How to plan for your business and why this might surprise you

Carrie and John Jantsch at Google HQ in Mountainview, CA. We served as 2 of the 5 Small Business Experts to Google for a consultancy project.


Today’s guest contributor is my friend and colleague, John Jantsch. Things I love about John besides his wicked smart small business expertise? His love of Converse shoes, his adoration of his wife and daughters, that great smile and the fact that he doesn’t take himself too seriously! Read on…


by John Jantsch:

Once a quarter my staff and I take the entire day to create a strategic plan for the coming year. The process, and its ongoing nature, is something I call Commitment Planning. This is a practice that I highly recommend, but perhaps not for the reason you may assume.

Lots of companies completely neglect the need for planning and some that do it consistently view it as a way to determine new things they want to address in the year ahead.

To me, the greatest benefit of any planning session is to decide what not to do.

There’s always more to do than you can possibly get done and what happens all too often is that we give a little attention to a lot of things and effectively water down what should be our priorities.

When we plan the right way, we look long and hard at what makes us money and (hopefully) find ways to focus on doing more of that better, rather than thinking up more of something to divert our attention.

I recently hired my own business coach and one of the first things we focused on was getting me to stop doing things that don’t make sense and start spending more concentrated time on my highest payoff activities.

This idea holds true for entire organizations as well and one of the best ways to get to the heart of what’s holding you back is planning.

The first planning principle you must embrace however, is that the goal of the process is to help you limit what you are going to do and do well. Instead of creating a laundry list of wants and dreams, your charge in the planning process is to create a very small list of objectives and goals grounded in the overriding purpose of the business. Everyone in the organization then must commit to this list. From your small list you can carve out a requisite number of strategies and tactics that support these business objectives.

In fact, your aim is to create a total plan outline that fills no more than one sheet of paper. (No 6pt type allowed.)

Note also that we’re not spending the day to make a business plan or create a marketing plan – plans aren’t the secret, planning is. It’s the continuous process of planning, acting, measuring and planning that moves the organization in the direction of its goals.

Using and teaching a continuous planning process like this is one of the ways you empower your staff to know they are taking right action on the most important things at all times and knowing this brings a confidence that in itself is a commitment generator.

Commitment planning is a management style that frees your people to be creative instead of forcing them to be bound by a process only system driven activity.

Planning is not a one-day event or even year-end activity. Sure, there may be certain time bound planning periods that occur naturally, say at the end of a quarter, but the real way to keep commitment alive is to live it through a creative process that allows everyone to focus on the things that matter most.

The planning process is all about finding the kind of simple clarity that is so often missing in the “what should we do next” business management style. Focus on identifying two or three key priority, think big, bust through constraints and don’t waiver.

No matter what exact process you use for planning, with a one page plan and simple of your committed priorities in hand you can analyze any idea in about two seconds and determine if you should pursue it or dismiss it. Focusing on your strengths and finding ways to turn them into even greater assets is how individuals and organizations realize their potential.

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author. The ideas in this post are drawn from his most recent work – The Commitment Engine – Making Work Worth It.

Find more information and special offers for his book at


Carrie says ~ This book is excellent! I suggest you go grab the resources and add it to the reading list for business growth!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • HectorBlitz

    Have a spreadsheet template for Commitment Planning?

  • Carrie Wilkerson

    You will have to check out his resource page

  • HectorBlitz


  • Scott Ely

    Hi Carrie – that is a great reminder. I have always fought with the tendency to create crazy “to do” lists that even a super hero couldn’t accomplish and then get bogged down majoring in the minors and spending gobs of time on things that ultimately add very little value and revenue. I’ve found that the shorter I can keep my list of goals and objectives the more profitable it tends to be – especially when I remember to focus on my strengths and remember to delegate and delete when necessary (have always struggled with delegating). Your teaching and counsel has been a God send for me and I find that I need to replay it and re-read it often! Thanks!

  • Carrie Wilkerson

    Great thoughts!

  • Pete Evans

    Carrie. These is great information. I agree that we often spend time planning lots of things and trying to focus on everything. It is essential that we focus on less and do the things we are focusing on really well.

  • ducttape

    Pete – so true. When I started doing planning this way it was also incredibly freeing as well and allowed me to contribute my best work to the highest priorities.

  • ducttape

    Amen Scott! Why is it that those minor things seem to make the most noise too? And you’re right one the things you have to do and I know Carrie preaches is continue to ground yourself over and over again in those high payoff things.

  • ducttape

    Hector – we do have a few tools that you might find useful – As of yet we have not published them as they are really used internally and with clients, but send me an email – john [a] ducttapemarketing [d] com and I’ll send you what we use.

  • ducttape

    Thanks Carrie – fond memories of that bike shot!

  • Pete Evans

    Its incredible what clarity you get when you focus on just a few high priority tasks!

  • Carrie Wilkerson

    THIS is when I knew we were kindred spirits ;) lol

  • onie

    great bike.

  • adeel khan
  • adeel khan
  • Carrie Wilkerson


  • Carrie Wilkerson


  • Ashutosh

    Thanks Carrie for your sharing your deep thoughts once again.
    Its really difficult to segregate between the things that must be done and what not to be done. A good planning doesn’t always works about finding the things to be done. Finding out what not to be done is another way towards our approach to success. At least, we know the ways that won’t take us towards success. If we know what not to do, automatically we have narrowed down the alternatives that takes us to our destination of success. Thanks a ton for enriching us with your thoughts.