I’m going to say it yet once again; you’d better have a business plan to follow because it’s hard to know where you’re going or where you’ll wind up without one. So much of the communication that I receive from you is couched in “why not’s”, so instead of making a list of 10 positive things, I am going to give you 10 things “not to do”.
In all the many years I’ve been involved with the singing business, I’ve seen varying approaches and trends talked about, taught and tried for building a set of plans that will help guide you into the professional world of singing. Unfortunately because change is inevitable, we try a lot of what’s out there; the current fads, forgetting about the basic fundamentals that do remain fairly constant.
“I used to work at The International House of Pancakes. It was a dream, and I made it happen. – Paula Poundstone
Want to get better at this aspect of building a career? Here are few fundamental rules to help you craft a plan that hits more of the right notes. How, when and what you choose to put in play is up to you, remembering all the while to use your own unique and inimitable style; something that will keep you motivated and excited about working your plan. Like everything else we do, finding the best way to create and implement a plan will require some trial and error. So get started NOW and make the commitment to follow through until you find a method that helps keep you motivated, and allows for flexibility as you grow and change. And always remember that it’s not personal or emotional, it’s just business.
“He not busy being born is busy dying.” – Bob Dylan
- Don’t put off writing a plan. Don’t wait until you have enough time, don’t wait until you have the right people, and definitely don’t wait until there’s an urgent reason you suddenly need a plan. Instead, just do it NOW! Recognize that you need a business plan and that your first step is always the hardest because you might be in unknown and unfamiliar territory. Ask around! Most people feel exactly same way you do about trying something new and different. So sit down and get a draft up and running and then continue updating as you go to keep it current with where you are in your business growth. This automatically will lead you to what has to happen next and this allows you to continue on in this state of mind until you realize you are getting the hang of it. You’ll soon realize that your plan may take you places you had never thought about before and it may also never seem to be done which is how it works. The important point is that you are planning.
- Don’t dilute your priorities. A plan that emphasizes three or four main priorities is a plan with focus and power. You can understand three or four main points. A plan that lists 20 priorities doesn’t really have any.
- Don’t overvalue the business idea. What gives an idea business value is not the idea itself but a business that’s ready, willing and able to commit to challenging one’s self into taking action on that idea every day, even if it is scary because you have never done anything like this before. It takes accepting that both failure and mistakes are part of the package. It’s how we learn! It takes follow-up and follow-through; being afraid and doing it anyway. You have to show up every day prepared to implement your idea. So, either write a business plan that shows you building a business around that great idea, or forget it. An idea alone will not magically turn into a success business.
- Don’t confuse a plan with the act of planning. Your planning process doesn’t end when your plan is done. The value of a plan is in the implementation it causes, and implementation starts the day you settle on the main points of your plan. Understand that your business plan is never really done-you’re always revising it, or should be, because time and reality are always pushing and pulling you forward. And without being able to access and measure the progress and success of your plan as you go, you’ll never know the difference between planning and reality. So, work your plan; don’t just write it down.
- Don’t fudge the details in the first 12 months. It is truly all in the details. That means creating your daily “to do” list from your weekly plan. It consists of as much as you think you are able to put comfortably on your plate each day. Again, this is trial and error and also depends on the real needs and responsibilities connected with the other parts of your life. Be responsible every day for doing business, even if it is one small thing that will take you closer to the result you are looking for. Keep track of your finances, cash flow, milestones, dates, and deadlines, specifying what’s supposed to happen and how you plan to make that come about. These details really matter. A business plan is wasted without it.
- Don’t sweat the details for the later years. Here is the real truth: creating a plan is about planning, not tallying up the final score of your plan because you’re only guessing at the future in a system full of uncertainties. As important as monthly details are in the beginning, they become a waste of time later on. In other words, your plan will be detail heavy for the day, week or month you are currently in, but as your plan projects into the future, the plan, by necessity, will have fewer and fewer details. How can you project how many auditions or jobs you will have three years from now? Sure, you can plan for 3 – 6 month or even 1-5 year’s worth of possibilities in a major conceptual way but you can’t plan in monthly details past the first 3 months. (But you still need to fine tune the details on a weekly and daily basis.)Nobody expects it, and nobody believes it. And this stops most people from even initiating a plan.
- Don’t create absurdly optimistic “contract at the Met” projections for the future. That is a very limiting plan. It excludes so many other possibilities and opportunities and put’s blinders on your eyes, ears and feelings about only the “one” long term outcome and not how this amazing journey is going to unfold through your execution of your plan. A specific long term objective limits your chances for fully recognizing and acting on business opportunities as they present themselves. So, benefit from working the plan “right now” with an eye always toward the next action filled event.
- Don’t write too much. Keep your business plan short and focused on your main priorities. It’s a business plan, not a doctoral thesis. Stick to the main objective, and use bullet points to keep your targeted goals highlighted and simple. This will up your motivation.
- Don’t sweat the formatting details. No business plan has ever failed because the page headers weren’t color-coded. Don’t dress up your plan with multiple fonts, too many colors or complex page layouts. Don’t hide the important information. Keep it simple, and don’t sweat the small stuff.
- Don’t forget you are in the business of creating and maintaining relationships. Often when you work your plan, it means you are communicating with someone else in our industry. Remember to present and represent your Personal Brand and have a clear agenda in mind when networking. Use your Singers Tools and Skills as often as possible so they become the habit. This is not personal or emotional, it is business after all, so work your business, don’t let your business work you. Step up, become responsible for your choices, and enjoy the journey!
“If you’re going to count on the competition to bring out your best work, you’ve surrendered control over your most important asset. Real achievement comes from racing ahead when no one else sees a path–and holding back when the rush isn’t going where you want to go.” – Seth Godin
Let me know if this “why not’s” approach works better for you.
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” – Henry David Thoreau