The incredible power of the 90-day business plan.
Why a 90 day business plan?
A 90-day business plan is the Goldilocks of goal setting
Every three months, I write out my goals for the next 90 days.
I believe that 90 days is a short enough timescale not to be overwhelming, but long enough to actually make a difference. After all, most people overestimate what they can achieve in the short term, and underestimate what’s possible in the long term. That’s why I feel a 90-day business plan strikes just the right balance.
You see, ninety days is long enough to achieve something pretty significant. After all, you’re not going to change the world in three months, but you can make some pretty huge lifestyle changes. And, after three months, those are more likely to become habits – things that you do without even thinking about it.
You see, 90 days is just enough time to change WHO you are.
Not too long. And not too short.
How a 90 day business plan changed my life
I’m sorry – who the hell are you?
How rude of me – I haven’t introduced myself.
My name is John Lamerton, and I’m a “normal bloke from Plymouth”, who’s achieved more success than he could ever have dreamed.
You see, my Dad was an electrician, and my mum worked in a sewing factory. Without a silver spoon, I left school at 15 with some half-decent GCSEs and embarked on a career as a civil servant.
Truth be told, that should have been the end of my story. Work hard, get a few promotions, count the days until retirement.
There was one slight problem though – I HATED my job.
And that’s why I launched an Internet Marketing Business.
Which was a little bit difficult, considering I knew nothing about:
But, armed with a copy of “Internet Marketing for Dummies”, I taught myself the basics.
I got myself a mentor, made a LOT of mistakes and did some things well.
Spurred by this success, I kept investing in myself and kept improving every aspect of my business.
Eventually, I quit the day job.
Not long after that, I made £100,000 in a year.
Then I made my first million.
Of course, not long after that I nearly lost the lot, because I stupidly believed I had the magic touch.
But I made it all back again by working harder, and harder. Eventually, I had a big pile of money, but was in terrible health – I was 27, with the body of a 47-year-old. At this point, I was working 100+ hour weeks every single week without respite.
And then everything changed.
That’s when kids came along, and almost overnight my priorities changed.
One day, sat in an MOT garage, reading Alan Sugar’s autobiography, one sentence leapt out at me: “I never really saw my kids much when they were little”.
You see, I’d hoped to emulate Lord Sugar’s success, and build the next Amstrad – a huge conglomerate, with hundreds of people working for me, in offices all over the world. I wanted a skyscraper with my name on it, a yacht in the harbour, and a helicopter on the yacht.
Until that moment, sat in an MOT garage in Plymouth, when I didn’t want any of that.
That was when I realised what I really wanted – to be there for my kids.
It turns out, I wanted an ambitious, lifestyle business.
Introducing.. The 90 day business plan
Almost immediately, I shut down our two offices and told our small team that they could all work from home. I told them that they could work hours that suited them and that we wouldn’t be focusing on “busy work” anymore. Instead, we’d focus on the small number of tasks that really make a big difference.
In short, three BIG things every 90 days.
Then, three “stepping stones” every month.
Each week, we’d work on ONE thing that moves us towards the stepping stones.
And that’s it.
Everything else is just noise.
The 90-day business plan was born.
What’s possible 90 days from now?
That’s because 90 days is a long enough period of time for you to make serious progress towards your goals. Having said that, it’s not so far in the distance that it creates a disconnect – where your goals seem far too big and unassailable.
Here’s a very small selection of some of the stuff that I’ve done in my 90-day plans.
90 day business plans
- Redesigned a company website, making it 700% more effective.
- Created a new telesales department
- Hired a new team
- Written three bestselling books
- Launched three new businesses
- Systematised my entire business operations
- Launched a podcast
- Hired a Managing Director
- Created dozens of killer marketing campaigns.
- Optimised our customer journey.
- Sold two businesses.
- Improved our SEO by 350%
- Outsourced Google Ads and Facebook Ads – reducing our cost per lead by 55%
- Written a 250-email nurture sequence
- Became a regular guest on BBC Radio.
- Recorded more than 150 podcasts.
- Found mentors and mastermind groups to push me, and force me to grow.
90 days in personal finance:
- Started a Buy To Let property portfolio.
- Got my investment funds working harder – increasing annual returns by around 25%
- Started Angel Investing
- Launched a new corporate fund
- Sourced not one, but TWO fantastic advisers who manage my money.
- Educated myself in how to be a financial routine machine.
90 days in my personal life
- Helped my wife quit her job
- Homeschool my two children
- Book all of our “dream” holidays
- Remodel our house, turning it into our dream “forever home”
90 days in health:
- Got into the best shape of my life
- Given up drinking
- Lost a shedload of weight
- Started Intermittent Fasting
- Implemented new gym routines.
- Learned to play golf (badly, still!)
- Taken up boxing (also badly!)
While I lost a few pounds, got punched in the face, and achieved a (very bad) golf handicap, I barely scratched the surface of what’s possible health-wise in 90 short days.
For example, look at what these guys achieved following Joe Wicks’ 90 day SSS plan:
Why is goal setting important?
Of course, if you’ve read any of my books, you’ll have heard me banging on about them – a LOT.
After all, without a goal, how do you know where you’re heading?
How do you know what are you aiming for? What is the destination?
If you don’t know the destination, how do you know if you’re on course?
Imagine this: A Boeing 747 sits on the runway at Heathrow Airport, and wants to fly to JFK Airport in New York. Naturally, the pilots will put together a flight plan, plotting the exact route they’re going to take.
They don’t just take off, turn left and hope for the best.
Instead, they spend the entire flight constantly re-calculating their trajectory, to make sure they stay on the plan.
That’s what you need to do with your goals.
Otherwise, who knows where on earth you might end up…
Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
The Cheshire Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
Alice: “I don’t much care where.”
The Cheshire Cat: “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
Alice: “So long as I get somewhere.”
The Cheshire Cat: “Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”
Alice in Wonderland
How do 90 day plans work?
Choose the three tasks that are going to make the biggest impact on your business (or your life) to get it where you want to be.
The three “lead dominoes” that if you knocked them over would cause a chain reaction, causing huge momentum and creating the kind of domino-knocking-over spree not seen since a “Domino Rally” advert.
You’ll then write down a further three “stepping stone” mini-goals for each month, that will keep you moving towards the big three for the quarter.
If “publishing a book” is one of your big three, then you could add “write 40,000 words” as one of your stepping stones for month one, “get the book proofread and edited” as one of month two’s stepping stones, and month three could see “plan book launch” as one of its three tasks.
Three BIG things per quarter. The massive stuff that moves you forward.
Three stepping stones per month that help you achieve your BIG three.
Nine things in three months that will see your business, and your life, in a much better place just 90 days from now.
Making a 90 day business plan
How do I know that? Because I have kept every single 90 day plan since that date, which shows me not only what I’ve been working on, but what I’ve actually achieved over that time.
Note the evolution, from hand-scribbled on a scrap of paper, to typed-up, to formatted on bright orange paper. Don’t worry too much about making it look pretty – the key to success with 90 day plans lies in writing it down every quarter, and diligently sticking to the plan!
An example 90 day plan.
If sailors ever get lost at sea, they can always find their way back on course by locating the
North Star in the night sky. If you’ve got real clarity and focus on where your long-term strategy is taking you, then your North Star can guide you too.
Your 90 day plan contains the tactics that are going to get you there.
They keep you moving in the right direction towards those annual goals.
You’re going to set three goals every 90 days. They’re going to be pretty big goals (I call them my “big three”). Nothing that you could achieve in a few days.
They all require pretty big effort, lots of moving parts come together, but they are big things that will move your business or your life forward.
You’ll then break down those “big three” goals down further, into monthly “stepping stone” goals.
That’s three big goals for 90 days, and three stepping stones towards the big three every month.
1. Launch a podcast
2. Write a book
3. Relaunch a website
Those are three pretty big goals!
You see, they’re not the sort of things that I could achieve in a weekend or even a week or two.
Oh no, hitting these goals is going to require some pretty hefty work.
So, we’ve got the big three – now, let’s create some stepping stones.
Month one, I can start recording the podcast. I can also get the audio transcribed from the podcasts to create a “first draft” of some chapters for the book. I can also put together a step by step list of everything that needs to happen to relaunch the website.
That’s month one’s stepping stone goals – three actionable items that I can take that move me closer to my three 90-day goals, which will then keep me on track for my overall “north star” goals.
Month two, I will launch the podcast. Get it on iTunes etc., start promoting it. I’ll turn the first six chapters of the book from draft version (which I got transcribed last month) into finished chapters, and have this month’s podcast episodes transcribed for the same purpose. I’ll then get the design and structure of the website relaunch ready to go.
We’re now two months into my 90 day plan, and every step I take gets me closer to nailing those big three 90-day goals.
Month three, and it’s time for full-on marketing campaigns for the podcast. 12 chapters of the book are finished, with another four in draft.
The book’s going to take longer than 90 days, but this 90-day plan gives me the momentum of being at least halfway there with more than 30,000 words written, ready to send to an editor. I’ve also got a full plan to market and relaunch the website, which I can deploy in my next 90 day plan.
My 90 day plan template
I know, I know – I said you don’t need a nice pretty templated version of your 90 day business plan – and you really don’t.
Take it from me – I’ve built huge businesses, got into the best shape of my life, learnt loads of new skills, and all whilst having an absolute blast – from some hand-scribbled plans on a scrap of paper.
That’s served me well, and it would work just as well for you too.
But, if you do want a nice printed 90 day plan template, then who am I to argue?
Here’s a template that you can print off and just “fill in the blanks”:
And if you want something that’s REALLY pretty, you can even get it in a proper, physical planner that I’ve designed for my clients – “My World Domination Plans – A.K.A. The really useful planner you’ll actually USE”
Can you recommend some 90 day goal setting books?
Here’s my recommended reading list for 90 day business plans:
- Big Ideas… for Small Businesses – John Lamerton
- Routine Machine – John Lamerton
- My World Domination Plans – John Lamerton
- How to fail at almost everything and still win big – Scott Adams
- Total Recall: My Unbelievably true life story – Arnold Schwarzenegger
- The ONE Thing – Gary Keller
- The 12 week year – Brian P. Moran
- 6 months to 6 figures – Peter Voogd
Your 90 day business plan
What could I put in my 90 day business plan?
I’ve listed a load of things above that I’ve achieved in previous 90 day plans. And the place I always start when I’m creating my next 90 day plan, is to consult my “could-do list”.
Now, this is the antithesis to the bog-standard to-do list.
It’s effectively a brain-dump of everything you could do to grow the business.
I like to complete a full brain-dump every 90 days, and will usually end up with a could-do list that’s several pages long, and have a hundred or more items on it.
There’ll be lots of big scary things on there, as well as some stuff that is really speculative, and may not be worthwhile pursuing. But that’s fine – because I’m not actually committing to doing anything on this list.
It’s a could-do list, not a should-do list.
When it comes time to work on my next 90 day plan, I don’t do the first thing that pops into my brain, or tackle the first email in my inbox. I consult my could-do list, and work out what will give me the best return on investment – the biggest bang for my buck.
You can add to your could-do list at any time. And you should.
After all, your could-do list should be your filter for new ideas.
Add all new ideas to the could-do list. If they’re good enough, the cream will rise to the top and get implemented. If not, they’ll fall by the wayside, and you won’t have wasted a minute pursuing them.
The magic behind this is that it stops you having an idea, and then devoting a stupid amount of time to what could be a damp squib, all the while taking you away from what you should be doing.
After all, anyone who’s ever suffered from Shiny New Object Syndrome will know all about this!
Best of all, it also ensures that no idea gets forgotten – as soon as one enters your brain, pop it on the could-do list and get back to what you should be doing. It’ll be there waiting for you in 90 days when it’s time to look at your next 90 day plan.
What do you REALLY want?
Try and get as much real clarity as possible on your 90 day plan.
How much is the deposit for that dream holiday? When would the balance be due?
Exactly how much is a gardener going to cost? How many hours per month would you need?
What’s the exact model, spec and colour of your dream car? How much are the monthly payments?
In order to pay for it, how many new customers acquired, or products sold does that equate to?
Are you willing to do whatever is necessary to achieve these goals?
In other words, are these actual goals, or just dreams?
Fancy a Five Whys?
Having a really strong desire holds the key to successful achievement of goals.
Ask yourself not just “What do I want?”, but rather “Why do I want this?”
What difference will it make to your life, and the lives of those you care about? What will happen to them if you don’t achieve it? – because that’s what’s going to keep you going when the willpower runs out.
When I wrote down my very first 90 day plan back in 2015, I listed my “five whys” – the five core values that matter most to me. The reasons I get out of bed in the morning, fired up and ready to make a difference.
My five whys were:
These are my core values. Yours will differ.
But you need to know what they are – because when your 90 day business plan is in alignment with your five whys, you’re infinitely more likely to actually do the work and achieve the goals.
When there’s a conflict, you’re much less likely to do the work.
Because “security” is one of my five whys, having a 90 day plan of borrowing a million pounds for an untested new business model probably isn’t going to end well.
Nor is writing a 15,000 word white paper on the history of concrete (that might be your idea of Fun, but it’s not mine!).
But, knowing that when I set my big three for the next 90 day plan, I’m consciously thinking about my five whys, helps keep me “on track”, setting goals that I’m more likely to stick at.
Goals that enable me to spend more time with my family.
- Work that will be fun.
- Carving out time for growth.
- Not “betting the farm” on anything stupid.
- And always remembering my ideal job description – “to do what I want, when I want, how I want, where I want… if I want.”
Should I use a goal setting app?
Well, you could do.
You see, it doesn’t matter whether you use an app, my World Domination Planner, a scrap of paper, or the back of a napkin.
What does matter is that you stick to the plan.
For me, pen and paper works best. I’ve got the template that I print off every 90 days on bright orange paper, fill in the blanks, and keep with me at all times.
It’s literally sat on my desk as I type these words…
Like “the best diet”, or “the best exercise plan”, or “the best morning routine”, the “best” tool for capturing your 90 day plan is…
The one you stick to.
Or, the one that gets used.
And the one that you’re STILL using 5 years from now.
Do my goals have to be SMART?
If you’ve ever worked anywhere remotely corporate, you’ll no doubt have heard of SMART goals.
Well, I hate acronyms, as I can never remember what they actually stand for (apart from “Never Eat Shredded Wheat” to figure out how to read a compass), and I think SMART
goals are a load of rubbish anyway.
I think the “R” stands for “realistic” – but who wants to be realistic?
If I’d only ever done what was “realistic” – what I was actually qualified to do, I’d be sweeping the streets somewhere.
I certainly wouldn’t have launched an internet marketing business, despite knowing nothing about either the internet or marketing, let alone be mentoring ambitious lifestyle business owners, presenting a podcast and writing bestselling books about how to do it.
That’s just not realistic.
I’ve just googled SMART goals to see what they do actually stand for. It turns out that “what do smart goals stand for?” is one of the most frequently-searched terms for SMART goals, so I’m clearly not the only one who can’t remember what the bloody hell it’s supposed to remind you of.
Slow hand clap…
Anyway, SMART goals are – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
I bet you don’t remember them all a week from today.
After all, I know I won’t.
And isn’t “achievable” the same as “realistic”?
“Specific” and “Measurable” are pretty damn similar as well, now that I come to think of it.
I believe that your goals need to tick just TWO boxes – you have to know:
- Exactly what you want to achieve, and..
- Exactly when you want to achieve it.
So no more “I want to lose weight” – it’s now “I want to fit into those 30-inch jeans, by the time I go on holiday”.
Instead of “I’m going to work harder at school”, focus on “I’m going to average a B-grade by the end of the spring term”
Rather than having a vague, long-term goal like “I want to lose weight this year”, I prefer to have specific “what + when” goals on my 90 day plan.
Stick with the plan, Stan – every week!
Any business owner worth their salt talks about “working on the business, not in the business,” but how many of us actually practice what we preach, and block time out every day of every week, just to work on the business?
That’s why I created a weekly planner too, which is one of the simplest documents known to man.
Every week you’ll choose ONE thing that’s the most important task of the week. One that keeps you on track for your three monthly stepping stones, and/or keeps you on track for your BIG three for the quarter.
Write this in the “What’s your ONE THING this week?” box.
If you achieve nothing else except this ONE thing, then congratulations – you’ve beaten the week. You’ve achieved more than most people do given the same number of days and hours.
Sure, others may get to inbox zero. They may have a smaller in-tray. They may even be working harder, wearing their “I heart Hustle” badge with pride.
But they won’t have actually achieved anything of merit – and 90 days from now, they’ll still be “hustling” and “getting shit done”, but their business and lifestyle will be exactly where it is now, with them still in the hamster wheel, spinning furiously, wondering why they’re not actually getting anywhere.
What else do you want to achieve this week? Are there some things that you truly have to do?
These are the items to pop in the “Anything Else” box. Remember though – Your ONE thing is what really matters. Once you’ve achieved that, then you can move onto this other stuff.
And that’s exactly how you should treat it – This is “other stuff”. You don’t do “other stuff” until you’ve done the important stuff. Your ONE thing is working on your business. Anything else is working in your business.
So, the week is planned out now – time to start planning our days.
I like to plan the week ahead in advance – so I’ll usually complete my weekly planner for the following week on a Friday afternoon, as one of my final tasks for the week.
This week ain’t over ‘till next week is planned!
I’ll consult my current 90 day business plan. Decide which of my stepping stones I’m going to progress next week, and choose my ONE thing based on that. I’ll plot out anything else that I need to do, and then start to put the tasks and tactics in place for the week.
INCREASE YOUR 90 DAY GOAL SUCCESS BY 350%
Share your 90 day business plan with others
I work with an accountability partner to hold me accountable to do my ONE thing each week.
This keeps me on track for my monthly stepping stones, and therefore much more likely to achieve my big three every 90 days.
Just the sheer act of telling another human being “I’m going to do x, y, or z” is scientifically proven to result in an improved likelihood of hitting your goal.
That’s why having a “gym buddy” works.
It’s why having a “study partner” is encouraged.
And it’s also why group accountability such as Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous has such great success.
In my One Percent Club, we’ve got built-in accountability, to make sure that our One Percenters are smashing their 90 day goals – every single time.
90 Day Goal Setting Quotes
90 + 90 + 90 + 90 = 200%
Imagine you’re standing at the top of a huge hill.
It’s snowing, and these wonderful large snowflakes are gently floating to the ground and laying all around you. You hold out your hand and one lands in your palm.
Hold your hand there for a few moments and then gently close your hand to make a tiny ball of snow.
As the snowflakes keep coming down, you keep adding them to make your snowball bigger and bigger, until eventually, it’s the size of a tennis ball.
Then you lay your snowball on the snowy ground at the top of the hill, and gently start rolling.
The hill takes over, and does most of the work.
By the time your snowball has rolled down the hill, it’ll be bigger than your house – and it all started with just a few individual flakes and a big hill.
That’s compounding explained in a nutshell (or a snowball, to be precise!).
It’s where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
That’s why if the stock market were to drop 40%, you’d then need a 60% gain to break even.
It’s why if you can improve yourself by just 1% every day, in a year from now you’ll be thirty-seven times the person you are right now.
Conversely, it’s also why if you got 1% worse every day for a year, you’d be practically at zero in twelve months’ time.
If the desire was high enough (a gun to your child’s head for example), most people would be capable of doubling their business in a year.
But setting that as a goal? “Impossible” would be most people’s reply.
How about growing your business by just 19% in the next three months?
That sounds much more achievable, doesn’t it? Bite-sized. Goldilocks!
Well, grow your business by 19% for four consecutive 90-day business plans, and guess what – you’ve just doubled your business in 12 months!
Compounding is the secret sauce that my business hero Warren Buffett has used to become one of the richest self-made men on the planet. It gives a huge amount of leverage and can propel you forward in whatever goals you set, just by continually stacking up these 90-day business plans, one after the other.
90 days from now…
Nothing, and I mean nothing, gets in the way of my 90 day plan.
All the other “stuff” that happens in every business, has to fit in around those important tasks that keep me moving towards my big three.
Every day, I do ONE thing that moves me toward my weekly one thing..
My weekly ONE thing helps me achieve the monthly stepping stones, which enables me to hit the 90-day big three.
And if I hit all three of my 90-day goals, every 90 days?
Then over the course of a year, I will have achieved 12 HUGE things that really propel my business forward – the stuff that truly makes a difference to the bottom line of my business, and the quality of my family members’ lives.
Goldilocks would be proud.
About the author
John Lamerton is a self-styled “lazy” entrepreneur and investor.
Known as the “King of Routine”, John has written three bestselling books, and has run more than sixty small businesses. He also coaches hundreds of small business owners, helping them to grow their companies – without the stress!
A regular on BBC Radio, and hundreds of podcasts – John is well known for his “no-nonsense, down-to-earth” style.
John released his first book “Big Ideas… for Small Businesses” in 2017, and it shot straight to the #1 bestseller list for Small Business and Entrepreneurship on Amazon, outselling books by Richard Branson, Alan Sugar and Duncan Bannatyne combined.
Since then, it’s sold thousands and thousands of copies all over the world, and attracted more than 100 five-star reviews. But more importantly, it’s changed the lives of small business owners all over the world, who now understand that running a lifestyle business isn’t a bad thing.
I think you’ll like it…
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