As an entrepreneur or small business owner you’re driven, hard working, creative and courageous. You’re most likely using these qualities alongside your business plan to drive your business to what you hope will be great success. But is this enough? Well, to cope with the uncertainty generated by both this crazy, chaotic world and the challenges of entrepreneurship then I’d say no, it’s not enough.
To ensure true ongoing business success, you don’t just need a plan for your business, but also a plan for yourself - a career plan. Just because you’re an entrepreneur and no longer in the corporate world doesn’t mean that you can ignore yourself.
Hang on, I hear you say – surely my qualities go without saying and I now I have a business not a career?
Wrong! Being an entrepreneur is a career choice.
Your career is much more than just your job or business. Your career is about your personal journey through life as you learn and develop. It combines your occupations, roles, talents, skills, and knowledge into a package that defines who you are – professionally - and it can’t be left to find its own way for a second. It takes management – just as your business does, and it’s your responsibility to manage it.
This may seem a big ask when you’re feeling time poor.
I know what that’s like. I’ve been there three times and two of these businesses are still running - but it will repay you dividends. Just as with a business plan where you set objectives and goals and plan how you will raise money, find customers, develop products and services and employ people, a career plan also sets personal objectives and goals and plans for how you will learn and develop, build relationships and establish new contacts.
Of course in the early days when running your own business you’re required to be a jack of all trades and all things to all people. A career plan consciously captures all this, highlights the gaps and directs you to what ongoing learning and development you need to fulfil your purpose and vision. Without this you risk stagnation.
Here are some of the key features of a powerful career plan:
1. Your purpose: Being so consumed by your business could put you in danger of losing sight of your own purpose. Identify and write down who you are and what you want from life. What would you want someone to be saying about your life when you finally decide to retire?
2. Your vision: What are your values and personal goals? If you know this you will gain a greater sense of your career journey of which you can control and direct. Your vision is not cast in stone. It can change as life changes but by setting it your mind will find ways to help you achieve it.
3. Your brand: You’ll be working hard to develop your company’s brand but what about brand you – who are you and what makes you distinctive and absolutely compelling? Your success hinges on reputation so how can you enhance this?
4. Your career capital: This is your collection of personal qualities, skills, knowledge, training, experiences, achievements and qualifications. Take time to reflect on what you have, where the gaps are and plan for how you will add to your capital on a regular basis – what training, reading and learning from others do you need to do? Eventually you’ll be looking to play to your strengths and this will help you to know what they are.
5. Your network: what is the extent and value of your contacts? What can you do to them further – this means networking?
6. Your relationships: Who are the people important to your success now and in the future? How well do you get on with them? What do you need to do to improve the relationships you have?
7. Your wellbeing: You’ll be throwing everything you have at making your business a success but you need to remain mentally and physically strong, energised and able to cope with all the challenges you face. The last thing you need is to crash and burn but you may be setting yourself up to do so. What will you do to regularly ‘recover and recharge’.
8. Your help: Who can help you? I’d really recommend a coach or mentor. They help when there is so much to learn, plus it’s an opportunity to put perspective back in your life – something many lose when so absorbed with a new business.
Susan Scott is a business psychologist, nutritional therapist and founder of two successful businesses; the New Frontiers Group of companies and the Resilience Training Company. She is the author of the number one best seller, ‘How to have an outstanding career’. Learn more and purchase the book from here.