Starting a home business is an exciting prospect for many, but only a fraction of would-be entrepreneurs succeed in making and running an enterprise. Coming up with a great idea is good, but doing your research, setting realistic goals, and creating a workable action plan is what transforms “could be” into “is.”
Setting goals can be helpful in every area of your life. Goal-setting can enhance motivation, self-confidence, and independence. When it comes to establishing a business, having a plan is crucial.
According to Bernard Ferret, a senior business counselor with George Mason University’s Small Business Development Center, good goals are “based on solid research, provide a clear direction, and set expectations for all involved.”
In this article, you’ll learn what an action plan is and how to create one that really works for your home business.
What Is an Action Plan for a Home Business?
An action plan acts as your guide to ensure your organization’s vision and goals shine through. It often describes the way your business will use strategies to meet already-set objectives. A good plan not only addresses what needs to be done, but the how, when, and who of what is involved with the task as well. It should clearly outline strategies to meet your objectives, and include deadlines and possible obstacles.
Your action plan will need constant revision as your business evolves. When you are creating an action plan, work to make it as complete, clear, and current as possible.
To create a successful action plan, you need to go into the process fully prepared, Ferret said. Prior to joining George Mason University, where he advises hundreds of clients and leads business counseling workshops, Ferret ran his own successful home-based business.
“There are two things they should ask themselves: 'Is this business a good idea?’ and ‘Can it be successful?’ " Ferret said. “The only way to know is to speak to people about it. Conversations reveal habits, likes, dislikes, etc.”
Ferret suggests talking to at least 100 people about your ideas, products, and/or services before diving into the concept. According to him, the more people you talk with, the better. In addition, educate yourself with help from books, online courses, or videos surrounding your industry.
When done correctly, your written action plan will break down the steps you need to take to meet the objectives you’ve set for your business. For instance, to establish your home-based business, you likely need a permit and license from your local government.
The Power of Marketing
According to Ferret, a key factor many new small-business owners neglect to think about when creating their action plans is the importance of marketing. Along with this, many new entrepreneurs don’t realize how long it may take before they break even on their investments. According to Ferret, no matter the industry you are in, an action plan should focus extensively on marketing strategies.
“Branding is a long-term, strategic practice that includes the company’s image, logo, and look, but it also includes the opinions of your customers,” Ferret said. “Spend time on developing a marketing communication strategy based on what you learned from those 100 conversations.”
As the business owner, it is important you take a leadership role in setting goals. According to a recent study, your marketing ability has an impact. The study found that in small- and medium-sized companies, if an entrepreneur had strong marketing skills, it had a positive effect on the company's ability to successfully meet goals.
There are many online resources you can use to set goals, both as an individual and for your company team. PositivePsychology.com, for example, offers three free Goal Achievement Exercises you can download on your smartphone or computer.
Set SMART Goals
When working on your action plan, take extra care to clearly define your goals, and make them SMART. This concept—S.M.A.R.T. goals—was first introduced in a 1981 article written by three professionals: George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham.
- Specific: It’s important to make your goals detailed and precise when creating them. If you’re in sales, for example, a possible goal may be to sell 100 widgets in the month of May, rather than simply “sell more widgets.”
- Measurable: As illustrated in the example above, set goals that can easily be quantified.
- Attainable: Make your goals realistic based on your current financial situation, experience in the industry, and access to resources. Don’t be so conservative that you limit yourself; you should challenge yourself yet still be realistic.
- Relevant: Think about whether the action you are planning to take will move you closer to where you need to go. Is it going to be effective? With limited time and resources at your disposal, you need to keep your efforts specific to what works.
- Time-Bound: Setting hard deadlines for accomplishing tasks will keep you focused on the goal in front of you.
In addition to setting SMART goals, it takes a certain amount of discipline as well as the development of good habits to yield results.
“Even if you are not at an office, you should be working eight hours a day,” Ferret said. “Multitasking is the death of effectiveness.”
To ensure your business is thriving, consider creating a home workspace, if possible. By having a dedicated space to conduct business, you’ll limit distractions and focus on the goals in front of you. It also is beneficial to stay organized with the help of digital calendars, reminders, and notifications.
Find a Team and Hold Each Other Accountable
Finding a team as a home-based business owner can take some effort, but it’s an essential part of a successful business. This doesn’t mean you have to have several employees. Even if your business is a sole proprietorship, there are other ways to create a support system.
Whether online or in-person, there are various business-oriented communities you can join. These groups can offer support, share experiences, and also provide mentoring opportunities. A few examples include:
- An online community, such as StartupNation
- The Small Business Administration (SBA)
- Local chambers of commerce
- Industry groups, which you may be able to find on websites such as Facebook or Meetup
- Women-in-business organizations, if applicable, such as the National Association of Women Business Owners
There are Small Business Development Centers in every state, as well as SCORE, a nonprofit that seeks to foster vibrant small-business communities through mentoring and education. SCORE, in partnership with Constant Contact, has created action plan templates during the global health crisis to assist small businesses and organizations in recovery.
Evaluate Your Progress
Having SMART goals is important, but making the time to review and update those goals regularly is key. At prescribed times, whether weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly, take some time to evaluate various elements of your action plan. What is working? What isn’t? Are you meeting the deadlines you’ve set for yourself?
As you gather experience and learn new information about the industry, your products or services, yourself and your employees, you may realize some adjustments are required. Don’t be afraid to make a course correction—it may help you see better results. Revising your action plan can make it much more useful, and also make you a better business owner.