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5 Year Planning Doesn’t Work – Here’s What to Do Instead

Business Planning for Solopreneurs

I spent the earlier years of my career as the head of strategic planning for a well-known global brand. My days were filled mapping out “deliverables”, creating “sustainable competitive advantage” and figuring out how to hit the profit number that shareholders wanted to see every quarter.

It was heavy work. I literally mean it felt heavy, exhausting. If I had been hauling bricks in a tiny wheelbarrow that had a flat tire, in 100 degree heat..ALL DAY LONG, I could not have been more exhausted. The work did not feel meaningful to me.

I started my business because I wanted to feel something I was missing (and, I was really tired of hauling bricks).

Here’s what I learned from all those years of strategic planning that helped me build a 7-figure+ “teaching others” business from scratch in less than 2 years.

Free Planner Tool: Download this 13 page step-by-step guide, answer the questions, and build your business plan:
Click Here to Download Your Planner

Design Your Business Plan from the Inside Out

A lot of us tend to plan our business growth the way we’ve always heard planning “should” be done.
You do some recon on the competitors in your niche.
You copy what’s they are doing that’s working.
You figure out creative ways to compete on their weaknesses.
Then, you develop a 5-year plan for global domination and put it in a binder in case someone asks if you have a plan.

First, I have to say:

Starting your business plan by looking outside of yourself is a recipe for disaster. Share on X

You can generate revenue that way, but you can also easily get side-tracked from the reason you started your business in the first place.

Believe me, I know. I started my business using this approach. I quickly created a “successful” consulting business and found myself visiting every Hampton Inn in America, hating every single minute away from my family.

I had to regroup and plan differently. I decided to begin with what my real definition of success looked like.

The whole point of creating your business is to create the life you imagine. Share on X

Doing what you see “competitors” doing may or may not deliver the way you want to feel in your business and in your life. Work backwards from what you want to get up and do every day.

Ask yourself, “How do I want to feel when I get up and look at what’s on my calendar for the day?”
(Danielle LaPorte’s book, Firestarter Sessions, inspired this question for me. Great read.)

Once I was clear that I wanted to feel “inspired” and “energized” … it became clear what I needed to immediately stop doing that wasn’t delivering that feeling. (Goodbye, Hampton Inn. Thanks for the free Cheerios.)

Why 5-Year Plans Don’t Work

Once you are clear on how you want to feel, the next step is to figure out how to make money doing what makes you feel the way you want to feel.

When you sit down to plan, it’s important to have a longer term view of where you are going.

Where do you want your business to be in a 1 year? 2 years? 5 years? This is important to think about. It’s also important to recognize that there’s a serious limitation with only thinking long-range.

The problem with 5-year plans: We underestimate greatly what we can actually get done in that window of time.

Small business owners and solopreneurs like us are nimble. We are fast, flexible and we can adjust on the fly.

Speed is our advantage.

The reason 5-year planning doesn’t work for us is because it’s almost impossible to fully grasp the “distance” between now and 5 years from now.

I understood this at a whole new level recently when my daughter was trying to share with me her homework struggles in estimating physical distances (feet, yards, etc). She said, “Teacher X is asking us to estimate how far it is between the cafeteria and library in feet, Mom. I know what 4 feet is, but who really knows how far 400 feet is.”

The farther the distance, the harder it is for us to fully grasp it.

In the same way we struggle seeing physical distance, we also struggle to imagine how much we can accomplish in a time frame beyond weeks.

We all know what we can accomplish in 5 minutes, 5 hours, or 5 days. What about estimating what you could really do in 5 years?

Case in point: Last weekend, I did a bit of a reflection exercise to explore this idea. I assigned myself the project of reviewing what I had accomplished in my business over the last 5 years.

This was a fairly easy task, as I keep a business journal where I record what I am working on, goals I’ve set and met, milestones, etc. On Saturday morning, I grabbed my Starbucks and started to skim through a few years of journals. I wasn’t really expecting any big surprises.

My Journals


As I started to make notes on all the things I had accomplished, I was stunned by the sheer volume of it. There were major business milestones I thought had taken years to accomplish that had actually happened in less than a year.

There were seismic shifts in my personal life that happened instantly. There were big decisions made and executed on in weeks.

The incredible insight: When I decided how I wanted to feel and decided to take action on the thing that would make me feel that way, I could quickly make anything happen.

We are capable of creating much more than we realize. The key to tapping into that potential lies in deciding what you are going to make happen.

This is why 5-Year plans don’t work. If you are only thinking in terms of where you will be in 5 years or even at the end of this year, you are short-changing yourself. You can do way more than you think you can.

What to Do Instead of a 5-Year Plan

Start by working backwards from how you want to feel. I make every business decision with this as my compass. Relying on that compass got me out of living in airports and home to pick up my kids in the car line at school every single day. Surprise bonus: That compass helps me quickly say “no” to that speaking gig in Des Moines without a second of guilt.

Knowing how I want to feel, I decide how I will generate profit in my business doing what makes me feel that way.

Next, I create a quarterly-based profit plan. You can do this too by answering the following questions:

  • Profit: What is the profit goal? (You can start with your revenue goal)
  • Product: How are you generating that profit? (What product are you offering? You have to have something you are promoting as an offer.)
  • People: How many people do you need to serve with that offer to reach that goal?
  • Plan: What’s the most important thing you need to do this quarter to make this happen?

These questions got me to my first 6-figures and then to 7-figures+. The plan doesn’t have to get more complicated than this for you to grow bigger.

Remember – you are capable of creating and achieving much more than you realize. The path to getting up every morning LOVING what you get to do starts by reflecting on how you want to feel — and what you need to do to make that feeling happen.

Free Planner Tool: Download this 13 page step-by-step guide, answer the questions, and build your business plan:
Click Here to Download Your Planner

What is one of the first words that comes up for you when you think about how you want to feel in your business every day?


  1. Virginia Reeves says:

    Jeanine – I am so glad to see you tackle this topic. Too many things can happen in a year, let alone 5 years, that can affect your life and plans. Sometimes a plan will prevent you from seeing opportunities and other possibilities because you aren’t open to them.

    You are right that we don’t generally give ourselves credit for all we have accomplished. A friend mentioned this to me the other day saying he’s ONLY gotten this far in a year. I quickly reminded him how far that really is considering he was barely known in his tight niche and now has 100+ episodes on his podcast (2 a week with different speakers) with 2,000 downloads weekly plus his e-mail list continues to grow, he launched a course, did an audio and video production on the theme of his topic, bigger lists on Twitter and Facebook, and more. That’s while working full-time, interacting with family and friends, social work, and playing his favorite card game (theme of his projects). And – he’s not yet 30. He had to agree it was good – just not as much as he’d hoped for. But that is good – he’s now trying new ideas for growth.

    For me, I am proud I’m finally using articles I’ve written for 30 years and using them as chapters in my series of books. Since March, I’ve uploaded 28 to Kindle. Yay !

    • Kudos on that progress, Virginia! And, your friend is lucky to have you in his corner. Keep going! Now, what product are you creating that will enable you to create a steady revenue stream that opens up the opportunity for you to share in an even bigger way? Excited for you, Jeanine

  2. Jeanine your post was speaking RIGHT TO ME! Simple and to the point business plan, and I know EXACTLY where I am stuck – my product. The sooner I drop other people’s dreams and priorities and work on my course content and get it launched the sooner I will be waking up with JOY everyday.

    You inspire everyday!


    • Hello Darlene! Thank you and so glad to hear this resonated. Easy fix: just carve out a block of dedicated time for YOU to work on your creating your product. Even a couple of hours a week can make a big impact. Just today, in our Create 6-Figure Courses online forum I had several folks celebrate dedicating the weekend to getting their course DONE. You can do it! cheering you on, Jeanine

  3. Patricia says:

    This was a great article Jeanine! Timely and on point as usual. Also have another quote related to your first one:
    “It’s dangerous when a man goes outside his own house looking for peace.” Mama from film A Raisin in the Sun

    Recently watched this movie again and in an entirely new light. Discovered it was full of guidance on mindsets around making money! Lol

  4. Trish says:

    Thanks for the straight talk and lean tool. You have helped me see, more than anyone else, how my choices are going to work for me.

  5. SPOT ON Jeanine. I love this and I use reverse engineering all the time myself and with my clients. LOVE IT. Home run xo

  6. I want to wake up energized and motivated to move my business forward. Grateful to be able to work for myself and not be working on someone else’s dream…

  7. Delores says:

    Great post

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The key is to figure out the one thing you can do that will make the


Then, do that ONE thing first.

-Jeanine Blackwell

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