, however, operate without a written plan and I have done this for many years. I’ve meandered through business life and made many, many decisions without actually having a plan. I’ve just kind of hoped a bit of a hit and hope as it were when you’re playing pool. I’ve hoped that things will work out. I’ve hoped that we will have enough money at the end of the month, at the end of the year, et cetera, and I’ve never really taken the time to write out a plan. In fact, I’ve often had this feeling of, well if I’ve got this written plan, what benefit is that going to have me anyway? It’s just words on a piece of paper. It doesn’t mean anything for the day to day. So I’ll often have put it to the side and not given it its due respect. Now a business plan is actually going to help us understand the direction that we’re heading. It’s that mission statement. We’re saying this is what we want to do. This is what we want to create within a business plan we’ll be having finances, et cetera, so we’re saying these are our projections, et cetera, so this is telling us what we want to achieve over the next year. It could be the next quarter, et cetera, but we now have written on a piece of paper where we are heading and that is actually really important because if we don’t all know where we’re heading, then we all can’t pull together to make that happen.
The next thing as well as it’s going to allow us to make decisions based on that plan. If we’ve written down what we want to do, what we want to achieve, how are we going to do it? Then when it comes to making a purchasing decision, it could be acquiring another business. It could just be day to day expenses. It could be taking on a consultant, it could be taking on a new staff member, et cetera. Then all of those decisions can actually be checked with the plan. Do these decisions reflect the direction that we are heading to with this plan? Does this plan cover us for these expenses? For this extra member of staff? With a business plan as well this is going to help you with fundraising if you’re looking at raising funds either through grants, through through the local bank or whatever than actually having a business plan is pretty important because the bank or these funding providers want to know that you know what direction you’re heading and how you’re going to get there. It’s also very helpful as well with the sale of a business. Perhaps you’re looking to be acquired. If you don’t have business plans, they don’t know again where you’re heading, they don’t know what your plan is for the future. Then finally it’s going to help consultants that you work with advise you better and I won’t unpack that too much cause we are going to talk about that particular line specifically later on. It helps consultants to advise you so much better.
So let’s have a look at what your business plan should contain and I would encourage you to use these as your one page business plan. Now, in a real world, you might have bigger writing than me. It might go off onto a second page. It’s not the end of the world, but what we’re looking to do is create a concise, as we can document that will allow us to understand, again, like I said, what we’re about, what we’re doing, what we want to achieve, where we’re going, how are we going to achieve that? So that’s what we’re looking to create.
Let’s look at these key headings that we use in our business plan. We have two companies. We’ve got Event Engine and we’ve also got Lee Matthew Jackson Ltd, Lee Matthew Jackson Ltd is the core business that’s behind the multiple brands that we have. Obviously Agency Trailblazer, Angled Crown and Agency Transformation. Now what we’ve also done with this one page business plan is we’ve repurposed it for some of the sub brands, so we have two core business plans, Lee Matthew Jackson Ltd and of course Event Engine CMS Ltd, which is those two companies, but within it we’ve actually branched out for Agency Trailblazer specifically which has its own sub plan. We already understand the business et cetera, but we certainly have a sub plan for the complex structure that we are trying to achieve with Agency Trailblazer, which is a very different sort of entity to what is happening within Angled Crown. Angled Crown is very much service and time, et cetera whereas Agency Trailblazer is predominantly digital products and community. So you can actually use this one page business plan to look at very specific aspects of your business which may be very unique and very different from each other and then use it that way. It allows you to create the larger plan but sub plans as well. So let’s take a look at these bullets. So about the business. Obviously it’s a no brainer, you understand your business but you want everybody within your company and anyone who’s going to be reviewing this business plan to understand what your business is about. So what is it that you do? For example, we are Angled Crown and we will make WordPress themes based on the design that has been provided by our client, which is the design agency. So it’s understanding what we do and the services that we are providing for them.
We also have a who’s who within the company, so we understand who the directors are, who the shareholders are, but also who the general management team are and what people’s responsibilities are within the business so that we all know what’s going on. That’s also very useful for insurance purposes as well if you have to have a claim on a future insurance and having key man cover cause you can understand who’s who within the organisation. Then we also have within this section the current quarter’s financials. So that’s looking at essentially a snapshot of our cashflow that’s current, not projected but current for that financial quarter. And we like to come back to this every quarter and update that so we understand where we’re at with that financial quarter based on the overall financial year. Next, what we do then is we have a section on our business model and what I would say before we carry on is each one of these sections really only needs to be a short paragraph.
It can be two or three paragraphs long. So what we do tends to be a sentence who’s who is obviously just a bullet list with roles, financial quarters, that can be a screenshot of your cashflow from your system. For the business model. Again, this is in ours, in both of us. In fact, it’s about two sentences long. So unpacking our business model, very, very simple. So for example, Angled Crown were simply saying that we sell these sorts of packages to our prospective client and this is what we offer. This is what we do, the business model is we need to sell so many of those so that we can maintain our business. With Event Engine. The business model is very different. It’s actually a licencing model, so we have it all set up as a website, as a service, and then we’re charging licences and we just describe in a very short sentence how we charge per event that is being used and that we build predominantly on a yearly model and have some clients that are on a month to month model as well. And that there is a price difference between committing to yearly and committing to monthly. But again, that only needs to be a couple of sentences. This isn’t something that we’ve had to really deep dive into.
Next is our target market and that’s a very important part of what you do. Remember when we went through the agency reset all those years ago and we’re understanding who we are and what we do, et cetera, but also understanding who we are serving. Who is our target market, what do we do for them, what problems are we solving for them? Again, this can be a very short, couple of paragraphs or even a couple of sentences. So for angle crown, it’s very specific. We are simply helping out the stressed out agency owner or designer who wants to focus on design and have us do the development, take all of that stress away from them. And you know, we impact that a little bit in a paragraph or two, but it doesn’t need to be a lot. It’s just essentially saying, you know, these are the people that we’re serving and this is the problem that we’re solving for them. That kind of marries up as well that what we do, what we do is essentially the solution to the problems that we are solving for the target market.
Next, we look at our unique selling proposition. So this is really unpacking what makes us unique against our competition because that’s something that will potentially be usable for us either when we’re making sales or when we’re applying for finances, et cetera. I’m sure the bank might get billions of coffee shops applying for loans or whatever. So the bank always like to understand, you know, what is unique about you, but it’s very important for us to understand what is unique about us as well. For us in both Event Engine and Angled Crown, we do inject our personal brands into this. So that’s something that’s very unique about our business that we are actually spearheaded by Tim and Lee so it’s two very unique personal brands that have a build of a following. But also we will look at the product for example in Event Engine that we offer and how it’s very unique from most of the other products that are on the system. For example, we focus very much on open source software. We try to provide marketing tools all built in so that people can use lots of third parties. We allow for integrations with lots of third parties, whereas a lot of the systems in the event industry are quite old. They are non-scalable and they tend to not integrate with lots of other systems. So it’s very easy as you start to look at what it is you do and what’s unique about you to create yourself a good list of, you know, what makes you unique, what makes what your offering unique. This of course helps you as well as your ongoing message. So whenever you’re thinking of content, whenever you’re thinking of what to tweet, whenever you’re thinking of what to talk about, then this story, this unique selling proposition about you, what is unique about you is so freaking important.
Then we say, how do we generate leads? So for us, in Angled Crown, we have a very simple process for generating leads that is content marketing. So we, we focus very much on content marketing for Agency Trailblazer. Our core for generating leads would be the Facebook group and also our YouTube channel trying to drive traffic in that manner and also targeted Facebook ads. For Event Engine, we are looking and we what we do, targeted LinkedIn ads, we also generate leads through our existing contact base, which we’ve been building up over the last 15 years. So we know a lot of people in the industry, a lot of people move from place to place, so they tend to take us with them. And also we’re pushing out now as well into a digital marketing strategy where again, we’re trying to emulate what we do over in Angled Crown by creating regular content and seeing if we can generate more leads. So that’s now recently been added to the business plan. So again, a very important thing. You know, we understand our business, we understand our business model, our target market, we understand what’s making as unique, we understand that we need to make money, but we obviously need to make sure we’ve noted down that how do we plan to make that money? So how do we generate those leads? And of course combined with that, that can either be two separate, we split it out for you on this. This can be all part of one package. What is the marketing activity that you’re going to engage with to generate more leads or to hit the targets that you’re going to be putting in the financial projection.
So for us, like I said, we are focusing very much now on content marketing for Event Engine and we are also pushing into Facebook. That’s part of our next strategy for Event Engine for generating more leads and for also selling more licences and just being able to note this down and seeing the changes over time. So if we look back at our business plan two years ago, all we were looking at was initially creating content but we realised we didn’t have the time. So what we did was we said that we generate leads through relationships and we’ve decided that our marketing activity will be to continue to foster those relationships. But also we were going to add to the marketing activity a LinkedIn strategy that allowed us to get our profiles and our company in front of people in our target audience that we could then connect with and have conversations and hopefully go and meet so we could broaden the relationship base that we had. So that’s a two year ago plan. It’s then since evolved that really worked well for us and then we’ve evolved that plan over time and added to the business plan where we’re now adding content strategy, et cetera to allow us to stand out more. We’re also talking about subjects within that content marketing strategy that is actually quite controversial in the events industry as well. So that actually helps us to get attention. Lastly, financial projections. So what this is is essentially a snapshot of that cashflow forecast where you can take a look. We’ve covered this in previous modules where we’ve talked about using the cashflow forecast in your platform to understand what you are currently taking in, but also what your projections look like, how much money you think you’re going to be able to get in and that’s what this would be.
All right, so we’ve just covered an essential structure of a one page business plan and I get it. This might end up being two pages. So what should you do with it? Now we’ve said before, having that mission really, really helps the act of writing something down is already a step in the right direction because you now know where you’re going. But if you had a map, you’re going to probably want to glance at that map now and again to make sure that you’re still going in the right direction. This the same with a sat nav. I am always checking the sat nav to make sure that I’m going in the right direction. So here are some of the things that you should be doing with your new one page business plan. Remember that your first draught is probably never going to be perfect, which is why we need to be reading this regularly and checking it out.
So number one would be keeping that financial data updated at least once a quarter. So reviewing the projections, seeing how that performed against the quarter that has just gone and then updating all of that information and making new projections. You need someone to keep you accountable to that plan, at least on, I would say on a monthly basis it can be quarterly. We did go through a phase of having quarterly accountability, but we’ve now got accountability every single month to make sure that we are next point reading that plan once a month. I have to read that plan every single month. It’s only one page guy’s it’s dead easy to read. So I have to read that plan for each business regularly because I know I’m going to be having a meeting to discuss my business plan, how I am performing against it, where I might be failing, et cetera. Also on the point of failing, next thing is that we should be adjusting the plan as we evolve. So as we come up with ideas that we note down in our plan of activity we might engage with. If that fails, we might want to evolve it and try something else and then measure and have a look at how that changed over time. This might all seem like a lot of work, but if we think about this, this is a one page document and this is perhaps one to two hours in a month that we could dedicate to making sure that the general health and the general direction of our businesses is going in the right direction. And I think that is two hours that is well, well, well worth as investing in for our business. If you think about not doing this, you could actually be wasting so much more time doing stuff that isn’t profitable or isn’t helping you get anywhere. So those two hours I think will be well worth it in the end.
Then finally you should be asking for help when you do spy any warnings. So we talked about accountability. One of our accountability partners is in fact our accountant. So I will be reaching out regularly to him when I see them might be a problem with say our pipeline. Perhaps we don’t have enough opportunities that we’re converting that are gonna help us to achieve the relevant numbers that we’re looking to achieve over the next quarter. And I will be asking for help from my accountant. What does he think I should be doing or be reaching out to a mentor, et cetera. So that reading it once a month reminds you of what you said you’re going to do, keeps you accountable and ensures that you are keeping on track. And if you see any warning signs, it also ensures that you go and get that extra help that you might need, which leads us to our final slide, which is getting further help.
Now, our business plan helps us to keep focused on our goals. However, in most cases we’re gonna need that accountability. So these are the following people that I would recommend you get involved in your business and you don’t need to pick all of these people, but I’m just going to explain which ones I have and why they’re a good thing. So first of all, business coach, I have a business coach that I meet with every single month. We meet over in Kettering. There’s actually three of us as part of the small circle plus the business coach and then we’re all accountable to each other. We review our business plans, we talk about our missions, our objectives, et cetera. We’re honest, we’re open and we talk about what’s going on. So I would highly recommend if you can find a good business coach, can just, I guess, hold the handle, keep you accountable, et cetera.
Next might be a financial advisor for us. We talk to our accountant once a month. It’s actually part of the service we pay monthly for our accountancy and all that. So our accountant will happily have a conversation with us at least once a month and tell us, you know, if we’ve got some problems that we need to be aware of, warm us of some upcoming financial commitments we might have to make, et cetera, or just advise us on what we have on our pieces of paper or on our cashflow forecast because half the time I can never understand what the heck the finance software is telling me. So I need that financial specialist to tell me that is a good picture, not a bad picture. You might also want to get a friend or a mentor involved. So I do have a mentor and only talk to the mentor once every quarter on average. You’ll know him as a under the bold guy like me and I will have a conversation with him, tell him what’s going on, perhaps send over the business plan if it’s requested, et cetera and just have him for continuing advice. He’s somebody who has already achieved some of the things that I want to achieve, not necessarily in the ways that I want to achieve it, but he’s at least led the way and has the community size that I would look to emulate in our industry. So he’s certainly the person where I would say, okay, I’m looking at growing my membership for example, up to a hundred people. What would you recommend I do? Here’s a copy of the business plan. Here’s what I was thinking of doing.
Then finally bank manager, I mean we don’t talk to a bank manager, I’ve never met my bank manager in. We’ve always done online banking, but for some companies you will actually have a bank manager. Perhaps they’re more invested in your business because they have loaned cash, et cetera. So a good person to talk to if you are in that position is your bank manager. They can talk about, you know, releasing cash and all that sort of stuff into your business if you need to. Now there are all sorts of other areas you can go for further help. You might have great networking meetings locally where people can be accountable and support each other. You may also have something like we have here in the UK, which is the Federation of small business. So you may have an alternative in your country and they will always provide phenomenal advice and documentation on how to document, how to get planning and how to understand what it is that you are looking at.
All right. I wanted to keep this short because this was a super boring sounding subject. So I think I’ve done really well, which gives me enough time to go and do the Lee Matthew Jackson recap. So business plan, because we want to be really efficient, we want to create a one page business plan. We talked about the purpose of the session where we’ve unpacked what is the business plan is essentially a detailed goal document that you can review regularly to make sure you’re going in the right direction and it removes the blocker. Having a one page document, removes that blocker of even creating one because we’re just creating something that is small and achievable and we can always evolve in the future. We talked about why we should have a business plan and why it’s important that we have this to help us make those decisions as well as allowing us to do all sorts of other things like you know selling or generating cash or helping the consultants that are advising as advise us better than us the, you know, the mentors, the accountants, the business coaches, et cetera.
We talked about what it should contain. This was the framework that we use. This framework essentially was put together from advice from different people in different books that we’d read. So this is what we currently use. We then talked about what we should do with that business plan once we’ve at least done a first draft and remember, good, you know, good is better than perfect. Done is better than not done, that’s something I made up. So if you can use that document structure and it just makes something, then once you’ve got that, then just make sure that you’re keeping it up to date once a quarter, et cetera. You’re reading that regularly, at least once a month, and perhaps you’re asking on reaching out for help as in when you need it. Then finally we talked about where you could get that extra help and accountability. We talked about business coaches, financial advisors, a mentor or a friend. Remember there’s lots of friends in our Slack community where you could all buddy up and help each other out. Then finally we talked about the girl bank manager. I don’t know if anyone actually has a bank manager nowadays, but anyway, just in case there’s the bank manager always reminds me of Mary Poppins. All right, folks. So that’s a wrap.