No matter how good you are or how brilliant your idea for a firm is, there will be surprises after you start. You think one set of clients will flood in, but instead you get another set. You are impressed with one online marketing strategy at the beginning, only to be horrified six months later when the company is bought out and changes everything. Things change and assumptions are challenged by reality. Your business can be made better — more resilient — when you face these challenges.
But how do you face these challenges? The dreaded business plan again — that scary living document. Start a business plan or pull out your old plan and rework it. I like to reframe revisions as Major Projects Plans. To grow and thrive, you should be continually addressing and solving the problems you encounter with a plan of action. Enter the Major Projects Plan.
Here are five points to make your plan more effective and shiny:
- Start with your audience. If the plan is for your eyes only, think of it as what you look to when you have a terrible day and start doubting your sanity in opening a practice. It should tell you why this will work, but it should not be a self-centered work. Even though your brain is the most substantial service you offer, it is what the client gets from hiring you that matters most. If the plan is just to convince you, then you are the audience and that is fine. But if it is anyone else (e.g., marketing experts, IT specialists, potential clients, collaborators, contracting officials, potential key employees, referral sources), write to that relationship.
- Persuade on value offered. The business world calls this the value proposition. Show what problem you solve for clients and why your resolution is better than your competitor’s resolution. Focus on your audience (again) and what makes them “act favorably.” (Business terms not work for you? Reframe this as setting up your client expectations and explaining your services and fees persuasively.)
- Give both sides of the argument. Explain what hurdles your firm faces and how you plan to overcome them. I think of this as the to-do list. State challenges authentically. State why you will be successful and how you will overcome them.
- Talk about the money. A business plan should include some numbers: expenses, what you expect to bring in, pay yourself, pay back to the business, fee schedules. The numbers don’t need to be perfect, but they should be realistic, so use data from previous months or years to see trends and make adjustments.
- Address connections in community. It should also contain your networking and marketing plan. Your target client base and target referral sources should be outlined and researched. Consider a wider set of referral sources than just other lawyers. Brainstorm who interacts with your client base upstream from you and figure out how you can talk with them about what you do and how you can help the folks they see daily with the problems they have. (As an aside, I always think of the Rules of Professional Conduct that state we are not to offer services without a relationship, but isn’t that darn good advice in the business world, too?) Don’t sell. Be authentic, brilliant, and bold about who you are and what you do. And do it with strategic people in your community. That is building relationships. Then, when they need legal help, they can come to you because they know you.
Flesh these parts out to improve your Major Projects Plan. It will give you direction and a sense of control over the situation that just living with a problem does not offer. Now make time to activate the plan — but that is a subject for another day.
Let us know about your experiences with rewriting a business plan in the comments below.