In today’s episode, we chat with Laura Posey. Laura is the founder of Simple Success Plans– a company that helps other business owners create a perfectly customized plan to build their dream business all on just one sheet of paper.
Laura left the corporate world after feeling like she asked too many questions and was unmanageable. She started Simple Success Plans in order to do what she loves the most… helping business owners.
“We are opportunity-seeking, risk-tolerant people, which is great for starting a business– you have to be both those things to jump off the corporate ladder, and go on your own. The problem is that those two things make it terrible for actually running and sustaining a business,” says Laura.
We’ll chat about her one-page plan and what business owners get tripped up on, as well as…
- Where she sees business owners struggle most
- What she believes separates successful businesses from other businesses
- That time she almost fell off a mountain
- How she came up with the one-page plan
Mentioned in this episode:
Adam Lean: In this episode, we’re going to talk about how to create a simple and solid plan to grow your business. We’re going to find out how with just one sheet of paper you can get focused, organized and know exactly what to do today and every day to make your entrepreneurial dream your reality. This is P is for Profit.
Adam: Welcome to P is for Profit. My name is Adam and I along with the rest of the team at theCFOproject.com are passionate about helping business owners improve the profitability of their business. My guest today is a business owner who helps other business owners create the perfect customized plan to build your dream business all on a single sheet of paper. Laura, welcome to the show.
Laura Posey: Thanks for having me, Adam. I’m really glad to be here today.
Adam: So I’m excited to jump in and find out how you do this. You know, we work, we know from working with many business owners is that if you fail to plan, you’ll end up just planning to fail. So before we dive in, tell us who you are and why you started working with business owners.
Why Laura Assists Business Owners
Laura: Yeah, so I came out of sales and sales management in the insurance industry and discovered fairly quickly after I got into management that I am not cut out for corporate work. Apparently, I asked too many questions and I’m unmanageable. So I left big corporate and started a sales training company, working training sales teams, and I realized very quickly I wasn’t enjoying that. So I thought, well, I know a lot of small business owners don’t know how to sell.
Let me do a sales training company for small business owners. And as I started to get into working with owners, I would ask them questions like well, what are your sales goals this year? And they say, Well, I don’t know, maybe we should grow 20% Okay, well, why 20? Why not 10 or 25 or 100? And they’re like, I don’t know. 20 seems like a good idea. And I’d ask that one question that never could get answered.
I’m like, What are you ultimately trying to build here? And nobody could tell me. And so I thought, this is kind of crazy. And I realized at the same time that I couldn’t answer the question for myself either. And so I took a sabbatical, if you will, to Sedona, Arizona and created my first one-page plan for myself and brought it back and started testing it with my clients.
And magic happened. And so I, you know, as so many business owners do, they always say, therapists go into therapy because they have problems themselves and they need the therapy themselves. And the best way to learn something is teach it. And so I did that same path. I needed to plan for my business, and I needed to know what I was building. And then it turns out that lots of other people needed the same thing.
Adam: So that makes sense. I have several questions for you. It’s very interesting. So I guess the first thing I wanted to touch on is, you know, I’ve heard, you mentioned that, you know, you were just unmanageable in the corporate environment. You know, I’ve worked with several business owners, and why do you think that is? And they all sort of, we all sort of share that same sentiment. We’re just not cut out for corporate life. But there’s a deeper reason why. Why do you think that is? And why are we business owners?
Laura: You know, I think it’s a couple of things. I think, for me, part of it is impatience. Like when I get an idea, and I think it’s good, I want to run with it. And being locked in a corporate bureaucracy where Oh my god, now we’re going to have 25 meetings and this one simple thing is going to take a year to get done. And by then the opportunities probably past. That drove me insane. All of the dumbing down that happens in corporate, right?
We get all these group things that happening, you’re not allowed to really be original and really test and try new things. There’s the, corporations are so risk-averse. And that drives me insane. And honestly that when I asked questions, if people would just, even, there was this sense of like, Oh, well, I don’t know the answer. Don’t worry about it. Somebody farther up the food chain has obviously thought about this and made this decision. And I’m like, Okay, I’m not arguing with a decision. I just want to understand it, right?
I just want to know, why are we doing this thing? I mean, I left corporate because I was in sales and sales management. And, you know, I don’t know if you’ve ever been in sales, but one of the things people like is commission and the ability to earn unlimited income. And I left because they started capping our income. They said, once you hit 105% of quota, we’re not gonna pay you anymore. That’s it. And we were doing that by September of every year. And I was like, well you’re not gonna pay me, I’m not gonna show up. I’ll just come back in January.
And they’re like, No, no, no, that’s not how this works. And why, like, I was like, Well, why are you doing this? And what I learned with it, somebody about three levels up the food chain was upset that a bunch of us sales managers were making more money than he was. So his idea was to lock us down. And from a sales perspective, I’m going well, why don’t you just raise our quota? Right? Like, if you’re really that pissed off, like, do something that’s a win-win, right? You know, this is going to help you too, buddy. Like, you’re going to sell more. And so it was that sort of dumb decision making that drove me insane.
Adam: Yeah. And, you know, that makes sense. And the reason why I asked is because, you know, I completely agree that we’re, the reason why all of us and all of us listening are business owners and entrepreneurs because we like being able to run with ideas and do things and take, you know, manageable risk and try new things. But the downside of that is that we end up chasing, you know, 20 different rabbits in 20 different directions, which is why I’m assuming that you advocate for coming up with a plan. So tell us about your, the one-page plan that you mentioned earlier.
If You Fail to Plan…
Laura: Yeah. So one of the things that I discovered about business owners is exactly to your point, is that we are opportunity-seeking risk-tolerant people, which is great for starting a business, right? You have to be both those things to jump off the corporate ladder and go in on your own. The problem is that those two things make it, make you terrible for actually running and sustaining a business because you are always chasing lots of things.
The cure for that is constraint, is to sit down with a really clear mind and a really clear space and decide what it is that you really want to build and focus solely on building that. And force yourself to only do the things that will directly build it. And so I always use the analogy of building a house. You can have any kind of house that you want. If you follow a few simple steps. You first of all have to imagine what the house is going to look like. Like what style is it going to be? Is it going to be traditional or modern?
Is it going to be one story or two story? Is it going to, you know, how many bedrooms is it going to have? How many bathrooms? Is it going to be an open floor plan? Is there going to be a big stone fireplace? Do you want a pool? You have to think about all the things that you want and then you work with somebody to sketch it out. So you take the ideas that are in your head, you get them on paper, and then once you can see what it is that you’re building, that you want to build, then you work with an architect to create a blueprint, which is just a really detailed set of plans to build this dream house.
And then once you have the blueprint, you can create a punch list or task list of all the millions of things that have to happen to build this house and the order in which they have to do them. And the cool thing about doing that is that when you go through that process, you can go hire a bunch of minimum wage workers to build your dream house.
I mean, the guy next door to me is doing a million dollar renovation on the house. And not only is everybody over there that’s been working on this project likely a close to minimum wage worker, they don’t even all speak the same language. But they’re doing this million dollar renovation. It’s the same thing with building a business. If you will take the time to figure out what it is you really want to build, get a super clear picture of it, write that down, take the time to map out what it is you really, really want. Then create that blueprint, which is what the one-page plan is.
From that one-page plan, you can create the task list. And we don’t recommend that you try to write out all the tasks at once. We do them one quarter at a time. But then you can decide which of those tasks you’re going to do and which ones you’re going to outsource. But every single thing that you’re doing, you know is directly connected to building what it is that you want. And unfortunately, most business owners do the equivalent of taking whatever money they have, running down to the nearest home supply store and going Oh, I’m going to build this house so I need some shingles.
And I know there’s windows. Oh look nails. I should have nails. Two by fours. I’m going to need a bunch of those. And I just buy whatever they can and run home and start slapping it together. And then they wonder why what they built is unstable, unsustainable. Not what they want. It’s killing them. And so when you flip that around, and you use that health building process, you can build your dream business step by step and stop wasting time and money doing all the wrong stuff.
Adam: So okay, so of the four steps that you have here, imagine what the house will look like, sketch it out then blueprint it, which is your one-page business plan, and then come up with a checklist of things that need to be done in order. Of the four, which one is, do most business owners get tripped up on or do wrong?
Laura: They skip the first one. They skip it. Well, you know what, actually, I take that back. I think it’s a combination of one and two, right? They don’t have a clear enough picture of what they want. They’re like, I’m going to start a business and have lots of time and money freedom, but they don’t really think about, well, how much time do I really want?
How much money do I really want? What else do I want? What else is this business going to do for me? So we always make them start not just with a business vision, but with a life vision, right? What kind of life do you want? And then let’s build a business that delivers that for you. And then I think most of them don’t take the time to really write down very clearly what it is they’re trying to build.
It’s all this vague, fuzzy, like I don’t know. I want to get bigger. I want a big business. I want people working for me. I don’t want to do the work. I want to have millions of dollars in my bank account. I want to be able to travel whenever and wherever I want to go. Well, okay, those are nice concepts. You know, it’s like, well, how much money do you really want? Because I hear a lot of people I want a million dollars.
Why? Like, I don’t know, it just sounds like a good number. Because they will say, what are you going to do when you have it? Where are you going to put it? What’s it gonna do for you? How’s your life going to change? And it’s so funny because I find the most people that start out with a million dollars in their head end up somewhere around the three to 400,000 range when they’re, when they really figure out what they really want. And suddenly, instead of having this Oh God, I gotta build a seven-figure business they go holy crap. I could just build like, a half-million-dollar business that’s really profitable, and have everything I want. Piece of cake.
Adam: What if you’ve been in business for a couple of years? Let’s say a business owners been in business for two years and there, they’ve been, you know, working 70 hour weeks and they’re trying to wear all the hats and they’re, where do you suggest they go? Is it a vision problem? Are they are they not
Laura: Almost always.
Adam: Okay, so what do you suggest the steps they take?
Envision Your Desired Result
Laura: I think you sit down in a really clear place. Get out of the stress, get out of the day to day, get away from your computer, go someplace that makes you happy and sit down and start dreaming about what you really want your life to look like, right? How much do you want to work? What kind of things do you want to do in your job?
Where do you want to live? Do you want to have one house? Multiple houses? Do you want to be a digital nomad? How much money to really want flowing into your bank account on a regular basis? So that means annually, monthly. How do you want to be engaged with your family? What kind of hobbies Do you want to engage in? And what do you want to be able to be doing with your friends? Because those all impact your time and money choices.
And then ultimately, what do you want to have to give back, right? When you’ve satisfied all of your needs, how much do you want to have to return to the world? And get really clear on that because once you know that, then you can understand well how, what does my business have to look like to deliver the time and money freedom that I want on the personal side? And once you’re clear about what the constraints are on your business, right?
How much money you earn is a constraint. How much free time you have is a constraint. And once you understand what those are, there’s your boundaries. They’re perimeters. Once you know what those are, then you can start looking at your business and saying, Okay, well, what kind of business will get me there, right? So if you’re, if you want to be a digital nomad, you’re probably not going to have an office with a bunch of people in it and a bunch of overhead, right?
But maybe you want an office and you want people in the office and you want to build something that’s in your community that makes a big impact in your local market. Okay, that’s a different kind of business than an online business. And so when you really start to think about it, it becomes very clear what it is that you want to build. And you can draw it out and write it down really easily. And then when you do that your brain is just magical. It’s so freakin smart. It can look at that and go, Oh, well, I can see how to get there. Like, if that’s what you’re really trying to build now that it’s clear, I could totally make that happen.
Adam: Yeah, I mean, that completely makes sense. So let me ask you this. What, in your experience working with business owners what separates successful business owners from those that just always seem to struggle?
Laura: I think it’s a couple of things. You know, we already talked about clarity of vision and really knowing what it is that they want. I think the other thing that I see really successful business owners do is slowing down, taking the time to do a plan because that focused them. And really good business owners say no to many more things when they say yes to. They say yes to things that are on their plan and they say no, or not now at least, to everything else.
I encourage everybody because business is, we’re idea-generating freaks and we see opportunity in everything. So I encourage everybody to have what we call a not now list. So when you’re working through your planning with suddenly you’ve got all these brainstorms like I should do this, it’s not on your plans, get you’re not now list and write it down over there. And then when you’ve gotten stuck on your plan done, go get your not now list and go Okay, what do I want to do from here?
And an amazing thing happens when you get some space from those ideas and you’re not now list you’ll go through and 95% of them you’re going to look at and go well, that was stupid. I’m so glad I didn’t do that. And so it just saves you so much time and money. You’re not building the wrong things. You’re not buying the wrong stuff. You know, you didn’t go down to Lowe’s and go, Oh my God, that’s a beautiful bathtub and then get home and go, I have nowhere to put this thing.
Adam: Yeah, that makes sense. So I was reading on your website the time where you almost fell off a mountain. Can you tell us about that? What happened? And because that led you to come up with this concept of, you know, you lead business owners through with the one-page business plan.
A Mountainous Epiphany
Laura: Yeah, so I had built a good sales training business. The problem was that I hated every single minute of it. I hated my business partner. I hated my clients. I hated overhead, the head of an office. And we had employees. Like I just, I felt trapped. I was getting up every day and putting on a suit and going to work and I thought this is just like corporate except now all the risk is mine. And everybody else gets paid before me, like this is all the worst of corporate and none of the good stuff like health insurance.
And so I, truly I ran away. I left home. I went to Sedona, Arizona, with the intent of figuring out how to get out of my business. Like, how do I get out of this thing and not lose my shirt? And I was hiking up on the way to Cathedral Rock. I’ve gotten up one morning, I’m like, I’m going to go take a hike, clear my head. Went for a hike and I came around this corner on the trail, and the trail just changed.
Like it just went kind of straight up this rock face. And I’d never been out there before. So I thought, Okay, well, I can do this. It’s not that far. I’m in good shape. I start climbing up this rock face and I get up there and realize I am not nearly in good enough shape to do this. And I like, my arms and legs started to shake. And I’m looking up and thinking I don’t think I can finish this.
I looked down I can’t see my handholds and footholds how I got up there. And I’m thinking, all right, I’m just gonna die. I’m going to fall off this thing. Nobody knows I’m out here. And they’re going to find my carcass after the coyotes in the buzzards clean it up. Like, I don’t, I really didn’t know what else to do. And so I turned my head, I started looking around and I looked over my shoulder and what I saw was the actual trail.
And I realized that the trail had turned and I had gone the wrong way. And I was just off the trail. And so thankfully, I was able to sort of scramble over sideways and get back onto the trail. And I finished the hike and I got up to the top of it at Cathedral Rock and I sat down, you know, heart’s still pounding and just kind of went, what happened? And I realized that I had approached that hike exactly the same way that I had approach building my business.
I had just gotten up and going, Okay, I’m going to go work hard. And I’m just going to go for a walk and it’ll be fine. I’m smart. I’m in shape. I can do this. And I’ve gotten myself in trouble. I didn’t have a map. I didn’t have any water. Nobody knew where I was. I was completely unprepared. And I realized I had done the same thing with my business. I had built a business without a map. Without understanding what I wanted to do without any preparation. I didn’t have the right supplies.
And I had built a nightmare. And so I went back and I created that first plan and said, alright, obviously this is not what I want. What do I want? I really, really need not only time and money freedom, but I need location freedom. It’s really important to me, and you can’t have that when you have a training facility. And you have to show up every day and people come and sit in seats and you teach them the same thing over and over again. You know, I need novelty in the things that I’m doing and I was missing all of that.
Adam: And that was in the first, imagine what the house will look like.
Laura: Exactly, yeah. And it, you know, it’s good that I was into though and I was in a different place. I was really able to separate myself and get clear about Okay, if I have to start over because I had gone there thinking I was going to quit and start over anyway, so that was sort of helpful. So okay, if I’m going to start over, what do I really want to build? What is this business really going to look like? And you know, step one, no business partner.
Like, he’s a great guy but we were, you know, sometimes a partner is a one plus one equals three. And we did that about once a year, the rest of the time we were one minus one equals zero. We just canceled each other out. You know, and I was like, Okay, I should have started with a list of all the stuff I didn’t want. And then thought, okay, what’s the opposite of that, right? I don’t want office overhead. I don’t want employees that are WG workers. I don’t want to have to wear a suit. I don’t want to be stuck, just working locally.
And then, you know, flip that around and said, okay, what’s the opposite of that? That’s what I really want. And that helped me get really clear on, you know, oh, I want a business where my clients pay me to go really cool places. And I have a home base but I can travel and you know, I can get in the car, I’m getting ready to do what I call a relationship road trip, where I just hop in the car and I go drive around and meet clients that I only know online. I meet joint venture partners that I work with. I get face to face with people that I only know through a screen. It just changes our relationship. And so, you know, clearly that I want to be able to do those things.
Adam: Yeah, that makes sense. So this may be a rhetorical question because I think I know the answer, but if if you go back in time when you first started your first business, what’s one piece of advice you’d give younger you?
Entrepreneurs Don’t Have to go it Alone
Laura: You know, obviously, I would start with a plan. But I think the biggest thing I would tell like myself is don’t try to do it on your own. Don’t think that just because you’ve been successful at something else that you’re going to be successful at being an entrepreneur. Because when you go it alone, I mean, entrepreneurship can be so isolating. You know, nobody understands what you’re going through except other entrepreneurs.
You know, you can’t, and if you’re feeling uncertain or something like you can’t go home until your partner, I’m really nervous about my business. Cash flow is kind of freaky like, because that just freaks them out. They’re like, Oh, my God, I’m not making money, go get a job. Your friends are just like, I don’t understand. If you’re having a problem with it, just go get a job, right?
You know, nobody, you can’t go to your if you’ve got employees or contractors, you can’t go to them and say, Gosh, I’m really nervous about the future of the company, right? You have to get together with other entrepreneurs. You’ll have to find people, you know, obviously, you need advisors who have walked in your shoes who can show you the path. So you don’t have to discover it yourself. But you also need those people to walk alongside you.
People who are at the same place because sometimes, you know, those of us who are farther down the path, we can tell you how to get where we are but we sometimes forgotten how hard it is or how scary it is to be in those other places. And so you want to have a group of folks around you that know what it’s like to be you and who can go oh yea, I am going through the same thing. Because I think a lot of entrepreneurs feel like they’re, you know, when they’re lacking confidence, when they’re unsure, when they’re scared, when they’re worried.
They feel like they’re the only one. And when they get around other entrepreneurs, they go, Oh, no, like, everybody’s like that, Even I mean, I know guys that are running, I have a client that’s running about a $7 million business that he was getting ready to sell for way too little money because he was he’d lost a couple of contracts. He was really worried about the future of the company and he mostly he was doubting himself. He said, I don’t know that I can run this business, I think I need to sell it and just work in it.
And he’s got a board of directors that I managed with him. And we also do. We’re like, you’ve got this, this is temporary. Everybody talked him through it. They ended up not selling the company and then just a few short months later, he closed a contract for $750,000. So, you know, massive win erased all of the negativity. Now he’s like, I’m king of the world, right? But he would have just made a really bad decision without having that group of advisors around him.
Adam: Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s being a business owner is a very lonely endeavor and it helps to have somebody or several people around you that know what you’re going through and understand that can help you. Like you said, help you see your blind spots.
Laura: And, you know, it doesn’t matter how big your business is. Like it starts when you open the doors on the day one. But I mean, this guy’s been in business for 20 years and he’s still worried about his ability to run this company. You know, I hate to tell people like it never goes away. It gets better when you’ve got a plan and you’re like, Okay, I just need to go do these things and it’ll be okay. And when you go do those things, it will be okay. It really goes a long way to helping that confidence and getting rid of the worry and fear.
Adam: Yeah, makes sense. So, Laura, thank you so much for being here. One last question for you. Where can people find you?
Laura: Oh, yeah, so I am it simplesuccessplans.com, that’s plural. And there’s, obviously they can engage with me there, they can reach out and talk to me. We’ve got lots of free resources there. They can download their free daily success checklist.
I’m getting ready to put a new freebie out there which we call the procrastination matrix, which is a really cool simple little tool that in a couple of minutes will get rid of all of your procrastination forever. Yeah, it’s a really cool thing. I’m just putting the finishing touches on it right now. So that’ll be up there very shortly. And we’ve got lots of other free resources to help entrepreneurs grow and get focused and plan.
Adam: Yeah, there is a lot of stuff on Laura’s website. So definitely check it out at the simplesuccessplans.com. We’ll also put that in the show notes. Laura, thank you so much for being here.
Laura: Thank you for having me, Adam. This is, obviously I’m excited and passionate about planning and helping entrepreneurs grow. So thank you for giving me the opportunity to help some more folks.Adam: Yeah, well, thank you. So if you’d like to see if Laura can help you with your business, please reach out on her website and we’ll put that in the show notes. Until then, if you would like to speak to somebody about how to improve the profitability of your business. You can also visit thecfoproject.com and click on book a call.