Any success-oriented entrepreneur understands that success doesn’t just happen. It requires a willingness to take risks, financial sacrifice, an incredible amount of hard work, and perhaps most importantly of all, the creation and execution of a well-devised plan to make their dreams a reality. A plan is a road map to where you want to go; working hard without a plan will get you nowhere. In order to best utilize your time, money, and energy, you will need to decide not only what to do, but how to best go about achieving what it is that you want. Whether it’s hiring additional staff, opening a new branch, reducing your number of work hours, or expanding your offerings, you need to create a roadmap that will guide each step of the process.

Of course, it’s easier to talk about making a plan than to actually create one. One of the first issues you’ll encounter is determining how to prioritize certain tasks. One way to help you make that decision is to evaluate how much control you have over what it is that you hope to achieve. for example, you may want to add a new item to your menu, only to find out that the market price for that item has increased by 50% over the past year. You can’t control the market, but you can control the type and quantities of products you offer. Understanding what things you can and can’t control is a good starting point, and from there you can divide your plan into three categories: “needs”, “wants”, and “would like to”.

By categorizing your various priorities this way, you’ll have a better understanding of what is important, as well as the best way to approach it. The following paragraphs will expand on these categories, helping you differentiate immediate needs from short- and long-term goals.

Needs: “Needs” represent the most important fundamentals of your business’ continued survival. Paying the bills, obtaining the product, maintaining a monthly profit – these all represent things that your business cannot live without. A “need” should always be your first priority, and the goals you set for yourself should not jeopardize meeting these needs.

For example, say you want to delegate some of your daily routines to other employees so you can free up your time to perform other tasks. Before you actually hire somebody for the job, you need to make absolutely sure that they are capable of performing up to par and meeting the obligations of the business! An incompetent and/or lazy hire can do a significant amount of damage to your bottom line, especially if they are in a management role. If hiring an extra person to fulfil a “want” puts meeting a “need” in danger, you might just have to shoulder long workweeks for a little bit longer.

Wants: This represents what you are aiming at attain – think of these as short-term motivators. This can refer to either a personal goal or a business-oriented goal. For example, you might want to boost your yearly sales by 25% or take a vacation at the end of the quarter. “Wants” are a great way to chart your course in the short term, and they can be of great use in motivating both yourself and your team to greater heights. However, it’s important to remember that a want isn’t necessarily a priority for you, nor will it provide the kind of long-term vision that is required for you to attain true success.

Would Like Tos: This is the category that contains your long-term plan for the direction you want your business to go into. Unlike a “want”, a “would like to” involves an accomplishment that will have a much more significant impact on your business’ bottom line – think of expanding into a new market, or franchising your business for the first time. “Would like tos” will ultimately be your guiding force in the long run, and ideally your “wants” and “needs” will align with what it is that you hope to achieve. If your “needs” are merely being met, then you won’t be able to satisfy your “wants” or achieve your “would like tos.” Aim for more – instead of breaking even, reach for a 20% profit by the end of the year. Then, use those profits to expand your business, attracting more clients and perpetuating a virtuous cycle of self-propelled growth!

Each one of these three types of priorities has their own important role within your growth plan, and keeping them in harmony with each other is a crucial underpinning in successful businesses everywhere. If you understand how to balance these priorities when creating and executing your plans, you’ll be amazed at how much more smoothly everything runs.