16 Steps to Your Best Business Plan

Getting your business ready for next year starts with strategies and goals. Here are some specific, actionable steps you can take to prepare for 2012.

December 8, 2011

In any line of business, it’s not the work that’s hard. It’s the self-discipline. That’s why it’s important to have a workable strategy in place and stick to that until goals are met.

The following 16 simple steps will ensure that your 2012 business plan works for your career and your life. Most of the steps in this plan can be completed in 15 minutes or less. Spend no more than 60 minutes at a time with these steps. Complete this plan in a series of brief sessions over at least 30 days. This allows for your creativity and insight to rise and anxiety to fall.

If you finish this simple planning process before the beginning of 2012, you’ll have your best year ever (or best for a long time). If it’s not possible to complete this plan before the year’s end, then complete it over the next 30 days.

Steps to a Better Business Plan

1. Make a list of your dream priorities in every aspect of your life.

2. Write your answer to these questions: “What do you want your real estate career to do for your life in 2012? Why is that important to you? Who else will benefit? How will they benefit? Why is that important to you?”

3. Choose one of those dream priorities from the first question above and scribble it down. Write what you’d like to accomplish in that area by the end of each month in the next year, January through December. Do this quickly — you can improve it later.

4. Answer this question: What are your three greatest strengths that will contribute to your success in 2012?

5. Consider what shortcomings are costing you money now and how you would increase your production if you improved them.

6. Identify clear indicators of your strengthened skills that you should see by the end of 2012.

  • What do you want to stop or start doing, do more of, buy, and practice?
  • Which actions will you take, every day or every week, to ensure that you strengthen that skill?

7. Discern the biggest weakness standing in the way of your success.

  • Do you want to strengthen that weakness or successfully strategize around it so that you can succeed without it? How will you do that?
  • What will you take, every day or every week to ensure you strengthen or work around that weakness?
  • At the end of 2012, how will you know you’ve succeeded?

8. Quickly, and without analysis, figure out the amount of income, sales volume, and number of sales that would demonstrate you are well on your way to the success you envision. Translate your answer into all three: income, sales volume, and number of sales.

9. If you are an experienced practitioner, multiply the number of sales you want from the above question by 2; if you’re still new to real estate, multiply by 3. Then divide that result by 40. (For example, 20 sales x 2 = 40, and 40 divided by 40 = 1.) That is how many new clients you need each week to achieve your goal. In the example, that means one new client each week for 40 weeks. For most, it’s a shockingly small number.*

10. Write down your sales volume and number of sales goals for 2012 from #8.

  • Choose one of the two (sales volume or number of sales) and break it down to monthly goals for January through December. Do not simply divide the number of sales by 12. You are likely to sell more in some months than others. Ideally, get your history of sales by month for the past couple of years so that you can discover any patterns that will make these monthly goals even more relevant and motivating. Then set goals for each month.
  • Calculate the other number, sales volume or number of sales, for each month.

11. Divide your number of sales from 10 above by 2.

  • That should be your goal for listings sold during the year. The other half will be sales to buyers. (If you are a team, then that’s the number of sales to buyers for your buyer specialists.)
  • Decide how many listings you need to take in order to achieve that number of listings sold. (If you need 10 listings sold and most of your listings sell, you’ll need about 12. But if only half of your listings sell, you’ll need 20.)

12. Review your strengths from #4 and shortcomings from #5.

  • Make a list of three to five ways that you’ll generate the leads that will become the new clients, sales, and listings to reach your goal.
  • Write down what specific activities are needed to achieve that objective: phone calls, blog posts, mailings, search-engine efforts, open houses, and so forth.

13. Choose which activities you’ll complete daily and schedule them day by day. Put that on your calendar and start immediately.

14. Choose which activities for #12 will be completed weekly. Choose the day of the week to spend 30 to 60 minutes on that activity. Limit this to no more than one activity per day. For example, on Mondays you follow up on all your leads. On Tuesdays, you work on your Web marketing. On Wednesdays, you invest time in your print marketing. And so on.

15. Hold a 30- to 60-minute business plan update session.

  • Show up on time and work for at least 30 minutes.
  • Record and review your number of new clients for the week, sales, and listings for the month. Compare these with your monthly and year-to-date goals. Ideally, you also should compare them with previous years’ results.
  • Select the projects and activities that are most likely to help you achieve your current month’s goals, and will help you achieve your following months and annual goals.
  • Make commitments for the day and the week.
  • Pat yourself on the back for your accomplishments.

16. Pump yourself up: Weird but true, your physiology will dictate the success of your planning sessions. So, when you start, and each time you move on to a new step, put yourself in a proud frame of mind. That means standing up, stretching way up, left, right, and back. Shake out your body. Then, put your shoulders back, stomach in (you’ll feel it even if it still sticks out), and chest out. Take three huge, deep breaths — far more oxygen that you normally take into your lungs. Smile. Pump your fist and say “Yes, Yes, Yes.” You put yourself in the best possible mental and emotional state for planning.

All beginnings are hard, but you should start this process today if you can. And remember: The person with the best plan does not win. The person who executes their plan wins. You don’t have to get it right. Just get it going. Then keep improving it.

* The first key to success: Focus on results instead of activities. Throughout the year, instead of focusing on number of activities (calls, mailings, blog posts, and so on), concentrate on achieving this number of new clients each week. Focusing on the activities leads to frustration and self-criticism. Targeting the desired results stimulates motivation and provides insight into what is working in your business and what needs your attention.

These steps are adapted from from Rich Levin’sFour Phases of the Most Successful Business Plan Workbook for 2012.

Rich Levin is a national real estate speaker and sales coach. His company, Rich Levin's Success Corps Inc., Rochester, N.Y., takes a "whole business approach" to coaching, focusing not only on essential sales skills such as presenting and prospecting, but also quality of life and personal finance. Contact Levin at 585-244-2700 or rich@richlevin.com.