02/29/2008 11:51:26 AM EST
A Nuts-and-Bolts Guide to Creating and Implementing a Personal Business Plan
You're bright, talented with big ambitions for the future. Perhaps you want to make partner or start your own IP boutique. Or, maybe you see yourself leading the legal team of a global technology company. Whatever your dream— modest or bold—you'll find the most effective way you can advance your ambitions is by creating a personal business plan. A plan provides you with a track to run on, a step-by-step guide that will keep you focused and moving in the direction of your dreams.
Where do you begin? Right here with these seven, helpful steps:
- Develop a Vision What is it you want out of life—personally and professionally? Commit your dreams to paper, so you can begin focusing your energies on achieving the things most important to you. Don't be buffeted by circumstances. This is your life, your career. Take charge of them!
- Survey the Lay of the Land If it's an IP practice you want, assess what it takes to get there. Do some research. Learn from the best—talk to those in your firm or members of the bar who are successful in your desired field. Surf the Web for further information. Comb through professional newsletters to identify what steps you need to take and what pitfalls you'll want to avoid.
- Conduct a Personal Assessment Once you understand what it takes to succeed, take stock of yourself. Identify your personal and professional strengths and weaknesses. Determine which skills you need to develop or hone, and evaluate what types of experiences you need to build your resume. Likewise, identify the strengths you can begin leveraging now. When you've compiled your initial assessment, share it with a mentor or someone you respect for some objective feedback.
- Set Goals With some understanding of the path you need to take, do some goal setting. Start with your long-term goals, outlining where you want to be in five, ten, fifteen years from now. Then set some short-term goals for yourself, beginning with this year. Make them specific and give yourself a deadline, so you are able to measure your success. Perhaps, for example, your goal is to distinguish yourself as the most knowledgeable, first-year associate in your firm on IP.
- Develop an Action Plan Now concentrate on developing a detailed action plan for each of your goals. Continuing our example—to distinguish yourself as the most knowledgeable first-year on IP, you may want to shadow the top IP practitioner on a key case, participate in a bar seminar on IP and the e-business environment, work with the chamber of commerce in assisting local entrepreneurs with IP issues and offer to train this summer's associates on researching IP issues.
In general, you'll want to identify the activities that will build your knowledge and skills, broaden your experience, expand your contacts, raise your visibility and bring you closer to each goal. Refer to this checklist as you are developing your action plans:
- Client and firm activities
- Professional training opportunities and seminars
- Participation on bar committees or projects
- Civic and community involvement
- Writing articles & making presentations
- Monitor Your Progress Review your plan regularly. It will help to prioritize your day-to-day activities and keep you focused on your goals. It will enable you to evaluate what's working and what's not, so you can fine-tune your plan. What's more, as you progress, your achievements will re-energize you, keeping you moving toward your goals.
- Fine-Tune Your Plan Be flexible. Plans are guides; they're not immutable. As you move forward, circumstances change and you may need to adjust your plan. You may have made huge progress in one area, but find certain actions aren't paying off the way you had hoped. You may even have a change of heart and want to go back to square one. Go ahead—it's your personal business plan. It's a means to an end—a vehicle to launch to any galaxy you want to reach.