It’s never too late to begin a business plan. Ideally, August is the time to begin the process for a January fiscal year, however, late is better than never. The process forces us to take the time to look back, reflect on what went well and what didn’t. It’s also a time to look at your goals and see if you are on track to accomplish them or decide if they were a bit too enthusiastic. Goals is a small but important part of your plan. When setting your goals for next year, here’s some things to keep in mind.
While it’s business as usual in the day to day grind, it’s so critical to take a step back, understand where you are, where you want to go and how you’re going to get there. An important part of this process is getting clear on the what. Without the what, the how is irrelevant. Here is a list of you’ll need to think about.
1. Get clear on where you want to go.
Start gaining clarity by seeing the end. Create a vision of what the business will look like in five years. Who is on the team? What types of clients are you serving? How is the business structured? What are the sales and the margins? From there, in your mind’s eye, work backward in 1-year increments until you get to this year. While you won’t be able to see a granular view, you’ll have a better idea of what needs to be accomplished over the next 1-3 years.
2. Get specific and time-bound goals.
Once you have a clear picture, you can begin the process of developing your goals. Using the example of financial goals, you might say I want to increase sales x% by the end of 2018. Then divide that number into quarters and you have a real goal to meet every three months.
Without time-bound goals, we become activity focused. Our activity only becomes productive when it can be associated with something we’re trying to accomplish. We only have 24 hours in a day, how much of that 24 will you spend on the activities that directly moves you closer to your goals?
3. Come up with the how.
Once you understand where you want to be, think about how you will get there. This is called “strategy.” A strategy can be fluid. If you develop a strategy and find it isn’t working, you can change it. I’ve seen strategy change weekly in some organizations, especially companies in disruptive industries. Having a strategy helps us develop a path to the end. For example, if you were planning a trip to Europe, you might decide you will use a combination of train, plane, and automobile to get there.
4. Chunk it out.
If you need $5k every three months to hit your goal at the end of the year, you’ll have to decide the how. Is it new customers, raising prices, cutting costs? If it’s raising prices, you will have a list of tasks that go along with that plan. Maybe you call every customer to get feedback, do some research in the market to see where competitors are at, writing a letter to your customer, setting a date, having a plan if customers move away from you because of this…and the list can go on and on.
Wherever you write or type this all out- be certain to also track progress. Set smaller goals every week and set an hour a week aside to review your progress, pivot if you need to, and rewrite goals if you have to in order for them to stay relevant to what you’re experiencing in real day to day.
You can really be, have, or do anything- just get clear about what it is, set some goals, make a plan; then stick to it. Easy.
Here are some great resources.