The Foundation of Your Business Planning

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Recently a new financial adviser asked us: “I want to purchase my own business in about a year. Is there something that most planners overlook that I should keep in mind? What should my focus be and how do I start?”

The first step in planning your course in business (and life) is to know where you are now as a starting point. This is much harder than it sounds! It is also the key to building your Life Purpose Statement.  As a small business owner, crafting your own Life Purpose Statement is the first step in building your business plan as well as your life plan. After all, aren’t the two really deeply connected? That’s why many of our clients come to us in the first place; their work/life balance feels “off” and they need to have their plans reviewed and re-balanced, in the same manner as their investment portfolio.

Begin by thinking about your strengths, your knowledge, your skills and your experiences. Brainstorm, write what comes to mind without judgment and don’t try to “wordsmith” at this point. Next, ask a few of your good friends: “What am I really good at doing? What are my strengths?” Don’t be shy about doing this—what others see in you is often more accurate and insightful than your own self-assessment of your skills, interests, experiences and strengths. 

Too often we find that people aim low. In creating a vision of what you want from your life, aim high and ask yourself, What do I really like to do? What would I do if there were no outside constraints? If I could do anything I wanted with my life, what would that look like?

Another way is to approach this is as a future vision exercise:

  • Assume that 10 years from now a reporter was writing an article about you. What would you most want to be said about you?
  • If someone were making a movie of your life in the future, what story would you want them to tell?
  • Finally, you might ask yourself, If I knew that I only have 10 years to live, what would I want to accomplish?  

A Life Purpose Statement is not so much describing a state of being as it is a statement of values. It is what you want to be in the world. Your Life Purpose Statement can serve as a “flag of honor,” always leading you onward toward your best self. It acts as a filter to help you know when to say “yes” and when to say “no.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a powerful Life Purpose Statement. He said: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal.’ … I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Now ask yourself: What is my life vision? Is it big enough to last a lifetime? In thinking about building your statement, you might try this simple approach:

I am committed to being the best _________________ I can be. That might be the best writer, the best financial adviser, the best parent, the best spouse, whatever it is that captures your dream.  Then continue: In order to do so, I will be _________________­­­­­­­­­_______________ and I will (do) _________________.

An example is: I am committed to become the best financial adviser that I can be. In order to do so, I will be open to seeing things with fresh eyes and to look at my world in new ways. I will practice excellence in my craft, seek out situations where there are great futures to be created and always ask for (and honor) feedback from clients and peers.

Pictures and metaphors are wonderful ways to think about your vision, so get as creative and imaginative as you like. This is not the place to be small.

Finally, carry your Life Purpose Statement with you in your mind. Revisit it frequently. Learn to think of it often. Make your vision a part of who you are. It can be the sextant you use to help you find your personal North Star and guide you on your business journey, even though the seas get rough and the winds of change threaten to blow you off course.

Sam Hull, CFP®, CPCC, ACC, RLP
Whitewater Transitions LLC
Arundel, Maine

One thought on “The Foundation of Your Business Planning

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