It was 1989, and we were two years into our first business venture. The scene was a small apartment in Monterey, California, where my husband Mario and I lived at the time. After graduate school, I had said “no” to the corporate track and “yes” to our dream of having our own business. With the $5000 we had set aside for my engagement ring, we took the plunge and started our first business together.

To keep us afloat, Mario kept his job as a waiter, working days with me on our dream and shuffling Mexican food at night. While I had spent 2 years getting my MBA, I quickly realized that that no schooling could truly prepare us for the life of an entrepreneur. Now, two years in, we were feeling frustrated and concerned. Despite our efforts, the hours were long, cash was incredibly tight, profit margins were minuscule and the stress of the business was wearing on our marriage.

It happened, that at about this time, my Dad and mom came to visit from Ohio. Because our apartment was so small, they stayed in a nearby hotel and hung out with us during the day. Looking back, I remember feeling incredibly self-conscious, as my Dad witnessed firsthand the whirlwind of activity that was our business at the time.

You see, all my life I had watched my Dad excel as an entrepreneur. He had started with nothing and over the years, built numerous business, employed hundreds of people and provided nicely for his family. Having him see the “under belly” of our business was embarrassing.

About three days in, I think he had seen enough and attempted to offer some help. After a number of questions, all of which made me incredibly uncomfortable, I remember him saying…

“Let’s get out your plan, sweetie, and see if I can help.”

“Well, we have a plan, Dad, but it’s not really written down on paper.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Well I had an idea of where we were headed when we first started, but the more we learned and the more we saw what was working and what wasn’t, things kept on changing.” I could tell he was thinking about how to respond. Wondering how forthright he should be with me.

It was time to come clean. “I guess you could say that we don’t really have a plan, Dad.”

He paused and then asked… “How’s that working for you, sweetie?”

His question hung in the air. I felt awful. I had an MBA for God’s sake… I knew better.

And so it began… my first lesson on business planning from my Dad.

In the weeks and months that followed, Mario and went back to the drawing board and looked at where we wanted to take the business based on all we had learned in those first years. At my Dad’s urging we got clear about where we wanted to go so we could lay the path to get there. “You can’t hit a target you can’t see, so begin with the end in mind.” This was my first lesson in vision crafting.

After getting clear about where we wanted to be 5, 2 and 1 year from then, we began to create a plan for the year ahead. I remember my resistance. I don’t have time for this. Why create a plan, it’s only going to change? Or the real resistance… if I create a plan and it doesn’t happen then I will have failed.

While I’m paraphrasing for my Dad, his message was loud and clear,

“Your business plan is nothing more than a series of goals, projects, and steps you need to take to get to where you want to go.”

In the months that followed we began to see a shift. We stopped changing direction every few weeks, we adjusted our pricing, identified our best-selling products and refined our marketing. But these weren’t the only changes that took place as a result of our plan. Something had shifted inside Mario and me. We were communicating more effectively, feeling more confident, being more productive and having a lot more fun. I remember marveling at how getting a plan on paper had such a dramatic impact on our overall success.

I guess you could say it worked. We eventually grew that business to $2.5 million in revenues before selling it in 1999. Since then, Mario and I have started six additional businesses, each time beginning with the steps I am sharing with you in this blog series. After investing time in crafting a compelling vision, we laid out a plan that would take us from where we are to where we wanted to be. In fact the only business for which I failed to take these steps fizzled and died on the vine.

So, my friend, where are you in relationship to planning? If you are like most entrepreneurs I’ve met, you know it’s importance, you eventually want to do it, but you’ve not yet gotten the job done. If that’s your story, it’s OK. Over the next two days I’ll be sharing some insights and strategies to get you started. If you already have a plan to grow your business that has your projects and priorities broken down by quarter and month so you always know where to focus your efforts, well done. I’ll still invite you along for the ride, knowing one small distinction could be the thing that catapults your plan and your growth into high gear.

Can I address everything around planning in one blog? Absolutely not! But what I can do is begin to create the same paradigm shift I experienced way back in 1989, when my Dad showed me the power of purposeful planning.

Here’s for a special gift I want to share with you:  Annual Planning Guide To Your Best Year Yet.

What I’d like to know is where are you on the planning paradigm? How does planning show up in your business? Share your comments below.

As a reminder from yesterday’s blog…

I’m giving you an opportunity to participate as my guest in an upcoming program I’m offering called the Accelerated Business Breakthrough Experience.

All you need to do to enter the drawing for free admission is to grab this year’s edition of my Annual Planning Guide To Your Best Year Yet. If you want to increase your chances of winning, simply post a comment, pose a question, share a win, or celebrate an insight below. Each post equals an entry in the final drawing to be announced on December 21, during my Best Year Yet Live Masterclass.