Life Plan Before Business Plan

Life Plan Before Business PlanThis blog post kicks off a three part series on Start-up Success for Small Business Trends.  This first blog post is about a step in business planning that is often overlooked.  Part II, we’ll look at “Working from home?” and Part III will be about the “Top reasons why start-up businesses fail and what you can do about it.”

Many people dream about owning a small business. You may be one of those people who have had a “notion” for years that someday you would be president of a company, successful beyond your wildest dreams. Turning that dream into reality is an evolutionary process. It involves not only having a solid business idea but also knowing the “business of running a business.”  You will need to get your arms around stuff like accounting, marketing, and operations, but before you dive into crunching numbers for your business plan, consider this:

It is my strong belief that would-be entrepreneurs need to develop a life plan before they ever write a business plan.  Why, you ask?

Because entrepreneurs who don’t get clear about what they want from life run the risk of starting a business that might not be a good business for them.

A life plan is your personal strategic plan for your life goals. Before you develop a business plan, you must first have a life goal.  Everyone should take the time to evaluate how they live. Then, develop a plan to achieve how they really want to live.  Other elements include things like “Where are you a rockstar?”  “What makes you laugh?” “What do you love to do?” “What do you dislike doing?” And “What do you need to learn?” With the answers to these questions you will be clear about what your passions are and how you really need your life to work in order to be successful as an entrepreneur.

Do not make the mistake of assuming what the entrepreneurial lifestyle will be like.   Not everyone is cut out to be a small business owner.  You will go from doing 2-3 jobs in corporate America to doing 10-12 jobs overnight for your own business and every job is important.  The best way to stay motivated in your business is to know you are working towards your personal life goal.

To really get a good picture of your life plan as an entrepreneur, answer the following questions:

  • What kind of lifestyle do you want to have as an entrepreneur?
  • How big do you want your business to get in terms of profits and staff?
  • Will you have employees?
  • How many hours a week will you work?
  • Do you need to meet the school bus every day or take off every Friday?
  • Are you willing to work seven days a week? If so, how long can you keep that up?
  • Will you need a partner and could you handle working with one?
  • How will you fund your household while you start your business?

You may have a great business idea, but you must decide if it’s a good business for you and your family.  Do not trade a soul-sapping job for a business that you hate.   With a life plan you will have a goal, then you can develop a plan that will lead to personal and professional success.

Do you have a life plan for yourself? Tell me, is it making your business planning easier?


Melinda Emerson Melinda Emerson, known to many as "SmallBizLady," is a Veteran Entrepreneur, Small Business Coach and Social Media Strategist who hosts #Smallbizchat for emerging entrepreneurs on Twitter. She is also the author of, Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months.

23 Reactions
  1. I’ve been reading “Switch” by Chip & Dan Heath and this sounds a lot like their chapter “Point to the Destination.” If you don’t have a vision of the goal, one that gets you emotionally involved, you’ll struggle to stay motivated in the face of adversity. And without a clear picture you’ll never know if you’ve actually succeeded in achieving your goal.

  2. That’s a great post Melinda. You’re absolutely right about thye need for setting your own personal goals. I have bveen involved with small business mentoring for some time now. I regularly see people who need help because they are on the brink of failure and I’m always amazed at how few of them have any clear personal goals. In most of these cases I will ask these people to define their goals before I address any business issues with them. I’m looking forward to seeing the next article in the series.

  3. This is so timely for me. Thank you! I have a business plan but not really a life plan. That is about to change!

  4. Great post, Melinda!

    I’ve asked similar questions of the folks I’ve helped find franchise businesses for.

    The one about “partners” is very important. So is this;

    If you get a partner, you’ll have to bring in twice as much revenue! You’re supporting two people, instead of one.

    The Franchise King

  5. Owning a business can be pretty overwhelming. I do know of a great book titled, “The Ultimate Boomer Business Launch Workbook” written by Jeff Williams that does a great job of walking a person through the whole time ownership process. What I love the most is that the book flows in such a way that the reader “doesn’t have to wonder what to do next” – such confusion about what step to take next is a common reason people don’t ever launch what could be a good business.

  6. Melinda Emerson,

    Thanks for pointing out the importance of a life plan in a clear way. I am listening to Edwin Locke’s tape course, Setting Goals to Improve Your Life and Happiness, at the moment. You could find information about his Goal Setting Theory at Short link:

  7. Setting Up Business

    I would like you to know that Setting Up Business is not that easy and it’s not that hard. The most important in wolrd of business is you most commit and add some motivation in work so that this business will bring you into successfull one. But there are times that we fail our business..I think this is part of the business..ahehhe..

  8. Philippa Kennealy MD MPH CPCC PCC

    In retrospect, it is no coincidence that my home-based entrepreneurial coaching business was born in the same year as my daughter. I realize now how impossible it would have been leaving the house at 7:00 AM and returning at 6:00 PM, with every 4th night and weekend on call as a physician in private practice.

    I have been careful to protect my work hour flexibility, the sanctity of my office space within the home (from age 3, my daughter knew to stay away when mom was working) and my sanity by investing in child care as if I were a full-time employee outside the home.

    I, too, am a fierce believer that a fulfilling work lifestyle makes for joy on job, high productivity, and a strong commitment to creating a successful business. Only once that choice is made should a business plan be tackled!

  9. Robert, BizSugar & Elizabeth—

    Thank you so much for your comments on this blog post. After nearly 12 years in business, I have developed a six-step system to transition from a job to start a business which starts with Life Planning. The entire Emerson Planning System is detailed in my book Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months. I think you will find even more great start-up tips inside that we all agree on.

    Continued Success.
    Melinda Emerson

  10. Hi Joel–

    Thank for your comment. You are exactly right. The more partners or employees you have in the business, the more revenue you need to bring in to support them, but it starts with can you even handle co-managing the business with anyone.

    Continues success–
    Melinda Emerson

  11. Becky & Martin—

    Thank you so much for the book and audio link suggestions. I am glad to hear that so many other business resources emphasize life planning. This blog post is part of the Emerson Planning System to transition from a job to small business ownership which I share extensively in my new book Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months.

    Keep researching such great material.

    Continued Success.
    Melinda Emerson

  12. Setting Up Business–

    Thanks for your comment. I am not sure I agree with you about starting a business. It think it is hard, and I think it’s harder than most people think. I develop the six-step Emerson Planning system to help people and make it a lot easier. Read my book and then we can talk about it so more.

    Good Luck.

    Melinda Emerson

  13. Great insights Melinda!

    Indeed it’s always “Family First.” My PR and communication training company is now 10 years old. This has been my “3rd baby”- and I couldn’t have done it without the unwavering support of my husband, our 2 “biological” kids, and a support system of extended family. While there have certainly been challenges, I wouldn’t trade this experience and fulfillment for anything. The lessons I have learned are priceless: priorities, persistence, planning, discipline, sales, communication, self confidence—-I’ll stop here!
    Thank you for sharing!

  14. Having a life plan is key! I work from home so that I can raise my daughter and keep up doing something I love – writing. Thankfully, my husband works fulltime, and we don’t necessarily need the income. But who couldn’t use more income? I think when we recognize why we’re starting a business and what to expect from it, then we have the motivation to see it through to success. We have a clear goal in mind.

  15. Susan & Terez—

    I agree totally. It is so much easier to start your business when you know what you want out of life.

    To your continued success

    Melinda Emerson

  16. Excellent post with many awesome points. I love it! The fact that I planned the kind of life I wanted before starting my business, and I now remain flexible to change both as I go, is a huge competitive advantage. When I started 10 years ago, I was single with no children. When it became clear that my significant other relationship was leading to marriage, I dug deep inside myself to determine what kind of wife and, potentially, mother I wanted to be. Once I decided that I wanted a level of flexibility that my traditional job as a corporate attorney did not offer me, I set a plan in motion.

    One of the things I did was quit my job and take a job making $500 a month from another small business owner so I could learn about how to manage a business. I didn’t make much money, but because my boss was also a parent, I saw first-hand what it took to manage a business, make a profit, juggle parenting, etc., all at the same time. It was a priceless year-long education. It allowed me to settle on a business model that would allow me to be a wife and mother as I built a valuable brand that could last for decades into the future.

    I am so glad you are sharing this invaluable advice, Melinda. Everyone should read this post two or three times and, most importantly, act on it. You have to continually plan your life as your business grows and your life changes. It’s not a one-time thing. It’s an ongoing process, and the sooner you start doing it, the better.

  17. Donna Maria–

    Thank you so much for your comment. You were so wise to work for a small business before you started your own business. Our life plans will change over time as our motivations and priorities will change. I am glad that this blog post is a great resource.

    Here’s to your continued success.


  18. A very good way at looking at the business plan. A lot of people don’t combine the two.


  19. Misfortunes tell us what fortune is