Starting a Business Backwards – Five Year Plans Are Magic

Starting a business backwards is very important for success and happiness, despite how ridiculous it sounds.

Most people don’t go on holidays by packing a suitcase and walking out the door. You look up some destinations and book flights before thinking about what you’ll pack. Starting a business is the same and the method detailed below will help you map your route.

At the age of nineteen, watching daytime TV, I heard the statistic, “90% of people who write down their goals achieve them.” Whoever was discussing this, detailed a simple way to create a five year plan. It seemed like very little effort for potentially large gain and uncharacteristically, I did it. Much to my surprise, it worked.

Over the next five years I achieved about 95% of what I had aimed for. Since then, I’ve helped friends and family create plans in the same way. If you know what you want, it’s easy. If you don’t, it can be heartbreakingly difficult and I have no simple formula to fix that.

I consulted friends on this because I didn’t want to gloss over it. Knowing what you want from life is more important than the five year plan. Responses ranged from, “I suppose it’s whatever you’re passionate about” to “Just get up off your ass and find out!”

One of the most insightful thoughts shared was that sometimes people don’t realise that what they love can be what they do. If you love films, make films. It doesn’t matter how unrealistic your ideas seem – that’s what the plan is for.

So, if you don’t know what you want, finish this paragraph but don’t bother reading the rest of the article today. Schedule in twenty minutes this evening or tomorrow to go outside or get a coffee and think about what you love. Write down your thoughts and come back when you’ve done that. Have fun and hopefully see you later.

For those of you still here, grab a piece of paper because shit’s about to get real.

  1. Write down where you want your business to be in five years. Also write down things you want personally. As an example, let’s say I want to be living in a beach-house in France, earning enough to live on from writing three days a week and working on a book the other two days. I don’t want to be working weekends – I’m living in a beach house.
  1. Now plan year four. It’s hard to see how to get from today to your end goal but it’s easy to see what one step back from year five would be. Using the example above, year four may be to get two days of paid writing work a week and earn enough from any kind of work to save for a flight to France and a month’s rent and deposit.
  1. Try year three in the same manner. What’s one step back from what you need to achieve in year four?
  1. Year two is one step back from there. So for the goal I’ve established, this might be writing part time or full time, paid or unpaid, to gain experience and earning an income to save and live on.
  1. Year one. What do you need to do this year to arrive at your year two goals? It could be as little as taking a writing class once a week, starting a blog and submitting articles or stories to competitions and publications.

Year one becomes entirely un-intimidating yet perfectly relevant to where you want to be further down the line. Your personal strengths and weaknesses won’t go away, but with your plan laid out, your strengths will take you much further and your weaknesses become less consuming. Refer back to the plan once or twice a year, just in case you’ve forgotten something wonderful.

See you at the beach house.


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