Planning. It’s one of those things that many entrepreneurs hate but absolutely necessary for success. We are operators and creators! We like the action of moving day to day and for many of us, business planning of any kind is akin to hearing nails scratch against a blackboard….it repulses us.
The truth is that planning is not only necessary but being good at it is a skill that every entrepreneur must develop. It is no different than knowing your numbers. If you don’t know your numbers, you may get away with it for a while, but eventually it will come back an bite you.
When I finally finished the negotiation and the lawyers were doing their thing, I had a call with one of my advisors and he started asking me about what my plan was when I took over the business. Uh….run it? Ok, I like planning so it wasn’t my answer but the truth is that I hadn’t put too much thought into a detailed plain besides transition planning. I wanted to get in there, figure out what was going on, discover the dead bodies (there are always a few…hopefully no zombies), and then do a plan. He pressed me on this and pointed out that I will not have any time once I took over the business and now is the perfect time to plan. I had to begrudgingly admit that he was right (I am pretty stubborn and hate missing obvious things…especially pointed out by a good friend).
One piece of unsolicited advice I will give is that you cannot plan in a vacuum. I know it is uncomfortable for many of us to have our work critiqued but there is no other way to fill in the gaps and develop a superior plan. Think of it as the easiest advantage you will have over your competitors. Most of them will never show their plans to anyone. They will think they are so special that anyone who sees it will either have nothing to add or might steal some idea and ruin their plans. This is BS. Just like when you start a business, you should tell everyone you meet about your idea to get feedback, sharing your plans only makes them better. To drive home this point, I am going to share mine further down in the post. I welcome any and all feedback.
Back to my planning…..
To Asana I go! When I was a management consultant I used to use excel for project management but I started using Asana last year for task management and enjoy it. It’s better for teams and while I am a team of 1, I think its much better suited for task management and project planning.
I started planning for a three things:
- The Handover: what tasks need to be completed to close the transaction?
- The Transition: what tasks do I need to complete to take over operation of the business?
- The next 12 months: what do I want to do to further automate & grow the business?
This is done the day of the close. For those of you that don’t know (as I didn’t), closing a transaction (aka taking over the website) consists of many steps that are done over a few hours or days depending on the business. Prior to the day of the close, all the money is placed in an escrow account with terms that dictate when the funds should be released. This ensures that the seller does what he/ she should do and that the buyer doesn’t get the asset and say “thanks! but no money for you”. Practically speaking, the buyer calls the lawyer holding the escrow and says to release the money once the tasks are done. The formal agreement is there to keep everyone honest.
Training. No sufficiently large website should be bought without transition training. If a seller won’t give you enough time thats reasonable (30 days is more than reasonable), walk away. You are spending a lot of money and if they aren’t willing to give you 30 days time, something is fishy. I would say that any business over 50k should qualify. Definitely anything over 100k.
Transition training is when you learn the business. Without this, you are stepping in a minefield. Every business has its intricacies and there is no way to learn them without hands on training. In my contract, I have 30 days in person and 30 days on the phone. In hindsight, I should have put in 60 pays by phone (total 90) since its a high six figure deal buy I am pretty sure the seller will be available anyway since we have a good relationship and he wants the biz to succeed (12 years of his life + 4 employees). In person training is not necessary for many businesses but if it makes sense for yours, don’t be shy.
THE FIRST 12 MONTHS
You didn’t buy the business to have the same cashflow did you? Depending on the business that may not be true but for most of us it is. Even if you have a fully automated content business, you want to squeeze more out of it, don’t you? This stage is where the rubber meets the road. For all my talking about my journey thus far, I have not operated this business for one day. This is the time to plan out what projects you want to do and when. Don’t focus too much on the dates or if you miss something. Once you start operating, things will change and you can add or subtract from the plan as needed. The important thing is that you have a framework and can move from there.
What does this look like in action? Here is the plan (Business Plan) as I have it thus far. As you can see I have about 150 items for me to complete (I have removed names and other confidential that should be in here as well). Some are projects that require a lot of detail (to be completed) and others are specific tasks. How long did this take? If I had to guess no more than 2 – 3 hours over a few days and iterations. If I missed something, let me know!
One word on my approach here. I did the planning a backwards. Generally speaking you want to create your overall strategy / strategic goals and then create the tactical plan. Why did I do it this way? Simply because I had to write down all the transition tasks and just kept going. I know generally the items that needs to be done and just threw a bunch others out there. I am going to write my 1 page strategic guide in the next week or two and see if there is anything I missed. Even though I did it backwards, who cares. I did it and so should you.