02/22/2015 04:14 pm ET Updated Apr 24, 2015

Setting Up a Small Business That Works With Your Life Plan

Most people have a plan for everything these days -- a business plan, marketing plan and even an editorial calendar for their blog. It's not easy to sort out what you actually need initially in business, but I'm telling you your first focus should be on having a life plan. Developing a life plan isn't something you'll read about anywhere else; it's a strategy that I've developed. What is a life plan? It's where you determine the big picture goals for your life, which in turn, will determine how your business will align with it. What is your definition of success? How much money is enough for you? Are you building a business to sell? Or will you turn it over to a family member later? You need to know these answers up front to focus your intentions on how you have a successful business and a good life. Here are some ways for setting up a small business that works with your life plan:

Setting Goals

Once you know the broad brush strokes of where you'd like to take your business, establish goals to get there. If you want your kids to take over your business in 10 or 20 years, you should set a goal of hiring them in positions they'd be good at now so you can eventually train them for more responsibility. If you want a buyout, then you should grab a copy of the book Built To Sell by John Warrillow; you need to set goals for making a business that can run without you.

Creating a Contingency Plan

What happens if you get ill for several months? Does your business fall apart? What if you want to take an extended vacation? You need a contingency plan that will outline what to do if you're not around. You also need to make sure you are properly insured to cover yourself financially should you become severely ill. Who's in charge in your absence? What decisions are they authorized to make if you're unavailable?

When creating this component of your life plan, discuss it with that person who you trust to run your business in your absence so they are aware of your wishes. Don't forget to keep your life plan handy so you can tweak it as needed and ensure that you're on track to achieving those big-picture goals.

Looking at Longevity

Most business owners don't have the end in mind when starting a business. They simply want to launch a business around an idea or a passion. They hope it'll succeed, but it seems presumptuous at that point to be thinking about how that business will look in 20 or 30 years.

And yet, knowing what your business might look like can help you make decisions today. Here are two examples:
  • Business A hopes to be wildly successful in the next 5 years and then sell to a larger company
  • Business B wants to be around for future generations to run
These two examples would need very different business strategies right now to achieve their goals. Business A, for example, should start looking for investors to help with that skyrocketing growth it wants in the near future so it'll be appealing to potential buyers in five years. Business B needs a longer, slower path to success, not a cash infusion and a Board of Directors.

You wouldn't hit the highway without a roadmap, so to help you get started I've created a life planning journal that will guide you toward developing your dream business and your dream life.

This article was originally published under the title How to Develop a Life Plan for Your Small Business at

Melinda F. Emerson, SmallBizLady  is America's #1 small business expert. She is an author, speaker and small business coach whose areas of expertise include small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. She writes a weekly column for the New York Times, publishes a resource blog, which is syndicated through the Huffington Post. She also hosts a weekly talk show on Twitter called #SmallBizChat for small business owners. As a brand, she reaches 1.5 million entrepreneurs a week on the internet. As CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, Melinda develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. Forbes Magazine named Melinda Emerson one of the #1 Woman for Entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. Melinda has been featured on MSNBC, Fox News, NBC Nightly News, and in Fortune, The Washington Post, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Black Enterprise. She is the bestselling author of "Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works," and the ebook How to Become a Social Media Ninja; 101 Ways to Dominate Your Competition Online.