Creating a development plan is intimidating as a business owner. In business, there is always the next step owners have in the back of their minds. Whether it’s a new operations strategy, doubling profits, improving leadership skills, or new service or product lines. There’s always a next step towards growth and a new set of skills to learn. That’s where a development plan can come in handy.
A development plan will help you create steps to take on your journey to achieve that “next”. It will aid you in discovering the skills and knowledge necessary to achieve your desired result. So, let’s not make this intro too long and dive into how you can step into your future starting now using a development plan.
- Ask yourself where you want to be in 10 Years.
The first step to any development plan is having a set of goals. Take a moment to envision where you want to be in 10 years. If 10 years is too far out, envision where you want to be in one year, three years, or five years. It doesn’t really matter what time span you choose as long as you have a timestamp and a set of goals in mind. Without these factors, you won’t be able to build a plan and reach your desired destination in a timely manner.
What if I don’t have goals, yet?
If you don’t have a goal in mind, but you want to improve in your role as an owner, ask yourself what you want to gain from your professional development. Have you noticed that you are on top of your financials but have seen that operations are suffering lately? Have you noticed that you are struggling to convey messages as completely as you can see them in your mind? Did you see another business owner speak at an event and thought that you’d love to do that? Analyze the repetitive thoughts or dreams you’ve been having and create goals out of them. Alternatively, envision the type of business owner you’d like to be in a few years, and right down the specific details of that vision. Once you have a vision or goals in mind, you can work backwards to the skills, experiences or knowledge you will need to reach what’s in your future. I will talk more about that in a later section.
Set a Date
Now you have a goal in mind. Maybe you want to speak at a large event in front of potential clients or customers two years from now. Or perhaps you want to become a more empathetic leader? Do you want to double profits in one year? No goal is a bad goal, but a solid goal is specific and measurable. Set the date at which you want to achieve your goal and tie measurable metrics to the goal if possible.
- Determine what knowledge, skills, or experience you need to get to your goals.
Often, business owners are focused on meeting licensure or minimum hours to continue their careers. Architecture, accounting, law, and many other industries require that individuals meet certain requirements to continue practicing in their area of expertise. If this is you, you might be focused on skating by and doing the minimum to meet industry requirements. But we all know that attending a class or course doesn’t mean you’re automatically learning. That’s why a development plan is so important. Having goals or a vision allows you to create a development plan to level up your business and guides you to the skills necessary to do so.
When determining the skills, experience, or knowledge necessary to reach your next goal, look to role models or reliable sources. If you are looking to learn more about public speaking, look to a business owner or mentor who is already doing so. Ask them what skills they developed to be a better speaker. You may also reach out to someone on your team if they have the skills you are after.
You might try looking at organizations or associations that specialize in the area of expertise you are looking to learn. There are organizations dedicated to sales, marketing, public relations, and much more. You may approach one of these organizations or attend an event to pick the brains of some of the most accomplished professionals in the industry and ask what skills you need to reach your vision for the future.
If you are in a regulated industry, you might also try researching if the regulating body of your industry has resources on the area of expertise you are looking to learn more about. In the accounting industry, accountants must earn on average 40 CPE credits per year (sometimes more or less; each state has their own requirements) to keep their licensure active. NASBA is an organization that helps accountants stay up to date on their credits and provides guidelines for different kinds of CPE accountants can earn. For example, accountants can earn CPE in the Marketing and Communications field of study or other fields of study such as Economics. So, if an accountant wanted to become better at marketing their firm, they could take CPE in the Marketing and Communications field of study. They would earn credits towards their licensure requirement while also attaining skills to work towards their development goal.
- Identify the resources that will help you gain the experience you need.
Once you know the skills, knowledge, and experience you will need to reach your future goals, you can begin identifying the resources necessary to get you there. These resources come in many different formats. Courses, seminars, webinars, bootcamps, shadowing mentors, and events are all great ways to gain the skills and knowledge you need to develop into your next goal.
One trap many business owners fall into is credentialing. While credentials can make you more marketable and can sometimes help you gain skills, many business owners begin earning credentials for the sake of it. Being able to add an acronym after your name can feel rewarding, but credentials for the sake of credentials is never a win-win. Instead, start by determining if a certain credential could gain you more clients or customers and whether that credential will send you down the path of gaining the skills and knowledge you are after.
Overall, it’s important to look for the resources that reflect how you learn the best and get the knowledge you are hoping to obtain.
- Present your plan to an advisor or mentor.
Once you have created a development plan with your goals, deadlines, skills needed, and resources to reach your goals, you are ready to seek the advice of an advisor or mentor. A trusted advisor can give you feedback on any blind spots they notice or provide commentary based on their own similar experience. They may suggest skills you haven’t found in your research that may help you to reach your aspirations. Of course, it’s ideal to make sure that your advisor is someone who knows you well and will provide transparent feedback in a positive manner.
Beyond just gaining feedback on your plan, having an advisor aware of your goals can help keep you accountable. Having that trusted individual to keep us accountable to our goals plays a substantial role in our likelihood of following through. If possible, plan a check-in every six months with your advisor to present the progress you’ve made so far.
When I decided to go for my SHRM-CP early in my tenure at Summit, I told my advisors at my 6-month review that I wanted to have achieved this designation by my one-year anniversary. Having my advisors and mentors aware of this goal pushed me to achieve this goal by my one-year review rather than taking 18 to 24 months (the average for this designation).
The next step is perhaps the hardest. Now it’s time to execute your plan! Now that you have a timetable in which you’d like to reach your goals, you can set up time frames in which you’d like to acquire each skill needed to reach that goal. This part means working backwards from where you want to be. Breaking your plan into steps based on the skills you need will make the overall goal feel more achievable and help you feel closer to the finish line.
I hope this blog post has helped you begin planning your next adventure. Your development plan will come in handy as you take steps forward towards your next goal. Just remember, take one step at a time and you will reach your destination in no time.