Starting a business? This is how you plan to win.
At some point or another in building your empire of an aesthetics business you’re going to need to plan. Plan to open a clinic. Plan to offer a new cutting-edge treatment. Plan to launch a website promoting Botox and dermal filler treatments.
In the past, when I’ve made a request ‘Write me a plan’ I can sometimes SENSE the fear or see in their eyes they’re thinking ‘Plan?! I can’t write a plan!’. I’ve also had responses like ‘well, I don’t need a plan because I’ve got it all up here [with a prodding finger pointing at their head]’. Well, that’s great news for YOU, but what about me? I can’t see inside your thoughts so I have no idea that you’re going to go about this in the right way, and, how do I go about contributing to the plan if I can’t see it?
I want to challenge your fears around planning by saying we all are capable of it AND of doing a very good job of it. I want to challenge that the ability to plan is a basic survival instinct and we reap the rewards every single day of our lives by engaging with the ‘planning process’.
What is a plan?
I did a spot of ‘Googling’ and came up with a couple of definitions of a ‘plan’ which caught my eye. Neither of which I think get down to the brass tacks of what a plan is in its simplest form or help us relate to what planning might look like in terms of building your aesthetics business.
“an intention or decision about what one is going to do”
Example: I have no plans to retire
Well, yes, great to have an intention of decision but how are you going to make it become a reality? If we’re thinking about our website selling cosmetic treatments then we need to be talking how the ‘how’ we’re going to do this.
So how about another Google definition?
“a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something”
Example: the UN peace plan
Hmmm, detailed… really?! Does a plan need to be detailed to make it a plan? I say a resounding “NO… it does not”. If we all think the best example of a plan lies in a UN peace plan then let’s face it we’d never get anything done!
I think a better definition is that a plan is:
“A list of actions placed in a logical sequence which, at the end, achieves a defined objective.”
You can wrap up your definition any which way you like but at its core a plan is about two key elements:
- Envisioning a current state and a future one (an objective)
- Taking action to move bit by bit from one state to the next
Example that means something: A plan to launch a website promoting my non-surgical aesthetics services.
With the above example we’re moving from the current state of having no website to the future state of, well, having a website. Where the plan really comes into its own though is breaking things down into bitesized chunks of what we have to do to move from the current state to the beautiful future of “Look-at-my-amazing-website-glory”
I’ve never done a plan before
Yes you have. You plan. She plans. Even HE plans. We all plan. Whether you do it in your head, on the back of an envelope, or in Microsoft Project 2016 is not relevant. We all plan.
When we go to Sainsbury’s…we plan what we want, plan how we’re going to get there, plan how we’re going to collect our items (basket, trolley, personal shopper or mobility scooter), decide what order we’re going to get stuff in, decide how we’re going to pay, decide how we’re going to pack the items, decide how we’re getting home, and then decide how we’re putting everything away and breathing a HUGE sigh of relief at the end of it.
You see? You’re planning and you didn’t even know it?
“Yes but I’ve never had to write a plan for building a website before”
Well maybe that’s true but it really doesn’t matter. If you know why something needs to be done, what is needed to do it, and how it needs to be done then you can ‘write a plan’. What you write a plan in (ink, computer, graffiti) and how you go about doing it are the finer details which are less important. So…
What’s in a plan?
Like grandma’s recipe for her famous asparagus soup (what a treat that used to be), there are certain components of a plan that give it that delicious ‘planniness’ (ooh I can taste it now)
Introduction (the ‘why’) – a lovely heart-warming recipe for a winter’s day giving you 2 of your 5 a day – any good plan (or recipe!) should kick off with some kind of opening gambit to let the reader know, at a summary level, the reason for doing something and also where we’re heading or what we want to achieve. ‘We envisage launching an image-rich website with lots of before and afters of our treatments aimed at mobile phone and tablet users because this is the best way for raising patient awareness of Botox, dermal filler, and lip filler treatments which will lead to new customer enquiries’
Ingredients (the ‘what’) – asparagus tips – in the business world, a recipe’s ingredients are our ‘resources’. They are the people that are going to carry out the work and they are the tools we’re going to use. This might be a website developer, some before/after images, a domain, videos of treatments, and probably lots of your time too!
Quantities (the ‘how much’) – 500g asparagus tips – when writing a plan, this can be likened to the amount of money we might need, or the numbers of people to complete the tasks, or the amount of pages or images our new website is going to need. For example, 2 x before/afters for Botox treatments, 2 videos of lip enhancement, 3 blogs on cheek fillers, £500 for the web developer, 1 week of your time.
Method (the ‘how’) – When the water boils, turn the heat down to simmer for 5 minutes – the method in a recipe is our list of actions i.e. the jobs we’ve got to do in a particular order to be able to achieve the goal (or create the soup) in the way we envisage it or have had it prescribed to us.
Timings (the ‘when’) – Simmer for 5 minutes – the timings from our soup recipe are our days or dates in our plan for a website. They tell us when something needs to start and how long to do it for (or perhaps more importantly, how long we expect something to take)
Tools (the ‘where’) – Place the ingredients into the blender – in our kitchen, examples might include, ‘saucepan, ‘fridge’, ‘oven’. In our website plan, examples might include ‘on the Home Page, add a navigation menu’ or ‘Test the website in the test environment’
But why do I need a plan in business when I know what I’m doing?
There’s lot of ways in which a plan can help you to achieve your wildest dreams (or even just to get your hands on crisps and dip from Sainsbury’s):
- Gets you thinking about what you’re going to need and when
- Tells what you need to do
- Helps you identify what specialist skills you might need
- Helps you understand what you DON’T know yet but will need to find out
- Gives you an idea of the scale of the work to be done
- Allows you to break things down into manageable chunks
How much detail do I need?
Let’s go back to that Sainsbury’s trip a minute. We said before that we needed to:
- plan what we want – crisps and dip – I’ve got everything else I need
- plan our transport – get the bus – the bus is cheaper than a taxi
- plan how we’re going to collect our stuff – get a basket – 2 items don’t need a trolley
- plan the order of collecting stuff – crisps then dip – crisps are nearest the entrance
- plan how we’re going to plan – I’ll buy a 5p bag – I don’t want to lose any items on the bus
- plan how we’re putting stuff away – dip in the fridge, crisps in the cupboard
But what if we’re writing the plan for someone else to carry out on our behalf like how often happens in business. Well this is when levels of planning come in handy because this is how we customise the amount of detail that our reader needs to understand what we’re looking for them to do. Too little detail and we might end up with the wrong dip. Too much detail and the reader might lose interest.
There is no consistent answer to the level (or detail) of planning you need to do. Instead the answer lies in ‘who is the user of the plan?’. Your plan must provide the correct amount of the detail so that all involved with the plan understand clearly what is required of them.
Let’s examine the above crisps and dip plan a bit more and this time assume the person who wants them is not the person who will be doing the shopping. They might read the plan and ask questions such as:
- plan what we want – crisps and dip – ‘What crisps? What flavour dip?’
- plan our transport – get the bus – ‘Which bus? When do it leave?’
Perhaps then a more appropriate plan for the errand-boy might look like:
- Decide what we want – crisps and dip
- Check the kitchen for what we already have
- List what we need
- Crisps, salt & vinegar, 6 pack
- Sour cream dip, 500g, reduced fat
- Plan how we’re going to travel
- Discuss possible options
- Decide on bus
- Check bus timetable online
- Go to bus stop and wait for it to arrive
- Start shopping
- Get basket
- Go to dairy aisle
- [and so on]
The above plan now has THREE levels to it which layer the amount of detail. But again though, we can question the amount of detail because chances are that Section 2d Points i. to iii. are stating the obvious so aren’t required.
The trick then? Think of your audience. Give them the level of detail they need for the role they are taking in relation to the plan.
How to plan – where to start
There’s nothing worse than having a brain block when you’re sat there staring at your computer thinking ‘Where do I start?’.
Better off to get somewhere or use something a bit more creative, more relaxed, or less pressured than the dazzling white screen of Microsoft Word.
Often when I’m planning I usually kick things off with a pack of post-it notes and a marker pen and I list, in as few words as possible, the main chunks of work I need to do to achieve the objective.
If I’m feeling stressed or rushed, I don’t plan well. So I might go for a walk to settle my mind or even do some meditation or watch a bit of TV to relax.
Another useful tip is to involve other people in order to ‘get you in the flow’. Ask someone “I’m trying to make a list of things I need to do to launch a new website, what do I need to consider?”. They might not be website or planning experts but anyone can make pitch in some ideas on a LIST!
A final suggestion in the early stages of planning is to try working backwards. Think about the end goal (e.g. website) and then think about the biggest chunks which come before it (e.g. images, text, pages, web designer). Once you’ve got the big chunks, work backwards again to identify the smaller tasks which make up the chunks (e.g. web designer – do research, meet web designer, look for reviews, ask for examples of work, get price).
Only move back to your computer to write things up when you’ve got lots of exciting stuff on post-its, feel relaxed, and grabbed the juicy ideas of a couple of other people. Then you’ll have a good place to start.
When you’re back at your computer and ready to rock, try using a table or a spreadsheet to list the main tasks of your plan. It’s a lot less daunting than writing texts of paragraphs and a lot easier for the readers to digest.
Making an ass of yourself if you believe that ‘Assumptions make an ASS out of U and ME’
Most likely at some point in your life you will have had some patronising person say to you “DON’T ASSUME because assumptions make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’”. The message here is that to act without full information is dangerous and leads to mistakes. Whilst this is true, it is also the case that we cannot live without assumptions and it is the same with planning. Because, as we’ve already defined, planning is about setting out actions that move us from a current state to a future state and of course we cannot guarantee the future, it therefore follows that we HAVE TO MAKE ASSUMPTIONS about what might or might not come to pass.
During my years in business, I’ve seen people recoil when being asked to write down a plan because ‘we still haven’t had a decision on some things yet’ or ‘we don’t know when this is going to happen’ – it’s not that they’re being lazy about planning (not always anyway) but is more to do with they feel the plan is less valuable or exposes them as ‘wrong’ if certain things aren’t known or certain.
I say quite clearly to anyone who has ever felt like this ‘IT DOES NOT MATTER’. Have a go. Have a guess. What do you THINK needs to happen? What’s most LIKELY? When we embrace a world of uncertainty, we accept that we’re making assumptions. As long as we continue to test and review our assumptions then eventually as the plan progresses the assumptions will turn into facts (or knowns) but every plan has to work with unknowns at some stage of the game!
Of course, sometimes we make assumptions and they’ll be wrong or even worse, we’ve not been told what assumptions have been made and as a result we come to the wrong conclusion in our interpretation of the information which has been made available to us. The message then is clear… if assumptions are made then be sure to set them out for the audience or you may risk them coming to the wrong conclusion with less than desirable results!
Dr Tim Pearce eLearning & SkinViva Training
SkinViva Training offer a basic and advanced range of training courses for medical professionals such as Doctors, Nurses, Paramedics, Midwives and Dentists who wish to enter into or progress within aesthetic treatments. who wish to learn and build on their skills in delivering these procedures. Find out more and view our latest availability.
Dr Tim Pearce has used his 10+ years of experience in injectables to build a range of eLearning modules for medical professionals who want to complement their practical hands-on experience in carrying out injectable treatments. Find out more about what courses are available for you.